When three local ninth-graders saw a teacher struggling with pain from a new prosthetic leg, they decided they should also try their hands at doing some good.
The students recently learned about Lakota East Freshman School English teacher, Kendra Herber, who was suffering back pain from the new artificial leg. It limited her ability to wear sandals or flats due to a height discrepancy in her legs.
“In the past, my prostheses have always had a cosmetic covering that is made to look like real skin. However, that type of leg wasn’t giving me the dynamic response that I was looking for with how active I am,” said Herber.
“I really didn’t like how limiting that was. Because I wear dress clothes to work each day, I found that gym shoes looked odd and almost unprofessional with my outfits. So I decided to go barefoot on my prosthetic foot and wear flats, sandals, or dress shoes on my left foot. But, that created another problem: about an inch height difference depending on which shoe I wore. My lower back and hips would be sore after walking around in the classroom all day.”
Herber turned to the students in the Lakota East introduction to engineering class conducted in the Liberty Twp. school by Butler Tech.
“I figured that it would be a great opportunity for them to construct something that would serve a real purpose,” she said.
Students Taylor Blackburn, Amane Ohhashi, and Jonah Dangel got right to work.
They constructed a series of protype foot pads to eliminate the height difference caused by the new artificial limb and provide better traction.
“We wanted to do what we could to help Mrs. Herber and make her life a little easier. We asked questions about what she needed and why, and we were determined to help fix the problem,” the three said in a group message.
“All that was going through our minds was that we needed to find the best solution as soon as possible. We were constantly trying to improve the original design and make it more practical. We made many trips back and forth to Mrs. Herber’s classroom, trying to see what would not only work the best but look the best, considering it was going to replace a shoe.”
“I was truly blown away with how driven, focused, and determined they all were,” Herber said.
So was their Butler Tech instructor Scott Fetzer.
“Taylor, Jonah and Amane applied the problem solving strategies they learned in class and was able to come up with a solution. I’m so impressed with their determination, drive and communication skills,” said Fetzer.
Herber said the three teens “stepped up to the challenge and really made a difference in my life.”
“This went beyond academic learning,” she said. “These students learned empathy and compassion, which are arguably even more important. And they now have the satisfaction of helping someone in need.”