CLEVELAND, July 21, 2023:  According to a Great Lake Science Center news release, “last year, high school students from the Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative were gathered around a computer screen for a Zoom call. They had spent the preceding summer designing, manufacturing and assembling a prosthetic hand for 12-year-old Samantha Alejandra Chiluisa Chango, a young girl in Quito, Ecuador, and the moment had finally arrived when they could see her using it for the first time.”

Next week, on July 27, three student leaders from the Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative will travel to Ecuador and personally delivering more 3-D printed prosthetic hands to five children in need.

At a news conference at Great Lakes Science Center, the students discussed their upcoming trip and global community service project, and showcase the prosthetics they’ve built.

The project and trip hold particular significance for Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative team member Daniela Moreno, a 15-year-old student at Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador in 2019. “The opportunity to help another person regain the use of a limb is significant,” comments Moreno. “But when we learned that Samantha was from my home country, I was determined to get our team together to build something that would change someone’s life.”

Moreno, and fellow robotic initiative students Yariselle Andujar and Gabriel Leonard will meet up in Ecuador with a team of doctors, health care professionals and other volunteers from IMAHelps, a non-profit organization that runs humanitarian medical missions in countries around the world. In October 2022, a representative from IMAHelps delivered the first 3-D printed prosthetic hand designed and fabricated for Samantha by the students participating in the Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative.

Over the last few months, IMAHelps has identified four additional kids in Ecuador who are in need of upper limb prosthetic devices and fit the criteria for the Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative’s community service project. The students traveling to Ecuador will be able to deliver the new prosthetics in person. The students will also be volunteering with the IMAHelps medical team at a hospital in Quito, where the majority of the medical mission’s work will be taking place. As part of their volunteer assignment, the students will be helping translate for patients, transporting supplies, and shadowing an orthotics and prosthetics specialist.

This community service project began with a chance online meeting of the Rotary E-Club of World Peace. Bradshaw, a Rotary member, was listening to a presentation by Jeff Crider, vice president of IMAHelps. Bradshaw realized the potential to unite when Crider indicated his organization’s medical missions could not meet the demands of providing prosthetic hands for children in Central and South America.

During that call, project director Bradshaw described his students’ capabilities and their interest in participating in a global community service project. Because of the work of the students, and the support of the mentors and sponsors at Great Lakes Science Center, IMAHelps was able to expand its capabilities while providing the students with real-world STEM experience and an outlet for their burgeoning leadership skills and humanitarian interests.

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