Each November during Veterans Week in Cherry Creek Schools, students at Horizon Community Middle School pay tribute to veterans and active duty servicemen and women. Now those students are using their science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills to help these heroes who have lost a lower limb in service to our country.
“Our students’ goals are to design a prosthesis that is super comfortable, lightweight and fits into a long board, snowboard or skis. The device can also be interchangeable for all three,” said Mel Possehl, an applied science teacher at Horizon. “This will provide our disabled veterans and community members the ability to enjoy the benefits of our beautiful state and enjoy a comfortable, healthy and active lifestyle.”
The students’ efforts are so impressive that Horizon has been selected as the Colorado state winner in the 2015-2016 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. The competition recognizes schools that demonstrate innovative approaches to advancing interest in STEM among students and making a positive impact in the community. The award comes with a minimum of $20,000 in Samsung technology for the school, as well as the opportunity for Horizon students to represent Colorado in the national competition, where they could earn a larger technology package and a chance to present their work in New York City in March.
Possehl says her students are very excited about that possibility, but just as excited to continue their work with local veterans and current service members.
“My students are amazing and have a deep wealth of empathy and respect for the sacrifice and commitment of our men and women in the military,” Possehl said.
Possehl’s students have interviewed local veterans and active military members to help them identify current types of prostheses and the problems associated with them. A team of students is designing a prosthesis using computer-aided software called Solidworks. Once they have perfected the initial design, the students will print a prototype on a 3D printer for testing and stress analysis. Meanwhile, another team is working on the parts to fit into a long board, snowboard or skis.