PORTLAND, Ore. — When Rosali Patterson picked up the blue, plastic prosthetic hand that she and some fellow students made at St. John Fisher Catholic School in Portland, the rising eighth-grader marveled at what this object will mean for some underprivileged child one day.
“Some kid is going to use this to pick something up,” Patterson said as she gazed at the outstretched fingers of the prosthetic. “This could really change someone’s life. It’s a hand they didn’t have before.”
Patterson and her classmates joined an after-school program at the school last year where they used a 3-D printer to create prosthetics for children whose families cannot afford to provide them with an artificial limb.
The school’s librarian, Sundi Pierce, and principal, Merrit Holub, joined forces with E-NABLE, a global network of volunteers who use their 3-D printers and design skills to create free prosthetic hands for people in need.
The students use a computer program to design the hands and then print out the parts using the school’s 3-D printer, Pierce told Catholic News Service.
Then, the students painstakingly assemble the hands, making them fully functional for someone’s use, Pierce said.
“I guess you could say we are using technology to help provide our students with important lessons in Catholic social teaching,” she said.
State-of-the-art technology has given students tremendous academic tools but it isn’t cheap and Catholic schools have had to be creative in raising money to get their schools up to speed with modern equipment.
Barbara McGraw Edmondson, chief leadership and program officer at the National Catholic Educational Association, said many Catholic schools serving underserved populations can qualify for federal funding for some technology and well-resourced schools can more easily afford it. “It is our middle-class schools that suffer most,” she said, noting that they are “doing creative fundraising” to generate funds.
She noted that technology has revolutionized how classrooms operate. They no longer learn about a country in a textbook, for example, but instead can talk to students in other parts of the world from their classroom.
Some schools are also using technology for academic competition.
Third-grade students at St. Elizabeth School in Pittsburgh recently placed 10th worldwide in the World Maths Day competition.
St. Elizabeth principal Linda Bechtol credited the students’ impressive finish with online math testing and a program called “Reflex Math” on Google Chromebook computers at school.
The students are not only learning math skills but also honing these skills in online competitions in school, nationwide or even around the world. For example, the third-graders competed against students in Canada, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Australia and the Dominican Republic.