Kids & Family

Students Create Musical Prosthesis for Girl With Missing Arm

Whey they found out her wish to play in the school's orchestra, they worked together to make it happen.

Kayla Arqueta was born without a left forearm and hand, but that hasn't stopped her from reaching her goals. Last year, as a fifth grader at Austin Middle School in Irving, TX, she decided that she wanted to play the cello in the school orchestra.

(c/o Irving Independent School District Facebook)

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Carly Addison (the orchestra director at the time) wanted to make Arqueta's dream a reality.

"I couldn't look at Kayla and say no," she told the Irving Insider . "When you see a kid advocate for themselves, you just have to do it."

Addison began researching different types of musical prostheses, and when she reached out to a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, she was happy to learn that the blueprints for the prosthesis were free for public use. You just needed access to 3D printing technology to create the designs.

After hearing from a fellow teacher that students in the district's Signature Studies program had access to 3D printers, Addison reached out to the department and was connected with Dwight Davidson, the engineering teacher at Nimitz High School.

"The real testament to Irving ISD was when we first met with Mr. Davison," says Addison. "He could've so easily blown us off."

Luckily, Davison was more than happy to help with the project, even though he didn't know a ton about 3D printing.

"What an incredible opportunity," he said. "My students will get real-world application. It's important for their work to mean something. It's important to help Kayla be a part of the orchestra at her school. If they were willing to do it, I was willing to learn and teach it the best I can."

Six students at the school signed up for the project, and while they're not all in the same class, the two groups use their class time to work on the prototype they developed from the blueprints. All of the students involved are certified in design and drafting software, 3D rendering programs and OSHA regulations (safety standards for the workplace).

While they've definitely been using the blueprints provided to them for the design, the students have made their own improvements to the design to make it more comfortable for Kayla. They made it slimmer for a greater range of motion, and they've used the 3D printer to create a bolt and screw device to make the prosthesis more lightweight.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Irving Schools Foundation, the students have more than enough resources to keep the project going. And they all have their reasons for helping Kayla achieve her goal of playing in the orchestra.

"I've always had a passion for music," Nimitz High School senior Melvin Villalobos said. "If Kayla wants to continue doing music, I'll do whatever I can for her to keep pursuing music. Plus, if you have the power to help people, do it."

Addison, who learned how to play the cello backwards in order to teach Kayla, is more than proud of the students.

"How many districts can say, 'We had a student with a need, and other students in our district created a solution,'" she said. "It's so amazing."

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(Source: images Irving Independent School District Facebook)

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