Elementary school teachers use 3D printer to make student prosthetic finger

Teachers help print 3D finger for student

YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - Two Hickory Grove-Sharon Elementary School teachers spent Christmas break researching how they could use the school’s 3-D printer to make a prosthetic finger for a student who lost her own finger in an accident earlier in the year.

AC Lingerfelt, 11, lost most of her right-index finger while doing yard work in May of 2018. For the last nine months she’s been getting used to her new normal.

“When I was at the hospital I thought I’d never be able to play softball or tie my shoe again,” Lingerfelt said.

She says she planned to live the rest of her life without her right finger, until she made a comment jokingly at school. It happened just before Christmas break when she was helping a friend in Mr. Ryan Clemence’s classroom. Clemence is a 4th grade teacher at Hickory Grove Sharon Elementary School. Just this year he started using 3-D printers as a part of class projects.

“I said I bet you could make me a finger with that thing,” Lingerfelt said. “And he said I’ll look into it.”

He did. He spent Christmas break researching how to make a prosthetic finger, along with his colleague Rachael Shriver. He and Shriver took a professional development course over the summer to learn how to use 3-D printers. They say up until this point, they had only used the printers for small class projects.

“My flag holder broke so I 3-D printed a new one and I 3-D printed some hooks for the classroom,” Shriver said.

After getting donations for the materials through a few local churches, they put their research to the test. In total, it cost about $100.

“We had a lot of failures,” Clemence said.

After several trial and errors, they got it right. They presented the prosthetic finger to AC last Monday. To her surprise, the finger bends at the knuckle points like a regular finger would.

“I was really thankful and happy that there are people out there that think about me this way and would do this for me,” AC said.

She wears the prosthetic finger all of the time now. She says she is still getting used to it, but she can write, type and pick up a softball again.

Clemence and Shriver started working with 3-D printers to teach, but through this project they learned something too. That 3-D printers can be used for so much more. He says they made the prosthetic by following and modifying a design shared by Nicholas Brookins. You can learn more here.

“I have a 3-D printer so why not use it to change someone’s life,” Shriver said. “Her face just lit up and that was the best part. We put all that work in, but it’s knowing that it made an impact in her life.”

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