KINGS – Kings resident Jake Hubbard smiled after he tried on his new prosthetic arm inside the technology lab at Rochelle Middle School one recent morning.
Even though artificial limbs are nothing new, Hubbard’s prosthetic was made with new technology using a 3D printer and some help from students, teachers, and community members.
After many months of planning, preparation and trial and error, Hubbard was presented with his new prosthetic. The individuals involved in making the 3D-printed apparatus were also on hand to share how they contributed to the process.
An accident almost four years ago left Hubbard pinned under a 1,000-pound tractor tire for over six hours, resulting in the loss of his arm near his elbow.
RMS technology teacher Vic Worthington led the discussion and introduced everyone that helped including: Kurt Wolter, technology teacher at RTHS and his student Zephan Drew, Steve Builta, Chris Builta, RMS students Keanon Voss, Megan Thiravong, Austin Farrell and Rylan Scott, and Don Wallin with Fastenal.
Also seated, Todd Prusator, Supt. of Rochelle Elementary School District, and Heather Wolf with Monsanto, the provider of grant funding used to purchase the 3D printer.
“It’s been such a neat experience, and such a blessing to be part of this community that everybody wants to come and help this guy,” Worthington said. “It’s not for charity, but hopefully to make (Hubbard’s) life a little better.”
Hubbard’s new 3D prosthetic and the special presentation at RMS first began last year after the school had been awarded a $25,000 grant through Monsanto’s “America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education” program. A portion of the funding was used to purchase a 3D printer for the technology lab at RMS.
At the start of the school year, Worthington had been researching different projects for the new 3D printer when he came upon prosthetic-type applications. About a week later, Worthington had a conversation with Hubbard while passing out bulletins at church.
“Jake mentioned that he often left his prosthetic in his truck when he went someplace nice because it was always a mess from his work on the farm,” Worthington recalled. “When I offered to make the prosthetic in exchange for addressing my students sometime, Jake thought the price was right,” Worthington added.
Once the wheels were in motion, Worthington explained the RMS students were eager to help with the project. After determining the original software was designed for children, Worthington asked for some adjustments to fit an adult and the project continued.
Along with reaching out to students and teachers, Worthington contacted Fastenal for assistance, donating the hardware and technical assistance for the project. The father and son team, Steve and Chris Builta also helped with the assembly.
“One of the things that impressed me was that so many people inside and outside of the community wanted to help,” Worthington said.
Worthington also said he is thankful for the donation of the plastic used in the 3D printing, the design hours given by the mechanical engineer, and the countless hours given by the students and community members.
Admittedly, Hubbard was humbled by all of the media along with the efforts of those who contributed to the project.
“I would really like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I could never in my wildest dreams imagine that the community would continue to help my family,” Hubbard said. “The reason I am where I’m at today is because of my family and the amount of support from the community.”
Supt. Prusator offered some thoughts on the project, crediting Worthington for his vision early on.
“When you can look at serving the community and the kids going through a real life learning process while seeing the benefits of helping someone is really rewarding,” Prusator said. “With the Monsanto grant and having the additional resources that we normally couldn’t provide is just a huge asset. The community support with this has been wonderful.”