Engineering Class Builds Prosthetics for Children

Texas A&M course will fit 20 children with custom made 3D printed prosthetics.

Students assemble a 3D Printed prosthetic arm. Image courtesy of Texas A&M.

Students assemble a 3D Printed prosthetic arm. Image courtesy of Texas A&M.

Kids grow up so fast. Too fast. And this rate of expansion is especially apparent if they’re in need of multiple expensive prosthetics a year.

Texas A&M notes that prosthetics are expensive, in the range of thousands of dollars each. 3D Printing prosthetics can cost as low as $30 and are customizable.

3D Printing prosthetics is financially more sustainable for families in need of the device. Especially when a child out grows their prosthetic in a few months.

To that aim, Texas A&M is offering their engineering students a chance to build 3D Printable prosthetics for 20 children. The interdisciplinary course is entitled Engineering Projects in Community Service. The program is an opportunity for engineering students to collaborate with non-profit partners to help solve a problem people across the world are facing.

This year’s partnership was with e-NABLE, a global charity that aims to bring custom 3D Printed prosthetic hands to people in need.

The students start off with e-NABLE’s prosthetic design blueprints. Teams then used CAD software to scale up the prosthetic, orient them for handedness, print the pieces and then assemble the device.

“It’s about the teamwork too,” said engineering student Matthew Curtis. “We’re given this kit and have to work through the project as a team.”

This particular model from e-NABLE is called “Raptor Reloaded.” It is the most complicated model the organization offers. The prosthetics connects to the child’s active muscle using elastic straps. The teams are encouraged to develop ways to improve the prosthetic’s design for more efficient function, durability and assembly.

“It’s inspiring. You can’t compare anything else to helping someone and fulfilling this need,” said student Myles Rosenbaum. “You don’t see this every day.”

From a class of 80, 20 prosthetics will be produced for e-NABLE to test and distribute to children around the world. The student teams will include a message for each child and a picture of the team that built each prosthetic. The children often reply.

The course is led by Magda Lagoudas who got the idea for the e-NABLE partnership from Ibukunoluwa Oni, a biomedical engineering grad-student. Oni had worked with e-NABLE in the past and thought that the course was a perfect opportunity to get more prosthetics to more children in need.

This was, of course, a fantastic idea. Engineering is a hard degree to complete. Many first year and second year students duck out early; typically after a brutal midterm that failed two thirds of the class.

However, opportunities like the ones this course offers are the best way to ensure those students never give up on their STEM careers. They see for themselves the amazing ways engineering can better the lives of others. There is no better way to incite the determination needed to succeed beyond the tough STEM curriculums.

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Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.