Lending A Helping Hand Message from the Superintendent


April 2018 Message from the Superintendent

Lending A Helping Hand

Recently two eighth graders from Calavera Hills Middle School, Mason and Daniel, and their Design and Modeling teacher, Aaron Sottile, made a presentation about their class project to the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, which met at Nordson Corporation. Under Mr. Sottile’s tutelage, Mason and Daniel have undertaken a remarkable task— to create prosthetic hands on a 3D printer for children who were born without hands.

To make the hand components, students use an online 3D drafting service called Tinkercad (Computer Aided Design) to make modifications to prosthetic hand files, size them, and an on-campus 3D printer to print them. Students use their own ingenuity and a Google+ online community to troubleshoot design problems encountered in the process. They learn how to run (and repair) the machinery and gain an understanding of how to work in the virtual world.

Calavera Hills Middle School partners with an organization called Enabling the Future,

“a global movement of makers and digital humanitarians who strive to increase the accessibility of prosthetic hands for children and introduce 3D printing technology and curricula into STEM-based learning environments around the world.”


Daniel explained that students go to the e-NABLE website to locate 3D files for the prosthetics, size them, print them, and then put the pieces together with small screws, bands, and cords to create a functional hand. The wrist pieces require thermo-molding, a process that involves placing the pieces in hot water and then bending them to fit the child’s wrist.

The class has also teamed up with the North County Consortium for Special Education, which has helped the students to understand the specific needs of people diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). This ability-awareness education teaches students that, with some creativity and design skills, they can make tools to assist people with this condition. Mason designed a toy to be used in a therapy session for a child with CP, and students have designed prototypes of foot orthotics for cerebral palsy patients. The class had a special visit from Cody Jones, a US Para-Olympian who competed in the javelin event with cerebral palsy. The students were impressed with his athleticism and ability to overcome his physical limitations to become a world class track and field star.

Mason said, “(Design and Modeling class) is a great thing. If you like problem solving and helping people, you can do it.” Daniel agrees. “I love 3D printing, and I hope I can continue to do this,” he said.

“In this class we use the design process to empower students to make a positive impact on their world,” said Mr. Sottile. “We are investigating how we can use the 3D printer to help people, change lives, and do good. Students learn to use cool tech tools and a set of transferable skills.”

The Design and Modeling class is part of Calavera Hill Middle School’s Project Lead The Way (PLTW) curriculum, a STEM elective pathway that also includes courses such as Automation and Robotics, Medical Detectives, Computer Science for Innovators and Makers, and App Creators. The middle school’s partnership with the PLTW programs at Calavera Hills Elementary School and Sage Creek High School represents one of the few K-12 PLTW programs in the United States.

Mr. Sottile’s program is supported with funds from the PTSA for the kits needed to create prosthetic hands; Farmers Insurance, for supplies needed in the CHMS Maker Space; and the Carlsbad Educational Foundation.

And more congratulations are in order. We just found out that Mr. Sottile’s unique class has won an award from the Classroom of the Future Foundation (CFF) for being one of the most innovative classrooms in San Diego. He will receive a $10,000 grant to support his goal—to expand this program and to inspire the designers and makers of the future. For more info, visit CFF at http://wp.classroomofthefuture.org/cff-announces-2018-class-of-awardees/

Benjamin Churchill, Ed.D., Superintendent


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