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Army Veteran Gives Byram Hills High Students Lesson On Prosthetics

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patty Solimene Collins shows Byram Hills students an artificial leg.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patty Solimene Collins shows Byram Hills students an artificial leg. Photo Credit: Byram Hills Central School District

ARMONK, N. Y. -- Byram Hills High School students who are embarking on a project to create 3D-printed prosthetics got a real-life lesson recently from a U.S. Army officer who uses an artificial leg.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patty Solimene Collins spoke about the challenge of adjusting to a prosthetic leg following an accident, and how she learned to walk and run again.

The visit was coordinated with the launch of the high school's e-Nable Club, part of the global e-Nable Network that works to provide 3D printed prosthetics to children and adults, often for free.

Collins said her legs were paid for by Army benefits, but the 3D printed prosthetics can provide help to people who can't afford the more expensive, custom versions.

“This is not cheap technology, but if you ask me, it’s priceless because it helps me do the things I love to do,” she said.

At Byram Hills, science teacher Paul Beeken, the club’s advisor, has been working with its members on printing a prosthetic hand using the high school’s 3D printers.

During the after-school presentation, Collins passed around her “everyday” leg as well as one that she uses when runs, rides bicycles and competes in para-triathlons. She also focused on how 3D printing can improve access to prosthetics.

Along with members of the e-NABLE Club, interested students from the Engineering Club, and from physics and science technology and society classes also attended.

Last June, e-NABLE Club members made a hand and, after being approved by the network, are now waiting to be assigned a patient. In the meantime, they've practiced making parts for other groups that help teach how to assemble the hand-assistive devices from open-source files. The files can be downloaded and printed for less than $50.

Although the 3D-printed hands are not fully functional prosthetic devices, they help children perform simple tasks and make it easier for them to ride bikes, play on swings or participate in sports, school officials said.

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