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Local student designs and builds custom 3D-printed arm for an underserved child in the Philippines

Isabella Balikian with the custom, 3D-printed arm.
Isabella Balikian with the custom, 3D-printed arm.
(Isabella Balikian)

Pacific Ridge School junior Isabella Balikian was raised in a household of health care workers and knew from an early age that she wanted to make a difference through science and medicine.

For the last year, the Rancho Santa Fe resident has been doing just that by designing and building a custom, 3D-printed arm for an underserved child in the Philippines.

As a sophomore, Isabella discovered E-NABLE, an online global community of “Digital Humanitarian” volunteers who use 3D printers to make free prosthetic upper limb devices for children and adults in need. The open source designs created by E-NABLE volunteers help those who were born missing their fingers or hands, or who have lost them due to war, natural disaster, illness, or accident.

Ellie with the with the custom, 3D-printed arm.
Ellie with the with the custom, 3D-printed arm.
(Isabella Balikian)

Luckily for Isabella, Pacific Ridge opened a new Innovation Center and Library in 2020. The facility includes a 3D printer farm, giving students access to the technology for a wide range of projects.

Isabella explored the E-NABLE database and found Ellie, a 6-year-old girl from the Philippines who was born with amyoplasia, a congenital condition that prevents her from effectively using her forearms and hands.

After consulting with Ellie’s family, Isabella decided that E-NABLE’s Unlimbited Arm 2.1 would be the best fit. She then connected with an experienced E-NABLE volunteer in London, who helped her with the design of the prosthetic. After plenty of trial and error, and with the assistance of Pacific Ridge robotics instructor Hunter Pashkow, Isabella produced a prosthetic arm to send to Ellie.

Isabella packed the arm in a care package also filled with some of Ellie’s favorite items and treats and shipped it off to the Philippines. Ellie and her family were delighted to receive the arm and Ellie has been working daily with a physical therapist to learn how to use it.

Isabella Balikian with the care package for Ellie.
Isabella Balikian with the care package for Ellie.
(Isabella Balikian
)

Inspired by this success, Isabella plans to form a new service learning group at Pacific Ridge so she and other like-minded students can find new recipients, make more prosthetics and encourage others in the community to use their passions for science and medicine to make a lasting impact on the world.

Isabella plans to enter the biomedical engineering field, starting with a summer internship with an orthotics/prosthetics clinic that can help her build on the knowledge she has already gained.


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