Sage Prosthetics Changes Lives With 3D Printed Limbs

Tudor, a five-year-old Romanian, uses a hand fabricated by Sage Prosthetics.

Grace Yan

Tudor, a five-year-old Romanian, uses a hand fabricated by Sage Prosthetics.

Brooke Thomassen

While the rest of Sage Hill students rush down the steps from the parking lot for their 8 a.m. classes, a dedicated group of students known as the Sage Prosthetics is just leaving the library after their zero period elective, 3D Design, Modeling and Fabrication. 

These students are part of both the class taught by Tanya Lerch, science teacher and assistant director of the Sage Center for service learning and outreach, and the Sage Prosthetics Service Learning Group. Together, they use their morning class time and Sage Center Days to design 3D printed prosthetic limbs for children and adults all over the world with disabilities.  

The service learning group partners with the nonprofit, e-NABLE, which is made up of 40,000 volunteers internationally that have provided over 10,000 recipients with free hand and arm prosthetic limbs. Lerch brought e-NABLE to Sage Hill School in 2016 by launching Sage Prosthetics. The group has already helped over 50 recipients with their prosthetics, shipping plastic hands internationally to Pakistan and Romania and domestically to Idaho, Massachusetts, and Florida.

“Making the prosthetics requires a lot of trial and error,” Senior Lio Balossi said about using the 3D printers. His favorite part is “seeing the positive impact of our work on the recipients.” 

Similarly, senior Annie Ta said, “applying what I learn in the classroom with 3D printing to better the community around me” is the most rewarding part of Sage Prosthetics. Annie also said she was moved by the difference these devices can make in the recipients’ lives.

One such recipient is Tudor, a five year old boy from Romania. He received a hand made with his favorite superheroes’ colors from Sage Hill students Lorelei Jorden, Ennika Carlson and Kevin Conway.  

Seniors Arman Sajjadian, Anyssa Dang, Carson McNeill and Sarah Pacheco are currently printing and assembling the program’s first shoulder-powered device for a person with an arm amputated above the elbow.

In early January, the four seniors were honored as recipients of the Youth Leadership for Service-Learning Excellence Award, Sage Prosthetics will receive a $1,000 grant to support its program. The students were invited to present their project this April at the National Service-Learning Conference in Nashville, Tenn.