ISK Club: Lending a Helping Hand….One Print at a Time

POSTED: August 17, 2018Category: AISA ArticlesBY: Barnabas Suva

The Hand Out Project at the International School of Kenya (ISK)  is a student led club that uses 3D printing technologies to create mechanical prosthetic hands for individuals who need them in underprivileged communities. The club is part of a larger global network known as Enabling the Future (ENABLE). Member groups of this network, which are set up in different locations worldwide, are known as chapters. In early 2017, we 3D-printed our first prototype prosthetic hand and shared it with engineers at ENABLE, resulting in our club becoming the first and currently only ENABLE chapter in East Africa.

Recently, Hand Out joined another service club, Operation Cure, on a service learning field trip to CURE Kijabe Paediatric Hospital. During the trip, the students visited the prosthetic engineering department, one of the only ones in Kenya, where they were able to show some of their prosthetic prototypes to experts in the field and learn more about the needs and challenges faced by the hospital and its patients. During the course of the visit, the club learned about Paul, a 5 year old boy from Nyeri, who tragically lost his hand in an accident involving farming machinery. The experts at CURE Kijabe referred Paul as a possible candidate for a Hand Out prosthetic hand.

The Hand Out club arranged for Paul to come from Nyeri to visit us at ISK, accompanied by his mother Beatrice, and established that he could be supplied with an elbow powered prosthetic. In order to print the correct sized prosthetic, measurements were taken using a measuring tape, a 3D scan and scaled photographs of his arm. In addition, a cast of the limb was taken enabling the students to take further measurements and test printed products against a life-sized model without Paul having to make frequent trips to ISK.  Paul then had an opportunity to choose the colours for his new hand. After some lengthy deliberation he chose a combination of the red, yellow and blue – great bright colours for a little boy!

Over the next couple of weeks students from Hand Out worked diligently on the construction and customization of the 3D printed hand for Paul. Students printed out all the parts needed to construct the prosthetic and they assembled the arm to ensure it fit the measurement constraints and the mould taken.

Last week, Paul came to pick up the prototype together with his whole family including his older sister. He could not wait to test it. Within the first 5 minutes he was able to pick up various objects, which was amazing for all of us to see! This is the prototype that he will be testing and providing ISK feedback on the design and construction. ISK students will then use this information to modify the final hand. During Paul’s visit, the students already noticed a couple of changes that need to be made:

  • more foam for the upper arm area
  • shorten the wrist
  • change angle of the wrist to allow for better gripping

He plans to come back in early June for the final fitting.

As a side project there are also a couple of students who are experimenting with the addition of electronics and sensors into the hand. At the moment they are focusing on integrating a waterproof flashlight into the palm. In many parts of rural Kenya electricity is scarce and having rechargeable waterproof light would be of great help.

Since Paul is young and growing quickly, he will have to come back for regular fittings and updates for the prosthetic. Here the true benefit of 3D printing is apparent. Students can continually customize the prosthetic to match Paul’s growth rate. Furthermore, this can be done at a cost of only $30- $50 per prosthetic hand, compared to the $1200 Paul was quoted from the hospital. Hand Out is committed to a life-long partnership with Paul, therefore it is imperative that the club continues to grow and maintain active members.

If you are inspired by Paul’s story and would like more information about the club and Paul’s journey please visit the club website

Maciej Sudra – Design Teacher at the International School of Kenya

Denzil Mackrory – Physics Teacher at International School of Kenya

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