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Volume 8, Issue 11  |  February 7, 2023Subscribe

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Sage Hill students deliver prosthetic arm developed in design and fabrication class

By Daniel Langhorne

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Blake McGraw, 10, beamed with pride as he tried on his black and red prosthetic arm for the first time in the Johnson Family Library, located on the campus of Sage Hill School.

This custom-made arm was designed by students enrolled in the 3D Design, Modeling and Fabrication class led by Tanya Lerch, science teacher and Sage Center assistant director for Service Learning and Outreach, and mathematics teacher Dr. Dinh Nguyen. Members of this class also participate in the Sage Prosthetics Service Learning project.

Blake, a Ladera Ranch resident, was born with a congenital amputation that left him with an underdeveloped left hand. Blake can use his new plastic hand with articulated fingers to hold a bottle by flexing his elbow. He looks forward to using his first prosthetic arm to play an Oculus Quest virtual reality game.

“It’s a little bit weird but cool,” Blake said. “I really like it and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

He also wore his new arm on the drive home.

Sage Hill students deliver Kid with red hand

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Sage Hill School

Ten-year-old Blake McGraw gets some assistance as he fits his newly designed prosthetic arm on what was designed and developed by Sage Hill School students

Blake’s mother, Krystal McGraw, said there’s been a lot of research and development of adult prosthetics, partially spurred by the needs of wounded veterans. However, she’s noticed a gap in pediatric access because of how fast children outgrow and the cost of prosthetic limbs built by medical device companies.

“It’s definitely had us relive a lot of joy. I think he’s been really eager to get here. It puts a smile on his face and if he’s happy, I’m happy,” Krystal said.

The McGraw family discovered Sage Prosthetics after a Sage Hill alumna, Lanie Kauffman ‘22, watched a viral TikTok video of Blake visiting Disneyland and contacted Blake’s mother last year.

When Lerch joined Sage Hill in 2016, she brought the concept for the prosthetics program from her former school. What started as a lone 3D printer assembled by students from donated parts has grown into eight 3D printers deployed by 35 students enrolled in two credit classes.

Since Sage Prosthetics’ inception, the program has helped at least 50 individuals – some have received more than one device fabricated from 3D printers at Sage Hill.

Over winter break, Sage Prosthetics shipped plastic hands to individuals in Pakistan, Romania, Massachusetts, Idaho and Florida. Seniors Arman Sajjadian, Anyssa Dang, Carson McNeill and Sarah Pacheco are currently printing and assembling the program’s first shoulder-powered device for a person with an arm amputated above the elbow.

In early January, the four seniors were recognized for their prosthetics work by the National Youth Leadership Council. As recipients of the Youth Leadership for Service-Learning Excellence Award, Sage Prosthetics will receive a $1,000 grant to support its program. The students were invited to present their project this April at the National Service-Learning Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

“It’s always amazing to connect with people in general and to get to know some of Blake’s story and talk to his mom about how they’ve treated his limb difference growing up,” Lerch said. “He’s never used a prosthetic before and has always been confident without one. To see him engaging with a new device and just be so excited to practice with it is really exciting.”

Editor’s Note: Daniel Langhorne is the Communications & Website Manager and School Newspaper Adviser for Sage Hill School.

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