Principal, Cochrane High School – Last May, I received an email out of the blue from a community member in Cochrane inquiring if we have a 3D printer at Cochrane High School (CHS). The man informed me that he had heard of a company that provides online plans for 3D-printed prosthetic limbs and that his granddaughter was in need of a hand. I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of being involved in this project. I approached the Communications Technology teacher in my school with this idea and we began to brainstorm some ways that we could get students involved in this pursuit. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the end of the year arrived quicker than expected and we were unable to get the project done. The summer passed and in September, the teacher was approached by two Grade 11 students who were interested in printing a hand as a project. The teacher brought these students to my office and together we began to put things in place so that the idea could quickly become a reality.

After contacting the family, we were able to invite the little girl to the school for a meeting. Our students measured her hand, described the way the process would work and had her pick the colours for the prosthetic.  At one point the little girl, who is an absolute gem, said to the boys, “This is a great opportunity for you guys isn’t it?” And so we began.

Last Wednesday, we had a meeting with the little girl and her grandfather during which the boys, their teacher and I presented her with her new working hand – one that was printed for her on our 3D printer and based on a design that emerged from an online community that was founded for this purpose. I cannot begin to describe the immense sense of pride that I had knowing that our students made this happen for her. It has been one of the highlights of my entire career.

At its essence, this is a story about making connections. This process really started for me two years ago when the teacher approached me about his interest in 3D printing and inquired about the possibility of our school purchasing a printer. The connection that we made that day as we discussed the possibility of incorporating this device into our school’s programs laid the groundwork for the rest of this story. The grandfather’s choice to reach out to me to inquire about this innovative possibility is another connection. And yet another one was made by the boys when they shared their interest in 3D printing a hand with their teacher, who then directed them towards me. The boys’ global connection to an online community enabled them to secure a design and this was yet another important connection that unfolded from this process. This story culminated in a little girl trying on her purple and blue 3D-printed hand and within 30 seconds, picking up a bottle of whiteboard cleaner that was sitting on a table in my office. On her face was one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. Talk about making connections!

This is how profound things happen in the world: through connections. Our focus for the last year at CHS has been quite simply that: “Making Connections”. It’s something I believe we’ve always done well at CHS, but recently, with our sights set on pursuing these powerful moments, and amplifying their presence in our school, the connections we have observed have been amazing. It is astounding what a dedicated team of hard-working people can accomplish for their students and their community when they have a goal they all believe in.

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