High school club makes robotic arm for 11-year-old girl

Eric Wilkinson reports

The Oak Harbor High School robotics club isn't your typical group of teen tech nerds. Yes, they've built a tap dancing robot, but they've also constructed a bicycle powered water purifier, and a robotic decoy deer to help wildlife authorities catch poachers.

"It's cool to see the kids understanding that they're doing good things," said teacher Che Edoga.

Beyond that, though, is a project that has the potential to truly touch their community.

They're creating robotic limbs that can actually be used by people who need them.

The limbs are designed by students and created with a 3D printer. It was the stuff of science fiction for the grandparents of students like Michael Uttmark.

"There's no limit, really," he said. "We do our best to think of things that haven't been thought of and then do it."

One of those things is making a big difference in the life of 11-year-old Jaelyn Crebbin. The Coupeville 6th grader is a brand new recipient of one of those limbs -- an artificial arm.

"It's pretty cool," she said with a wide grin.

Jaelyn was born without her left arm. She says people have felt sorry for, and stared at her for her entire life.

Not anymore.

"People would usually ask what happened to my arm. Now, they think it's cool!"

With the arm, Jaelyn can grip things and pick up lightweight items, but more important, it allows her to feel a bit more like everyone else. On Wednesday, she was surrounded by classmates in her school cafeteria as she gave fist bumps and played "patty cake" games with her friends.

Jaelyn's arm is so popular, the robotics club could be busy for a while.

"My sister asked the robotics team if they could make her a tail, like a cat," she chuckled..

Maybe someday. Right now, though, the club is focused on creating an even more intricate arm for Jaelyn that will sense electrical impulses through her skin and allow it to be much more responsive.

"That will be fun," she said. "I'm thankful to the robotics team."


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