BABCOCK RANCH, Fla — For a group of ninth and tenth graders at Babcock High School, the first day of school this year was like taking a first step. And hopefully, by the end of the school year, it will lead to many more first steps.
"We can do a lot of good, that's why I want to be part of this project," Aliana McFarlane, a 10th-grade student, says.
McFarlane is part of a class that will 3D print and assemble several parts needed to make prosthetic limbs. In the school's design lab, they will be able to produce the upper and lower knees, the upper ankle, and the foot portions of the leg, out of materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar.
"3D printers and rabit lasers have been here since my first year at school," Madi Greene, a 10th-grade student says. "So, I started by just making ornaments and paperweights, and I've worked my way up to being able to use this technology."
This Babcock class will work with other high schools across the country to make 17 of the 19 parts for the leg. Teachers, Rico Moreno and CJ McFarlane did a test run of the program earlier this year. They made the parts and Moreno traveled to Merida, Mexico to donate the prosthetics. He was part of a team that fitted the legs on 15 people.
"The prosthetic leg allows someone to gain their independence back," Moreno says. "We saw people within 20 minutes, go from wheelchair bound to walking out with a cane. That opportunity to provide something life-changing like that, from something printed at our school, is remarkable. And I came home with a fire to bring to this to the children."
The students were just as eager.
"This is why I came to this school, for these opportunities," Greene says. "We've had several setbacks with Covid and hurricanes, but now we're actually getting going."
They'll have to start going on the first day of school. Their goal is to complete the first 10 upper knees by August 20th. And each part takes 24 to 56 hours to print.
The school says the class can use some help. It's hoping to partner with Southwest Florida tech schools that have a water jet and work with metals. That will allow Babcock High to produce more of the leg locally. And the class is also hoping to get donations, both for materials and to send the students to Mexico this school year to donate the prosthetics.
"Knowing that you improved other people's lives, that stays with you for the rest of your life," McFarlane says.
Moreno wants his students to learn, that what they do in their classroom in Babcock Ranch matters in the real world.
"As a teacher, the ultimate goal is to sit back and watch your kids explore, discover, and solve the problem," he says.
If you would like to help the class, you can contact BHS at 239-567-3043 or email firstname.lastname@example.org