5th graders create prosthetic hand for 1st grader

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A few months ago, a fifth grade student at Lakeshore Elementary in Humble noticed a much younger student. The little boy was born without one hand, and Mehkhi Blue made a mental note of it.

"He was missing a hand, and when I found this project, I knew it was the one for him," he said.

The project was in teacher Carolyn Winters' technology class. Students rotate in every eight days.

"I wanted the kids to do something that would solve a real-world problem," she said. "They picked this."

It involved the classroom's 3-D printer and video tutorials from a company called E-Nable, which specializes in making prosthetics. Mehkhi and his classmates collaborated for weeks, and today, the small prosthetic hand was given to Joshua Shanks.

'Josh,' as he's called by the class, requested that it come in red and blue and have the Spiderman logo, so it was custom-designed and custom-sized.

Heather Shanks, Joshua's mother, said she and her husband, after consulting with doctors, expected to get a more permanent prosthesis, but Josh, she said, was really excited about the project, so they readily gave their permission.

The parts were produced on the 3-D printer. The hand and fingers bend with the wrist, through a series of string pulleys. This morning, on the classroom floor, Josh and one of the student partners on the project played with small building blocks. C J Patterson coached him through how to throw a small ball with his new hand.

"It makes me happy because he'll be able to do things he never imagined," he said.

That includes playing softball, Heather Shanks said.

"Right now, he uses the bat with only one hand," she said. Josh also rides his bike using only his right hand, which resulted in occasional tumbles. That, too, will change, she hopes.

"I can build things now," he said in a low voice, as he played on the classroom floor.

It is more than a one-time project. Though they're graduating to middle school, Carolyn Winters said the students will build new models each year as Josh grows. The middle school also has a 3-D printer.

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