Over the past two weeks, 39 public school students in grades 6-12 from across Western New York have gathered to participate in a free science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program called Hand in Hand Powered by AT&T, coordinated by the WNY STEM Hub. Students learn to design prosthetic hands using 3D printers and open source software created by e-NABLE, an online global community made up of individuals from all over the world who use 3D printers to create free 3D fabricated hands and arms for those in need of upper limb assistive devices.
Hand in Hand Powered by AT&T has been one of very few in-person summer educational programs in operation this year locally—the only one focused on STEM–and likely the only one with such a strong emphasis on using technology for social benefit; to improve the quality of life for others, an especially important lesson while living through a pandemic and reinforcing that “we are all in this together.” global mantra. This year, because of COVID-19 and out of abundance of caution, the seven prosthetic devices that the students create will be distributed on a global level in a “touchless” donation process to children in need in Ghana, Africa through a collaboration with the West Africa STEM Hub and other developing countries, rather than locally which has been the past custom.
Students in the program have also fabricated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical staff, patients and their family members at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. In addition, the program will come back together in the fall for students to design and produce motorized open wheelchairs that they will donate to local children in need.
On August 12th, New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes addressed the 39 students while touring the program to view the prosthetic devices and PPE they created and to commend them for all of their hard and selfless work during their summer vacation helping others.
“The Hand in Hand program sponsored by AT&T provides young people with the opportunity to use the skills they learn at the STEM camp to make a difference not just here but across the globe,” said Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “It warms my heart to know these students are creating prosthetic hands for children in need around the world and much needed PPE for local healthcare workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Bravo to AT&T and the WNY STEM Hub for preparing these young people for the careers of the present and the future.”
Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes stressed that early exposure to science, technology, engineering and math helps students to access careers in STEM which are often lucrative as well as personally fulfilling. There is also an urgent and growing need for people to work in these fields.
Research indicates that by 2025, there will be approximately 3.5 million STEM jobs across the United States that need to be filled. Of these 3.5 million, 2 million will not be filled due to a lack of qualified candidates.
First launched in 2017, the Hand in Hand Powered by AT&T program is a signature project of the WNY STEM Hub. It was originally initiated by WNY STEM Hub and AT&T to help underserved students develop technical, medical, leadership, service learning and disability awareness skills through a social action 3D printing project that significantly impacts the lives of others.