Siena Students Create Frozen-Themed Prosthetic Arm for Nine-Year Old Girl

Siena Students Create Frozen-Themed Prosthetic Arm for Nine-Year Old Girl

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Karissa Mitchell got a pretty cool gift to start her summer vacation.

“It’s awesome,” the nine-year old from Stillwater, N.Y. said after receiving a Frozen-themed prosthetic arm just hours after completing third grade.

Mitchell was born missing her right hand and most of her wrist, but a group of Siena College students used a 3D printer on campus to make her life a little easier.

Physics majors Alyx Gleason '17 and Miranda Marnes ’17 lead Siena’s e-NABLE chapter, a group of eight students who devoted dozens of hours to designing, printing and assembling Karissa’s new arm.

The group’s first project was an Iron Man-themed prosthetic hand that they created for five-year old Jack Carder in Ohio. Karissa’s mother Maria learned of the story and reached out to see if Siena e-NABLE could help her daughter as well.

“When we met Karissa and her family, they were so nice and it was a great fit,” Gleason said. “Karissa’s face lit up when we showed her a test hand. She is a very deserving girl.”

The Siena team utilized the computer-aided design (CAD) files accessible on Enabling the Future’s website – a global volunteer network committed to making free prosthetic hands and arms for those in need – to print the perfectly-sized pieces of Karissa’s prosthetic.

The arm took 30 hours to print and just two hours to assemble, but the bulk of the six-month project was a grueling trial and error process. While function came first, the Siena e-NABLE team also incorporated fashion and flair into the design, modeling the ice blue arm after Karissa’s favorite movie, and even including a removable Olaf light.

“Karissa really identifies with Elsa because she knows what it's like to be different from everyone else,” Maria Mitchell said. “She doesn’t want to be seen as different, which has made her extremely determined to do things as well, if not better, than others.”

The story became national news after Karissa passionately reacted to receiving the arm from Siena e-NABLE during a press event on campus. ABC Nightly News featured it during their closing “America Strong” segment June 27, CNN posted it on their website the same day, and Inside Edition featured the story a few days later.

The students developed engineering, physics and problem solving skills through their cutting edge work with Siena e-NABLE, but the real reward was easily identifiable on Karissa’s face.

“Our e-NABLE chapter reflects upon the Franciscan values that this school represents,” Marnes said. “Knowing that we are using the skills and knowledge we have gained throughout our journey at Siena to make a difference in the lives of our recipients is just an amazing feeling.”

Current Siena eNABLE team: Dr. Matt Bellis (Advisor), Alyx Gleason ’17 (physics), Miranda Marnes ’17 (physics), Alex Warn ’17 (physics/astronomy), Michelle Lieu ’17 (physics/biochemistry), Jamie Bedard ’18 (physics), Kristen Connors ’17 (psychology), Kristin Ludwicki ’19 (physics), Chamidu Warnakulasuriya ’18 (physics)


To see more photos from the event, click here. Photos by Sandy Spicer '19 and Siena College.

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