Finger prints

Minot High School technology students and teachers have been making prosthetics for children in Africa using a 3-D printer.

Technology teacher Delton Brown said the juniors and seniors in his class used the MakerBot 3-D printer to make the “Robohand,” a mechanical finger prosthesis intended to restore functionality to the hands of people who lack fingers. The Robohand is intended to be an inexpensive but functional design that can be easily produced with a 3-D printer.

Brown said the prosthetics are sent to a nonprofit foundation that fits them to amputees who can make the best use of them.

“It gives our students that sense of community service,” said Brown, as well as valuable experience. Brown said the students feel proud that they were able to do something that will make a real difference in a child’s life.

Technology teachers said the sky is the limit when it comes to what the 3-D printer will be able to do in the future.

“It’s going to be almost impossible to think of things you wouldn’t be able to make,” said Gabe Rauschenberger, who teaches technology at Minot High School-Central Campus.

Rauschenberger said the printer can print an interlocked chain, and nuts and bolts of different sizes. They use computer aided design software to create a design and then use the 3-D printer in the classroom to print the different components to their specifications. Along the way, the students must also learn how to give the printer the right instructions.

“We use math and science all the time,” said Rauschenberger. “We use a lot of geometry.”

Students in his classes love using the 3-D printer, and he is able to assign extra design projects for students who are further ahead than the others.

“These tech kids, they do just eat this stuff up,” said Rauschenberger.

Right now Rauschenberger has just one of the 3-D printers in his classroom but, as prices come down even further and if the school receives grant funding, he can foresee a day when every student in his class will have one of the printers.

Today’s students will have many career options, as industry is making greater use of 3-D printers.

Brown said the 3-D printers have even been used to print out made-to-order patches or prosthetics for use in surgeries.