Affordable Prosthetic Limbs

Impact on Teaching and Learning

Students Create Low Cost Prosthetic Legs is another example of student’s use of technology, and perhaps the most successful teaching unit, is where students took what they have learned in the classroom and applied it to help others, "Change the World". Change may not affect the student’s world or lives but can greatly change the world for a complete stranger. As a class was designing and building a new BUV (basic utility vehicle) using parts from a 1989 Toyota Corolla. The Corolla, being the most abundant car in the world, would make parts readily available for use not only on the BUV project but on the student’s prosthetic leg as well. Using a discarded motor mount from the Corolla, the Calera High School Instructor challenged the students to base their design around it. The students discovered that this motor mount provided a cushioning deflection as well as a rotational spring movement found in a prosthetic leg joint. Not sure if this was an advantage or a disadvantage in solving their design problems, it created an engineering challenge for the students. The students pushed through every design challenge and were able to produce a working prosthetic leg prototype.  A local prosthetist was so impressed with the student’s prototype that he asked to take the leg to fit onto an amputee in Honduras.  The students were honored!   News of the student's incredible class project spread to the point that Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey made all 40 students in students in the classes honorary Lieutenant Governors.


Students the preceding year examined the previous year’s prosthetics and improved it. The students not only reduced the weight of the leg by three pounds but also replaced the fixed leg bone with the adjustable end of a crutch. This was significant, for the students discovered through research that children grow three fourths of an inch every year and will go through twenty plus prosthetic legs in their lifetime. The student's new adjustable leg is able to grow as the child grows!  After reading the following statistics, the students were immediately determined to reach out and make a difference in the world. The Calera students turned their focus from state and national competitions to going into the world, taking their technologically advanced classroom projects and filling a need in the world. According to a story posted on

 “Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. One billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). Over 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).” During the summer of 2012, students from Calera High School, under the auspicious of SK-Skilled Knowledgeable Yout), traveled to Honduras. The students were stationed at a clinic called Clinica de Los Angeles or Clinic of Angels located near the entrance of the Cloud Forest. The students fit fourteen prosthetic legs on local amputees. Uniquely these prosthetic legs were designed and built in their engineering class.


This story summaries the importance of incorporating technology into real life situations. While in Honduras, the students were able to witness the first Honduran amputee to be fitted with a prosthetic leg and watch him take his first steps. One of the beaming Calera students exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!”  the teacher choked back his tears. Not only did the student change the life of a stranger, but a stranger changed the life of the Calera student and they both changed the life of the instructor and how and what he teaches. Later, a woman came crying and thanked the students. She explained that when her husband had lost his leg, he lost his livelihood, his self-worth, and his desire to live because he could no longer provide for his family. The tearful woman further explained that when her husband was fitted with a leg created by one of the students, it was the first time since his accident that he had smiled. Her husband regained his dignity and desire to live.  These experiences cannot be taught in the traditional classroom, and these “WOW!” moments profoundly change the lives of everyone blessed by their involvement.  


Magnolialand Entertainment filmed our incredible experience and produced a documentary entitled "Children Changing the World" and later produced a sequel “You can Change the World”.  The purpose of these documentaries is to promote education. The Calera Students work was further advanced by UAB's Material Engineering students. Three-dimensional drawings and assemblies were also created using SolidWorks. Jefferson State Community College, Birmingham, Alabama produced three-dimensional models created on a 3D printer at their facility. Currently this design has been sent to Vincennes University, Vincennes, Indiana, where “Wounded Warriors” machined twenty of these legs in plastic for the Calera students to take to Honduras during the summer of 2014.

 The prosthetic leg is inexpensive, light weight, and allows the amputee to wear the prosthetic into the shower, swimming, and to the beach. This leg gives the amputee an opportunity to participate in activities incapable with

Founder Brian Copes, and   Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. Lisa Ramírez, U.S. Department of Education
Founder Brian Copes, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. Lisa Ramírez, U.S. Department of Education