Engineering students create prosthetic arm for 9-year-old

Engineering students create prosthetic arm for 9-year-old

Last Friday, Dec. 8, Shannon Donovan, right, instructs her students in her Principles of Engineering class at Scituate High School in making a real prosthetic limb using a 3-D printer. The limb will be given to Olly Mancini, 9, son of Nicole Mancini, an 8th-grade math teacher in Scituate. The 3-D printer allows prosthetic limbs to be manufactured at a much lower cost with no loss of quality. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

SCITUATE – Scituate High School Academy of Engineering students are almost ready to deliver a holiday gift: a prosthetic arm for a 9-year-old boy.

Olly Mancini, the son of Scituate 8th-grade math teacher Nicole Mancini, was born without his left forearm. Thanks to local students, he’ll have his new arm by Christmas.

Mancini had been researching prosthetics for her son for several months when she learned about e-Nable, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping create free 3-D-printed hands and arms for those in need. She brought the opportunity to the attention of Scituate High School Principal Michael Hassell and Shannon Donovan, the head of the Academy of Engineering.

Working with e-Nable, Donovan and Scituate Academy of Engineering students researched plans for a new prosthetic arm for Olly, ultimately working with a schematic developed at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Scituate engineering students learned about scaling and used specialized software to modify the design and create a custom fit.

Using one of the 3-D printers at the school, students began printing the individual parts for the prosthetic – the palm of the hand took more than five hours to print, using lightweight, moldable plastic. Students are now in the final steps of assembling the functional arm with toggles and wires that are controlled by flexing the upper arm and body. The arm will be presented to Olly on Dec. 21 at Scituate High School.

Aaron Leach, a 10th-grader, said the project was a “unique experience” and a rewarding one for him and his classmates.

Sophomore Leah Bessette said she felt particularly inspired by the project after hearing that Olly needs the arm to help him ride his bike.

Christopher Olney, an 11th-grader, said the project showed the “different direction” Scituate High School teachers are taking engineering students, working on projects that make a difference in real life.

Junior Katie Grenon said she too has gotten great satisfaction out of the project. Some 80 percent of students in this program want to go into engineering or bio-medical fields, she said, making projects such as this one that much more valuable.

The students in Scituate High School’s Engineering Academy, a state-approved Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, are learning engineering and physics principles and applying them in practical, real-world settings such as Olly’s prosthetic. The 3-D-printed arm developed by SHS engineering students cost only the price of materials, a significant benefit when one considers that Olly is still growing. He will likely need a new prosthetic fitted to him next year, which means another opportunity for Scituate engineering students to learn and help a member of their community, said Principal Hassell.

Scituate High School is now accepting applications from out-of-district students to attend one of the school’s three approved CTE pathways in biomedical science, computer science or engineering.

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From left, Katie Grenon, Amanda Nardone and Nicole Belanger work to remove excess material from part of the limb produced by the 3-D printer.
Softened material is rolled around a cylindrical mold, shaping it into the desired form.