Fourth-graders create prosthetic arm for peer

When the students in Richard Cox’s fourth grade STEAM Lab tried to do everyday tasks — getting books off a library shelf, putting on headphones and opening a milk carton — without use of their left arms, they had “a lot of trouble.”

“We thought it would be hard … but we didn’t know how hard it would be,” said 9-year-old Peyton Bibb, a student at Old Mill Elementary School in Mount Washington.

The experiment was a precursor to a larger project the students recently tackled: designing a prosthetic arm for a young student, who attends another school in Bullitt County and is without the bottom portion of her left arm.

“We had to understand how she felt when she was going places,” Tawney Noyes, 10, said of the student for whom the prosthetic was designed.

Parents of the student who received the prosthetic have asked that her name and school not be released. They did not offer further comment.

STEAM Lab — which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — is in its second year at Old Mill. The curriculum is largely directed by students’ interests, Cox said.

All 400 students at Old Mill, from kindergarten through fifth grade, spend time in STEAM Lab, with each class meeting with Cox five days every three weeks.

Old Mill’s STEAM Lab has drawn attention from around the region for its Makerbot Replicator 2 3D print. It was the first elementary school in the region to acquire a 3D printer, Cox said.

When a teacher at another school approached Cox with an idea to make a prosthetic for the young student, Cox thought it was a great project for a group of about 28 students in Natalie Trepanier’s fourth grade class.

“We were ready to take the next step into making something more meaningful than little keychains and gizmos, which we had been doing up until that point,” he said.

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