They can be pink and purple, or Superman red and blue, or have a Mickey Mouse motif. With them a kid can high five a friend, ride a bike, or play the ukulele in music class. Teacher Tanya Namad Lerch ’05 and her high school student volunteers have made prosthetic hands that do all those things using a 3D printer. They create the free, custom-designed hands primarily for children and last school year delivered nine of them.
Lerch teaches math at Sage Hill School in Orange County, Calif., where she founded and advises Sage Prosthetics. It’s a chapter of e-NABLE, a nonprofit that promotes using 3D printers and open-source designs to cheaply and easily make prosthetic hands and arms. Lerch made hands even before the Sage chapter, roughly 40 all told.
Read about other alumni who are making an impact in their professions and communities throughout the world.
The simple technology can have a profound benefit for children who need a prosthetic hand but who don’t have one, usually because their insurance doesn’t cover it, Lerch says. She’s careful to inform parents that the hands are not high-grade medical prosthetics but to think of them as a toy that can accomplish basic tasks. Lerch loves it when parents later tell her how their kids proudly show off their new hands to curious classmates.
“It opens up a great conversation about differences when they are younger, and they are able to take charge of those conversations in a positive way,” she says. “For me, I think it’s great if the hand helps you ride your bike, but I think it’s greater if that hand is just giving you confidence to be yourself.”
Learn more at www.sageprosthetics.org.