Shania, a fourth grade student in Jersey City, held up the plastic artificial hand.

“See, it doesn’t bend very well,” she said. “So it can’t hold things it needs in order to eat.”

The challenge for her and other members of her small team, Elizabeth and Rena, was to develop a tool that would help the hand function better.

They were among 200 students from around Jersey City working in teams of three and four in a competition to develop tools that would allow someone with an artificial limb to be able to perform more intricate tasks.

Using computers and 3-D printers, these students design and build models that might someday become tools that will make a difference in people’s lives.

“This is one of the reasons I’m really impressed with this program.” said Maritza Rodriguez-Dortrait, principal of PS 20 Dr. Maya Angelou School, which hosted a day long competition that featured designs by students. “This isn’t just a program that helps with STEM studies, but it also helps student emphasize with others and about caring.”

STEM is the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and is one of the key components of CORE curriculum.

The competition between teams of students culminated the six-month long program called Project E-Nable. Project E-Nable is a worldwide humanitarian organization that works to donate affordable prostheses to those in need.

Teaching kids technology and how to care

Sponsored by Jersey City-based PicoTurbine, which also hosts STEM study camps in spring and summer, the program had students from the eight schools working to improve prosthesis design for a real child.

PicoTurbine is headquartered in Jersey City and has been involved in the STEM community for nearly two decades, providing education products and services. Staffed by engineers and educators, the company also has ties to Stevens Institute of Technology.

Dr. Darrell Carson, superintendent of sciences for grades K to 8, said eight schools were part of the program, which is designed to help strengthen the students’ skills in STEM.

Rodriguez-Dortrait said the program started at the beginning of the school year when teachers went through training on the new technology. After about a month, students began to take up the challenge of designing possible improvements using notebook computers and designer programming. Students used 3D printers to design and test prototypes of their hands as they perfected their designs.

“It was amazing to see how teachers could turnkey what they learned to bring this to the students,” she said.

“This is free thinking, organic and fearless.” – Maritza Rodriguez-Dortrait,

Read more: Hudson Reporter – A handy design Students develop better tools for the disabled