Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School, Spring Hill, Florida
Teachers in the science department at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida, were looking for ways to cultivate innovative thinking and to incorporate concepts being taught in classrooms, and then ways to apply those skills to real-world problems.
Partnering with e-NABLE Community, Bishop McLaughlin’s STREAM Club created 3D Printing: Service to our Community, a program that uses 3D printers to generate prosthetic hands for children with limited upper-limb mobility.
Most insurance companies do not pay for traditional prosthetics, which can cost more than $40,000. STREAM students can 3D-print prosthetic hands at a cost of $50 each, which are then given to recipients free of charge.
The printed hands are modified and customized based upon the specific anatomy and need of the child, allowing students the opportunity to develop innovative solutions.
Bishop McLaughlin also partners with local veterinarian offices to 3D-print materials that can be used to help in diagnostics and treatment of multiple pet medical conditions. Students have learned to use 3D design and engineering software to custom-design pieces used in supporting animals during the X-ray process and during surgery.
The students have also designed devices to allow for better delivery of anesthesia to small animals.
Two laptops are the interface between the 3D printing software and two 3D printers, allowing design plans to be sent to the printer for production. Laptops are also used for product research and communications. Students primarily use Chromebooks to do the majority of their work, including researching models and creating new models in CAD software.
Students raised $3,000 in just three days to buy the 3D printers and startup supplies. After all the equipment needed for fabrication was in place, enthusiasm was ignited and the program quickly expanded.
“Once the kids got excited, it kind of really blew up from there,” says Jill Phillips, chair of the science department and co-moderator of the school’s STREAM Club. “Students were able to design versus just printing.”
Science teacher and STREAM Club co-moderator Jane Schuster adds: “One of the things we try to stress with the sciences is being able to turn something theoretical into something tangible.”