Students create robotic hand for boy, 8

By Kathy Boccella

The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

Published: Friday, April 25 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

“We’re going to put the Superman logo on top,” said Alex Nunes, 17, a junior. “We figure after that, we’re going to have to make them for all his friends.”

The project started in January after the school received new 3-D printers and Ellen Songle approached Compton with the idea of making a prosthetic for her son after reading about it online. Why her son was born without a hand remains a mystery, she said.

Songle said the family had not thought about prosthetics before, taking the attitude that Steele would decide what he wanted. And since the super-confident boy could do with one hand just about anything anyone else can with two — including making par on a hole at a regulation golf course with his grandfather recently — there seemed to be no need.

“He doesn’t let it affect him in any way,” Songle said. “At times I forget about it. He’s adapted.”

But now that he is in first grade at Brandywine Springs Elementary School, she said, she wanted him to be fully independent.

Steele’s initial reaction was low-key. “The fact that all these cool kids are making it for him” won him over, his mother said.

And that puts extra pressure on the students to get it right. They talked about making a 3-D model of Steele’s right hand so they could match the prosthetic better, and making different hands for Steele’s different activities.

If the students were designing and building a bicycle, say, and it didn’t work out, no harm done, Compton said.

But with a prosthetic and “an 8-year-old client who clearly is thrilled by all the possibilities this opens for him,” he said, “failure is not an option.”

©2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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