Weekly roundup: Student uses engineering skills to build prosthetics, high school to offer healthcare curriculum, and more

At San Juan Hills High School, senior Ashlynn Mathews isn’t using her new engineering skills learned at her building trades class to design a building. Instead, she’s designing and printing prosthetic hands and arms for children around the world.

The Orange County Register this week profiled Ashlynn’s endeavor to use new technology to help her fellow man.

“I knew there was more we could do with this program at our school,” Mathews told the Register.

Education News title cardIt wasn’t until Mathews was talking on the phone to her grandparents, who live and work in Fiji, that she realized what that “more” would be. Her grandparents told her stories about the devastating diabetes epidemic they were seeing around them. While there were options for those who’d lost a foot to the disease, there weren’t many options available for people in need of hand and arm prosthetics, according to the Register.

Mathews said she was compelled to help and started the San Juan Hills High School 3-D Printing Club, making use of the equipment in her BITA (Building Industry Technology Academy) engineering class.

Mathews connected her club with Enabling the Future, a global network of volunteers that puts certified 3-D printing volunteers in touch with children who need prosthetics. She spent weeks printing prototypes and assembling them into prosthetic devices to complete the certification process.

Her first prosthetic recipient was Giovanna, a 2-year-old girl in Brazil. Using designs from Enabling the Future, Mathews printed a pink-and-purple arm prosthetic and mailed it to Giovanna. Mathews still remains in contact with the family and regularly sends them replacement parts and supplies.

“I quickly learned you never make an amputation to fit a prosthetic. You make a prosthetic to fit an amputation,” Mathews told the Register.

Because there is no one size fits all, she had to learn how to resize the prosthetic designs to fit measurements from her recipients. She often uses her four younger siblings’ arms as models.

The prosthetics hands are made from plastic, fishing line, dental bands, finger grips, velcro straps, screws and “plastozone,” and the fingers can be articulated by the child’s elbow or shoulder movement.

Here are some other education-related articles from across the region for the week ending Nov. 22.

  • About 60 Orange County middle school students from the Santa Ana and Irvine unified school districts recently learned strategies to identify historical sources for their National History Day projects during a pair of free workshops hosted by OCDE at the UCI Langson Library.
  • K-12 schools and community colleges can anticipate a “moderate” 4.2 percent increase in funding in the 2020-21 state budget, instead of a long-anticipated recession, the Legislative Analyst’s Office predicted in its annual fiscal forecast.
  • California State University leaders signaled they will move forward with a controversial plan to require a fourth year of high school math for freshman admissions — despite opposition from civil rights organizations, education groups and state leaders.
  • California schools have beefed up their counseling staffs dramatically in the past few years, but the need for student mental health services — to address trauma related to fires, shootings and social media — has far outpaced counselors’ ability to keep pace with student needs.
  • A new PPIC survey finds fewer than half of likely voters support a proposed state bond for school and college construction set to appear on the March 2020 ballot. Backers say it’s too early for the initiative to click with voters.

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