CenturyLink STEM Excellence Jazz Awardee Made Prosthetics for Children Without Hands

Kaitlin FelstedNews, STEM in Utah

Joseph is the December 2017 CenturyLink STEM Excellence Jazz awardee! Joseph is a ninth grade student who loves working with his hands, and tinkering and building anything STEM-related. One of of his 4-H projects focused on building prosthetics for children who need them but often do not get them because they grow so quickly and it costs too much.

Joseph’s 4-H Leader shared this story:

Last Summer, Joseph met a little boy without a hand who proceeded to change his life. Joseph was volunteering in the 4-H Maker Trailer during the Utah County Fair. He noticed a cute little guy in a white shirt who bounded into the 4-H Maker Trailer with his mom. He was full of happy energy and was obviously having a great time at the fair! He was absolutely amazed by the 3D printers! Joseph understands that because he totally loves 3D printers! That’s why he was volunteering in the 4-H Maker Trailer in the first place. He wanted to share his love and enthusiasm for 3D printing with others. As the little boy enthusiastically pointed at the printers, Joseph noticed that most of one hand was missing. This didn’t seem to be a problem at all. He had obviously figured life out regardless.

The 4-H Maker Technician, Colby, thoughtfully offered to 3D print this little boy a hand. Joseph thought that was so cool because he got to see the hand printing over the next 3 days while he volunteered at the 4-H Maker trailer during the fair. Through this 4-H volunteering experience Joseph was inspired to print and assemble 3D printed prosthetic hands for children for his Eagle project. He figured that a lot of children who need prosthetic hands don’t get them because they grow so quickly and it costs too much to keep getting new hands.

The first hand Joseph printed failed because the printer bed needed to be leveled. On the next print, there were temperature issues and part of the hand burned. By the time he had printed seven failed hands, he knew he needed help. He asked Colby, the 4-H Maker Technician, and his mentor for help, and through his assistance, he was able to get them to print correctly.

As Jospeh shopped around for the non-3D printed pieces to assemble the hands, he realized these materials added up to a lot of money. Colby offered to provide the filament and Joseph wrote to Enabling the Future to ask if they would give him a discount on kits to assemble the hands. They wrote back telling him they could give $10 off each kit. Joseph taught his fellow scouts the skills they needed to assemble the 3D printed prosthetic hands for children who need them.

At nine years old, Joseph was exposed to 3D printing through a class at BYU. He designed a lot of toys and sent the files to BYU to be printed. That desire to learn more just increased and he got his first 3D printer for Christmas in 2015. When his family moved to South Jordan, he contacted Salt Lake County 4-H to see if they had any 3D printers. They were in the process of buying printers, they asked him to research which 3D printers Salt Lake County 4-H should buy. He recommended the Rigidbot and the Wanhao Duplicator I3 3D printers. They had problems with the Rigidbots, so Joseph spent a lot of time learning to fix them, which helped him figure out how to fix other printers because they all have the same basic structure. That was a huge learning experience for him. His confidence increased and he learned a lot by helping teach 3D printing classes and giving 3D printing presentations in Salt Lake County. His favorite presentation was the UEN Tech Summit because the people there were so interested in what he, as a kid, had to say.

Joseph loves working with his hands, tinkering and building anything STEM. Glass blowing, chain mail, and woodworking are some of his non-3D printing hobbies. He also enjoys helping people. Every year he volunteers at the Youth Arts Festival in Spanish Fork where he helps design and teach community Legos as well as 3D Printing classes for kids.

Here is a little statement about the hands project from Joseph’s 4-H project records:

“Having two hands is something I try not to take for granted. This hand project means a lot to me on a personal level because of my dad. When he was 25, he had a massive stroke which, left him without the use of his right hand. I see everyday how important it is to have use of your hands. My dad never complains. He uses a lot of creative thinking to solve the problems he runs into because he can’t use his hand. I think this makes him a stronger and kinder person. He has taught me so much just by example. I want to keep building my skills and continue to use them to help other amazing people just like my dad.”

Joseph was just selected to be a Utah County 4-H STEM Ambassador. He will spend the next year teaching 4-H camps, activities and events to promote STEM.

You can nominate a student for the CenturyLink STEM Excellence Award at https://stem.utah.gov/centurylinkstemexcellenceaward/