Tim Andrasy of Canton hasn’t worn a prosthetic arm since he was in high school 22 years ago. It was too bulky and didn’t fit well, so he gave up wearing it, and found work-arounds to succeed in his culinary career. After serving many years as an executive chef, he’s now in a second career as a butcher. Recently, he met someone who changed his life.
Daniel McCrobie is a Scout with Boy Scouts of America Troop 4056 based in Hickory Flat. When it came time to work on his Eagle Scout project, he passed up projects such as installing picnic benches for the local school or church, or clearing hiking trails at a state park. McCrobie decided to think bigger.
He knew he wanted his project to help people and have a lasting impact. He also wanted to use the skills he had learned in engineering classes at Sequoyah High School. And, like most teenagers, he wanted it to be interesting and fun.
The timing of McCrobie’s search for a meaningful project aligned perfectly with a new high school teacher, who started a Robotics Team. In addition to wanting to be competitive in FIRST Robotics regional tournaments, teacher Brent Hollers suggested two possible service projects that would enhance the students’ knowledge of STEM subjects, and benefit those in need. One of those projects seemed like a perfect fit for what McCrobie wanted for his Eagle Project.
While schools were shut down due to COVID-19 and summer break, McCrobie was able to establish an e-NABLE chapter at Sequoyah High School. e-NABLE “is an online global community of ‘Digital Humanitarian’ volunteers from all over the world who are using 3D printers to make free and low-cost prosthetic upper limb devices for children and adults in need.”
A generous donation from the Jason T. Dickerson Family Foundation, started by a Sequoyah High School graduate and his family, provided the team with a Dremel DigiLab 3D printer to make the computer-designed plastic prosthetics. The foundation learned about the team’s work through its membership in the Rotary Club of Canton.
McCrobie quickly got the newly formed chapter certified to print several models of hands and arms. Additionally, after several conversations with Maria Esquela and Bob Rieger, leaders of the global e-NABLE organization, McCrobie was asked if the Sequoyah chapter could be the national repository of surplus hands.
One of the requirements for the Eagle Scout project is to get materials and money donated. Not wanting to just ask for money, McCrobie thought up another service he could provide. He used his 3D printer to make Corona Safety Keys. He offered free keys to those who made donations toward his project. Within 10 days, the Scout had gathered almost double the amount he had estimated he would need for his project. With the extra funds, he was able to print additional hands and help more people.
When schools reopened in August, McCrobie began looking for potential clients for his fellow Robotics team members to help. The first person they helped was an Alabama man, who lost four fingers in a pyrotechnics accident. Then, on Sept. 19, McCrobie led a combined group of Robotics team members and Scouts to work on six hands and arms. These included a hand for an 8-year-old Canadian girl, who was born without her left hand; an arm for a Chinese man, who lost his hand and part of his arm due to cancer; and a finger for an Arkansas man, who lost his forefinger in a shop accident. The remaining hands and arms created by the Robotics team will be placed in inventory for future needs.
Andrasy learned about the e-NABLE project during a chance encounter with McCrobie’s mother.
“I thought it was too good to be true,” Andrasy said, and he eagerly set up a meeting, and saw that the help and the hope was real.
McCrobie said meeting Andrasy, hearing his story, measuring his arm, and working to help him has been an incredible experience.
“I am thrilled to be able to help a person locally, and actually see the prosthetic in action,” he said.
Andrasy said it’s difficult to put into words how meaningful the work by McCrobie and his classmates is to him.
“It will make my life better,” Andrasy said, “in so many ways it’s hard to count.”
McCrobie is a senior at Sequoyah High School, and is dual enrolled in Kennesaw State University. He is researching engineering colleges and plans to pursue a degree in biomechanical engineering. After college, he hopes to work in research and development for prosthetics.
Student Project Provides Technical and Social Benefits
The Sequoyah High School robotics team was founded last year as part of the FIRST Robotics Competition league. This organization is a global group that establishes robotics competitions on a yearly basis (www.firstinspires.org). As a part of this program, students are encouraged to perform service and outreach to the community, especially in areas where they can apply their STEM skills to benefit local and global communities.
Since I am the head coach, I introduced Daniel McCrobie and the team to the e-NABLE group, and McCrobie was immediately engaged and interested in the project. He spent the better part of the spring, summer and fall doing a tremendous amount of work to get our e-NABLE chapter established, and to get our program certified to print hands and arms. He completed and sent out his first arm about a month ago and since then, our team has worked on creating prosthetics for individuals locally and globally (we have projects ongoing for people in China, Albania, Germany and Australia). Without McCrobie’s tenacity in getting this program established, the program would not be having such a tremendous impact on the students and recipients of these prosthetics.
What I enjoy most about this program is seeing the direct application of what students are learning in class to real world problems that not only have a technical benefit, but a social and emotional one. Through this program, students are learning empathy, client relations, and a host of other soft skills that will greatly benefit them once they leave this school.
Sometimes in education we get so focused on the standards, tests and content that we miss out on the opportunities to create a real impact in students’ lives through the application of what they are learning to create a better society. What is amazing about what I have seen in the students is not only the honing of their technical expertise, but also the growth of their empathy toward people whom they may not otherwise interact with or understand their needs. This is truly problem-solving and project-based learning at its highest level and what we strive for as teachers.
McCrobie’s passion for STEM and for others has been demonstrated by the tremendous amount of time and resources he has invested in this program.
By Brent Hollers