‘Perfectly abled’: Creative teens at Tabb Middle transforming girl’s prosthetic arm into Nerf blaster

Health

YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Cheslei Fox was rolling her 3D printer down the hallway of Tabb Middle School when an enthusiastic woman stopped her.

“Oh my gosh, is that a 3D printer?” she exclaimed.

After a brief discussion, Fox found herself presented with a unique challenge. As the Instructional Innovation Coach for the York County School Division, she took this challenge to her students of the STEM Club at Tabb Middle School.

“Real STEM is showing them that they can make a difference. So a project like this, is a STEM based project, is based in something real,” said Fox. “It’s a real problem, these are real people, it’s not a hypothetical.”

The challenge? Transforming and adapting a young girl’s prosthetic arm to be able to use a Nerf Blaster.

 Zoey Hale deals with Amniotic Band Syndrome – born without part of her right arm and the four fingers on her left hand. 

“I don’t like to call her disabled because quite frankly, she’s perfectly able,” said Alexis Hale, Zoey’s mother.

The spunky, fun and goofy Zoey loves to play, laugh and learn. But when playing with Nerf Blasters around the house with her younger brother, she’d get caught up.

So the day Hale saw Fox in the hallway with a 3D printer, she knew this was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.

“How do we make Zoey’s life the best we can,” said Hale. “That was our focus.”

After seeing Zoey’s smile light up the room, Fox and her students were inspired to make this girl’s wish come true.

So they did what any scientist or engineer would do first; research & brainstorm. A week or so goes by and they begin to realize how possible this is. Next, they’re finding themselves on Zoom calls with actual Nerf Engineers, brainstorming together on ways to build these adaptations.

“I had one student tell me afterwards that it made her feel so good that the things that they’re doing right now as middle schoolers are some of the same as what these Nerf Engineers are doing,” said Fox.

Now, the 3D printers are getting a workout in the Tabb Middle School library, pumping out prototype after prototype. ECPI is also involved in the project, by providing the students they’re 3D scanner, kids were able to scan Zoey’s arm to give them a good 3D model to build off of. 

Which makes the next step possible, actually attaching these adaptations and Nerf Blaster to Zoey’s prosthetic arm. And it was in this process that Fox and her students realized they could take this even farther.

“So the idea by 3D printing those attachments and adaptations, is that this could be more than just Zoey,” added Fox. “It was really the students that said if we can do this for Zoey, we can do this for any kid.”

Over the next few months more prototypes will be built and tested in hopes of having Zoey and Nerf blasting arm by the summer.

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