Helping hands: students help build prosthetic hands at Northrop Grumman

Meredith Newman
Contact Reportermnewman@capgaznews.com
Northrop Grumman hosted about 20 Baltimore STEM students to assemble prosthetic hands for children in need

Maryland students helped assemble prosthetic hands in Linthicum Monday, with the hands to be donated to a nonprofit helping children in need.

Northrop Grumman Missions Systems, an aerospace and defense technology company, hosted the event for Manufacturing Week, an initiative to promote an interest in engineering and manufacturing among younger generations.

The BWI Marshall Airport campus will be one of 12 Northrop Grumman locations to produce prosthetic hands.

About 20 students from Patterson High School and National Academy Foundation in Baltimore assembled about 10 hands in about two hours. The company's engineers helped advise the students during the project.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that October is Manufacturing and Cybersecurity Awareness Month, according to a press release. The state is home to 3,600 manufacturing companies that employs more than 100,000 workers.

By creating prosthetic hands, the students were able to understand that manufacturers and engineers can help better people's lives, said Devin Canaday, a project manager for Northrop Grumman.

He added that providing students with real life examples of STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is more important than ever.

"Today shows the importance of (STEM)," he said. "We're able to expand the minds of kids and what they thought was possible."

The students were supplied with the parts for the hand, an instruction manual, a screw driver, scissors and super glue. The engineers took different approaches when working with the students. Some let the students guide the project, while others worked step-by-step.

While assembling the parts might look simple, it can be a complicated process, said Travis Clark, a manufacturing engineer. About halfway into the project, his team was figuring out the best way to tie the strings that would move the fingers.

"This is not like tying a shoe lace," said Kelphon Avery-Nesbit , a junior at National Academy Foundation.

"We're going to do what engineers do best and just modify it at the end," Clark said.

The engineer said he likes to volunteer with kids as much as possible because the younger generations don't have a clear grasp of what engineers do everyday.

"For a lot of years in this country, manufacturing got away from us. It went overseas," Clark said. "I think it's important for us to give our kids this experience and show that there's ample opportunity."

At one table over, National Academy Foundation junior Raquan Jordan worked on assembling the hand's wrist. Raquan hasn't thought about being an engineer, but enjoys science and math — except Algebra.

He didn't think the hand was too complicated; it reminded him of playing with Legos.

"I like when you put things together and it comes out really nice," he said.

For technical data engineer E-Otree Allen, who writes the text for instruction manuals, she advised her students to layout all the pieces and analyze the directions. As her students checked all the pieces they had, she looked on with a smile.

The event was "much bigger" than assembling the prosthetic hands. Exposing students to the world of manufacturing allows them to see a possible career for themselves, she said.

Allen said the day resonated with her because she saw herself in the students.

"Someone volunteered for me and gave me a chance," she said.

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