A Blackwell Elementary School student tries on the robotic arm.
Photo: Cobb County School District
Photo: Cobb County School District

Cobb fifth-graders build robotic arm for international student

Fifth-grade students at Blackwell Elementary School in Cobb County launched a community service project to help another student halfway around the world.

Students in the school’s Robotics, Coding and Community Service club are using a 3D printer to build a prosthetic arm for a student living in Oman, the Cobb County School District said. The first-grade student, who was born without her arm, and her parents recently visited the school in Marietta and met with club members.

The visit allowed her to test some of the robotic hands previously assembled by club members. Those students later created a prosthetic arm tailored for the girl’s needs. 

While it took a few days for the students to 3D print the parts, the process also included taking special images of the student’s arm and creating a practice prosthetic to make sure the device could support her needs. 

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Blackwell students teamed up with Enabling the Future, a global network of volunteers, to design the arm socket. After the test model was done, the student tried on the prosthetic and provided feedback. 

Dr. Tom Brown, a STEM lab teacher at Blackwell Elementary School and club advisor, said the arm was too long for the student and that the socket needs to be deeper.

Blackwell Elementary School's Robotics, Coding and Community Service club members and advisor, Dr. Tom Brown.
Photo: Cobb County School District

Her suggestions will be used by the students to build the final version of her arm. Club members will send the robotic arm to the Oman student in the next few weeks. She will use the students’ creation until she is ready to transition to one that will be made by professional prosthetic doctors.  

This wasn’t the first time the club rallied around a student in need. Last year, club members built a prosthetic for a fellow student who was born without a left hand and forearm, the school district said. The club printed and created an RIT arm, an adaptive prosthetic that has an elbow but not a wrist.

Brown said the RIT arm didn’t fit “quite right” for the student. Over the summer, the students built another arm and Brown said they hope to have the final version printed and assembled soon. 


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