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A Helping Hand

UAlbany's George Berg (two from right) stands with e-NABLE volunteers to present 11-year-old Karissa Mitchell (three from left) with a 3D-printed prosthetic arm. (Photo by Alycia Bacon '19)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 15, 2018) — Karissa Mitchell is too cool for two arms. She now has five.

Over the course of a few months, 21 middle-grade students from across the Capital Region met once a week, all coming together with one goal in mind: to design and create a 3D-printed prosthetic arm for 11-year-old Mitchell.

Mitchell was born without a right hand and most of her forearm. She had used prosthetic arms in the past, but as her models became outdated, she was in need of a new limb. That is when volunteer educators from the e-NABLE Program, volunteers who design and create 3D-printed limbs, came together to help out. Among the team are four faculty members from UAlbany, including George Berg, an associate professor with dual appointments in the College Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS).

“I’m very happy. It’s time well spent,” Berg said. “While the visible product of this was the arms that we presented to Karissa, what we have is 21 students from middle school and junior high who spent basically one night every week coming together and working as a team. STEM is not only conceptual but also fun and imaginative.”

UAlbany formed a chapter of the e-NABLE Program back in 2013. One of the chapter’s first projects was creating about a dozen prosthetic hands for children all over the nation. Over the years, however, as students graduated and time constraints appeared, not as many projects were taken on.

Not until last fall when Berg was presented with Mitchell’s story. He knew UAlbany needed to be a part of the process.

WNYT's Karen Tararache takes a selfie with Karissa Mitchell.
Karen Tararache of News Channel 13 - WNYT takes a selfie with Karissa Mitchell. (Photo by Alycia Bacon '19)

The 21 students were divided into three “pods,” with each group developing a different prototype. The plan was to select, at the end of the program, one of the prototypes to 3D print and give to Mitchell in a ceremony at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity, a business incubator, makerspace and prototyping center in Troy, in late April. But instead, as Mitchell was called up to receive the prosthetic limb at the event, each pod presented her with an arm, as well as a fourth one from Jon Schull of Rochester Institute of Technology, who is also the founder of e-NABLE.

“Students just don't want to get that high paying salary and pay off loans. They want to do good in the world. These students are examples of that,” Berg said.

“You don’t need to be a part of engineering and applied sciences or a math major — this sort of project is approachable for everyone. Anyone can come and help with the design, help with the printing, and help with the assembly. To any UAlbany student, all they have to have is the interest and they can do this,” he added.

About e-NABLE:

The e-NABLE Community is an amazing group of individuals from all over the world who are using their 3D printers to create free 3D printed hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device.

The community is made up of teachers, students, engineers, scientists, medical professionals, tinkerers, designers, parents, children, scout troops, artists, philanthropists, dreamers, coders, makers and everyday people who just want to make a difference and help to “Give The World A Helping Hand.”

You can learn more here.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.