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Hattiesburg High students make prosthetic arm for toddler

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Hattiesburg High students gave a local toddler a chance to enjoy many new activities when they presented her with a robotic arm Thursday.

Arabella Ruff, 17 months, was born without a left forearm. The students in Stephen Jordan’s engineering and robotics class used a 3-D printer to make her a robotic arm out of injected plastic, silicon and Kevlar.

Arabella’s mother, Cindy Ruff, said once Arabella gets used to wearing the new arm, she will be able to participate in a host of activities.

“Right now she can do anything she wants to do,” Ruff said. “But as she ages, simple things like riding a tricycle, holding objects and taking stress off her right hand, picking up a ball, tumbling — there are so many things this robotic arm will help her do.

“We are glad to have it.”

Jermaine Brown, Hattiesburg Public School District career-technical director, said he was proud of the students.

“What a great day to talk about project-based learning within our career-technical program,” he said. “This is project-based learning at its best.

“We’re really excited at the opportunity to be of service.”

Jordan knew of the need Arabella had because she is his niece. When he saw he had access to 3-D printers this semester, he thought making the robotic arm would be an excellent learning opportunity for his students.

“Usually insurance companies don’t like to do prosthetic arms for children because of the cost and the constant growing,” he said. “As they get older, about yearly, they’re needing new arms and the arms are expensive.

“These can be printed relatively cheaply on a 3-D printer.”

Jordan said the entire class stayed involved, watching the printing process and asking questions. Two sophomores, Clemon Derrell and Ivory Stallings, helped with cleaning and assembly.

“It’s very heartwarming to me — this whole situation,” Derrell said. “It just brings a tingle down my back and makes me feel like a great person.

“I have two arms, but it will be great to give someone who has only had one arm her whole life — give her two arms so she can do everything we can do.”

Stallings said he was happy to help Arabella.

“I felt it was going to be a task, but not a hard task. Our teacher helped us throughout and (now) for her to be able to even play basketball with two arms like I did,” he said.

The Ruffs were grateful to the students.

“I appreciate the entire group for doing this for our little girl,” Cindy Ruff said.

“We will be forever indebted to you guys.”

Father Paul Ruff said he felt blessed to have such a special daughter and the help of the Hattiesburg High students.

“To think that people would go out of their way to do things for your family,” he said. “We’re very humbled and appreciative.”

Jordan said the class had already gotten requests to make prosthetics for other children.

“This is not where this ends,” he said. “Hopefully, this is only the beginning.”

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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