Eighth-graders help create 3D prosthetic hand for farmer

The students helped create the hand with a printer bought with a STEM grant.

May 11, 2017, 6:05 PM

— -- Thanks to a group of middle school students, an Illinois farmer who lost his hand in a 2013 machinery accident will have a new prosthesis to show off around town.

On Wednesday, Jake Hubbard, 30, met with some of the 20 or so people who helped create his 3-D prosthetic hand, including eighth-graders at Rochelle Middle School in Illinois and their tech-lab teacher Vic Worthington.

"This is going to fill that void in my life so I have something to wear when I'm with my family and we go places and do things," Hubbard said. "It's very exciting."

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Hubbard told ABC News Wednesday that although he already had one prosthetic hand, he carried it in his toolbox.

"It's an everyday tool," said the father of three. "I don't wear it in public because it's beat up. It's rough."

Worthington said the effort began in August 2016, after he'd struck up a conversation with Hubbard at church. He said he got to know more about Hubbard's life and how he'd lost his hand.

In 2013, Hubbard was moving a large wheel from a machine when he slipped in the mud. The wheel fell on his arm, leaving him pinned overnight. He was found by another farmer the next day but his arm below the elbow could not be saved.

After chatting with Hubbard, Worthington said he came across prosthetic arms that had been made via 3-D printers. Although the school had gotten a 3-D printer with a STEM grant, Worthington had yet to find a use for it.

So Worthington, who teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Rochelle in a STEM-based class, asked Hubbard whether his students could try to make him a hand and Hubbard said OK.

Worthington said that 10 to 12 students had been involved in the project. The project took the entire school year.

On Wednesday, the students met with Hubbard for the first time so he could try on the prosthesis. Worthington credited the students and Rochelle residents and businesses as well as an Ohio engineer that had worked to design and create the prosthetic hand.

"This was never a charity case for the kids or for us or anybody else," he said. "This is a working man who's trying to take care of his family. The guy just never stops and I thought, 'Man, if there's something we can do to make his life better, let's go for it.' It's so exciting to see people care."

The team still has more work to do on the hand. Hubbard said he would be working with the students to make tweaks and fine-tune it.

Student Keanon Voss told ABC News he planned to return to the middle school next year to continue perfecting the prosthesis for Hubbard, even after he'd graduated.

"I'm not going to stop until we get to that point," Voss said. "I started this. Why not finish it?"

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