Calera students making prosthetics

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

CALERA – Students in Brian Copes’ Engineering Applications classes at Calera High School are taking on a unique project.

The students are preparing to make prosthetic limbs.

They received a brief overview of prosthetics Feb. 7 when Adam Williams, who works for Next Step Prosthetics and Orthotics in Alabaster, spoke to the class.

The psychological effect of losing a limb is nearly the same as the death of a loved one, Williams said. Fortunately, he said, roughly 95 percent of amputees learn to walk again.

Williams told the class there are 6,000 Haitians who are amputees. Williams said he’s preparing to go to Haiti to outfit some of them with prosthetics.

Copes challenged his students to help with the cause in their own way.

“I’ve challenged my students to make inexpensive prosthetics that can be sent to the Haitians and the very poor and needy around the world,” Copes said of the first-year project.

To accomplish their task, students will divide into design teams of two to four students each. They will spend two to three weeks working on the prosthetic limbs.

Their prosthetics won’t be as precise or expensive as those Williams deals with, but they will be functional. The prosthetics will be made from available parts students can come up with around the shop.

“It can be an automotive part,” Copes said. “They’re actually looking at using a motor mount out of older Toyota Corolla for a knee-joint.”

Calera freshman Christian McDonald, who said he’s always had an interest in orthopedic surgery, said he’s excited to get started.

“I was already into bones and joints and things,” McDonald said. “I really wanted to do this project because my friend uses prosthetic limbs.”

Ultimately, McDonald said he’d like to enter his design team’s prosthetic limb into the Technical Students Association competition. McDonald knows it won’t be easy.

“You have to do a lot of research,” McDonald said. “It takes a lot of time.”