Georgia fourth graders create 3-D printed knee

Grade school projects tend to bring to mind tri-fold poster board and reused egg cartons, but for a group of students in Grantville, Georgia, their latest accomplishment is far more advanced— using a 3-D printer to create a medical device.

The fourth graders from Glanton Elementary School were challenged by their teacher, Valerie Buchanan, to design and build a knee brace for a child, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.

"What we want them to learn is the engineering process, the thought process, the higher thinking skills,” Buchanan told the news channel.

Buchanan’s husband is a physical therapist and taught the students the mechanics of the knee and how a brace supports an injured knee. The students brainstormed ideas and chose a design plan.

“To figure out how it is going to work, and which idea,” student Kendarius Ward told the news channel. “But it's also fun. Since it is a real knee brace and we're just in fourth grade."

The group used Tinker CAD 3-D software to build the brace on their laptops, which are connected to the school’s 3-D printer. The process takes about eight hours and the students were in the process of printing the second version of their brace, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.

"[The first version] didn't fit on the fake knee that we had,” Ward told Fox 5 Atlanta. “Then, because it didn't fit and it was just like this,  some of us asked if it could be a cup holder.  And could we take it home as a souvenir?"

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It’s too early to tell whether the updated brace will work better, but Buchanan said watching her students take charge of a project has been fun.

“We want them to know there’s life beyond school,” she told Fox 5 Atlanta.