YUKON -- Students at Independence Elementary School in Yukon are getting a leg up on the competition to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, (S.T.E.M.), by holding their Second Annual Prosthetic Leg Challenge.
The students were tasked with constructing a prosthetic leg out of homemade materials by their S.T.E.M. instructor, Chris Simon.
“This is the second year that my fifth-grade students have built prosthetic legs in my class. Last year’s group were the pioneers of this project and did an amazing job. This year’s students, though, have really raised the bar and taken this project to a whole new level”, said Simon.
S.T.E.M. classes are in their second year at Independence Elementary. Yukon Public Schools instituted the program by making it available to all of the students at the district's two fourth- and fifth-grade centers, Independence Elementary and it’s sister school, Lakeview Elementary.
“The reason I love this project so much is because it not only touches the academic side of what makes S.T.E.M. education so great, but it also brings home the human side as well. It puts into sharp focus the needs of those with disabilities and how engineers can play a very important role in people’s lives. It is really a great lesson in sensitivity”, Simon said.
IES Principal Cecil Bowles agrees.
“The prosthetic leg project is an amazing opportunity to expose our students to an area of scientific design that a regular fifth-grade science or math class couldn't," he said. "In addition, the empathetic connection to the person who has a prosthesis is an area where our students can grow personally while developing a more realistic view of society and the unique situations they may encounter.”
Students were visited by a team from the prosthetic lab at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, led by Dallas Curtis, Prosthetic Lab Chief. Curtis told the students what he sees everyday in his job and also gave them some tips on how to be successful with their own creations.
“I love coming out and talking to the kids because there are a lot of bright minds here, and they ask great questions. I want to expose each child to all of the opportunities available to them in this field”, Curtis said. “They may not be great clinicians or enjoy working with the public, but they may find their niche in research and development or as a computer technician in the development of microprocessors for artificial limbs”.
They also had a veteran talk to them about her experiences with artificial limbs. Cindy Crenshaw-Martin lost both of her legs when a bomb hidden in a trash can exploded while she was stationed overseas in 1978.
“I like talking to these kids to encourage them to not only be strong when things get rough but to also plant seeds in their minds to get them involved in prosthesis,” said Martin. “Encourage them to help others like me and solve problems.”
The students designed and built their legs in class in teams of three to four students. They were encouraged to experiment and try things, redesign, and rebuild until they were successful. They had to measure the leg for one of their team and cut it to fit, making sure it was comfortable and, most important, making sure it stayed attached while in use.
“That was my favorite part”, said fifth-grader Devin Melton. “I really liked testing our leg and then improving it. The whole thing was really fun”.
Now these junior engineers will put their creations on display for all those who wish to see.
If you would like to be a witness to their successes, the prosthetic leg races will be held during their class times the week of Feb. through Feb. 14.