3D printed device helps Quitman band student hold his instrment
Story by PATRICK SMITH
From improved health care to remote work and enhanced communication, there are countless ways technology makes our lives easier. For freshman Cole Ochoa, 3D printing not only helped him build connections with his fellow students, but it also helped make the Quitman High School band more accessible.
Cole, whose right arm was amputated just above the wrist, plays the French horn and mellophone in the high school’s concert and marching bands.
Since Cole has the use of only one hand to play music, band director Michael Barron proposed building a device to help Cole hold his instruments. Michael enlisted the help of engineering teacher David Cross and Cole’s fellow band member Nehemiah Faulkner.
“When Cole started playing mellophone for marching band, we had to figure out a way for him to hold it up because of its weight,” Michael says. “It reminded me of a band I saw last year with a spinning mechanism on their trumpets to make the show more visual. I approached Mr. Cross about the idea, and they ran with it.”
MAKING THE DEVICE
While 3D printing has become more popular and less expensive, it still requires a great deal of knowledge to bring a design to life and properly operate the equipment.
Nehemiah, a junior clarinet player, took measurements of Cole’s limb and designed about five versions of a digital prototype before creating the first printed device. The device, a small cup that fits over the end of Cole’s arm, has grips to help hold his instrument. Proof of the teenager’s engineering skills, Nehemiah’s first printed version fit and worked perfectly.
“It felt like a big ask, but I’m proud to be able to help someone with my work,” Nehemiah says. “It’s been a really cool experience for me.”
Nehemiah and other students in David’s classes often make small accessories for Quitman High School teachers and administrators, but they’re typically fun trinkets and decorations. The device for Cole was one of the more meaningful items created. “When you see a project like this come to fruition it illustrates a lot of different techniques Nehemiah learned. It has to be custom-fit to the user,” David says. “He took real-world measurements, constructed something in 3D on a computer and made it a reality. It’s not just something that you can print faster than you could buy it online. It’s custom manufacturing for something that can’t be bought in a store.”
Both Michael and David are grateful to have the support of the school to fund beneficial technology like 3D printers. “For a student to help identify a problem in another student’s life and help make life easier for them — that’s one of the foundational principles of engineering,” David says. “They’re able to identify a problem somebody else might be going through and help them. That’s an incredible team effort. I’ve never been told no by the administration when it’s something that can help students. It’s these kind of extra opportunities that let students grow their own personalities and pursue their goals. It helps them to become a more well-rounded person when they graduate.”
FAST FRIENDS. FUTURE ENGINEERS?
Creating the device also helped to solidify the bond between Cole and Nehemiah. “We were in band together, but we didn’t really know each other before all this happened,” Cole says. “Even though we’re in different grades, our friendship is kind of getting higher and higher the more that we’re building a connection through making this device. I’m really excited to see how we can continue to improve it and make it better in the future.”
For Nehemiah, the experience has boosted his desire to pursue engineering as a career. “If you’re skilled in modeling you can make almost anything and bring it to life,” he says. “I’d like to study software engineering in college and work with robotics.”
It’s also helped Cole take an interest in 3D printing, and now he’s considering pursuing engineering in college, as well. “I’m just now learning the basics of engineering, and the way it’s printed may seem pretty simple, but I’m starting realize it’s way more complex than people might think,” he says. “The whole connection we’ve made has sparked my imagination, and it makes me want to learn more for myself.”
Perhaps best of all, building the device for Cole is an example of how caring for one another can also help to ensure each student has equal opportunities.
“I think it’s awesome for kids to have each other’s back, be creative and use what they’ve learned in school to help one another. Ultimately, that’s what we want them to do as adults,” says Principal Jeffery Tittle. “It’s another example of how our school community takes care of each other, and it’s a testament to how we make sure our students and faculty don’t say no. We find ways to make it happen for our students to be successful.”