Govs-Brookwood Collaboration Builds Prosthetic Hand for Local Boy
Posted 04/25/2014 08:59AM




Arjun Bhatnagar ’14 has been spending his senior year working on something very special. Arjun has been helping a team to create a prosthetic hand for a young boy by printing the pieces with Govs 3-D printer. A year ago, a science teacher at nearby Brookwood School, Rich Lehrer, saw a post on Facebook a colleague in Brazil made. The post was about an engineer and designer who collaborated to make a mechanical prosthesis for children born with Amniotic Band Syndrome using a 3-D printer. Lehrer’s three year old son Max, was born with ABS.

After contacting the creator of the Robohand, South African designer Richard Van As, Lehrer knew that with the right materials, a group of dedicated students, and a 3-D printer, they too could build a Robohand for his son Max. 

Lehrer created Brookwood’s Robohand Club this past fall, and 10 eighth graders signed up. When the club learned about Govs’ newly acquired 3-D printer, they contacted Fine Arts Department Chair David Oxton, who put them in touch with Govs senior Arjun Bhatnagar, who heads the 3-D printing program here. Oxton and Arjun both expressed enthusiasm for the project, agreeing to help print the pieces and work with the club to assemble the hand. Arjun worked with Lehrer to learn more about 3-D pieces and printing them.

When Max’s hand surgeon, Dr. Peter Waters of Boston Children’s Hospital learned about Brookwood's project, he put Lehrer in contact with Rusty Miller of Boston Brace, who donated the special orthoplastic material to ensure that Max’s hand fit securely and comfortably for him.

Lehrer’s students at Brookwood and Arjun worked together with Lehrer to assemble the hand using the guidelines he put together over a three day period during spring break after Skyping with Van As. Arjun visited Brookwood several times for collaborative learning and problem solving sessions with Lehrer's students to maximize effectiveness of the hand for Max. 

Max made two visits to Brookwood for “building sessions” as the club and Arjun assembled the hand and Max was able to try the Robohand.  After 15 minutes of figuring out how to move his new hand, Max was able to pick objects up. Click here to watch Max’s first use of his new Robohand.

Filing the joints down and bending back the thermoplastic so that it does not rub on Max’s hand are modifications that will be made to make Max’s second hand even more comfortable for him.

Lehrer is planning to continue the Robohand Club next year, as well as expand his collaboration with Van As, who has offered to lend his continued expertise and support to the club via Skype.

To see more amazing photos taken by David Oxton, click here. 

To view the story from the Boston Herald, click here. 


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