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Anatomy Class & designLab: The Prosthetic Hand Project

Kimberly Gerardi, Middle School designLab Chair
The designLab worked with Janet Jochem’s anatomy class on the Prosthetic Hand Project. This was our fourth collaboration, and we decided to take a different approach. Rather than spending time assembling the prosthetic, students began the Design Thinking Process with the most recent version of the “Flexy Hand.” designLab Technician CJ Agro and I made the E-nable hands — a 3D printed, low-cost upper limb — so students could become familiar with the hand and fit it to their dominant hand. The students wore the prosthetics to form empathy and attempt to accomplish everyday tasks. After journaling and documenting their experiences, they identified challenges they wanted to solve. The students created sketches and low-fidelity prototypes to prove their concepts before moving on to high-fidelity solutions. Some of the students’ ideas included developing more strength in the hand with guitar tuners and adding additional tendons or joint segments to the fingers. Other students engineered superhuman capabilities, such as extra thumbs, or created custom flashlights and utensils for their prosthetic hands. 

It is important to point out that the collaboration between Janet Jochem and me, which is an iterative process, is exactly what we ask our students to demonstrate. It is imperative that our community see how we are able to remain open to the process of Design Thinking. Engineering solutions in ways that improve with each iteration is essentially failing forward until we completely examine the problem. Through the test and improvement phase, we can draw conclusions that will support the best ideas. It is only then that we can form solutions that make a difference.  

You can check out photos showcasing the progress of the students’ project here
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St. Luke’s School is a secular (non-religious), private school in New Canaan, CT for grades 5 through 12 serving over 35 towns in Connecticut and New York. Our exceptional academics and diverse co-educational community foster students’ intellectual and ethical development and prepare them for top colleges. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership builds the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.