You Go, Girl! - Girl Scouts Design Affordable Prosthetic

The technology we have 'on hand' today has allowed for some incredibly effective prosthetic devices. If you can afford them. Most currently available prosthetic devices cost somewhere in the range of $4,000 to $50,000, which is a lot of money for anyone, let alone a family that is already trying to care for a disabled person.

So let's look at the basics. What do you really need a prosthetic device to do? For instance, a prosthetic arm that could hold something and use it with a measure of dexterity, would be a great development for someone who has no fingers.

Now, if you could make that out of moldable plastic, comfort foam and Velcro, you'd be in for a big cost saving, wouldn't you?

Okay, that's a rhetorical question. The answer simply has to be, yes.

A team of six Girl Scouts, aged between 11 and 13, from Ames, Iowa, have done just this - for three-year-old Danielle Fairchild from Duluth, Georgia, who is now able to write and draw thanks to their remarkable invention.

But this wasn't a totally random event. The girls - Gaby Dempsey, Courtney Pohlen, Kate Murray, Maria Werner Anderson, Zoe Groat and Mackenzie Grewell (otherwise known as the Flying Monkeys) - were participating in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Global Innovation Award's Body Forward Challenge, in which teams explored "the cutting-edge world of Biomedical Engineering to discover innovative ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body's potential, with the intended purpose of leading happier and healthier lives."

They won, and are now working with Des Moines law firm, McKee, Voorhees & Sease, to secure a patent for their device, dubbed Bob-1.2. They're also working out exactly how to spend the remainder of the $20,000 in prize money they received, which has been designated to "file a US patent, create a prototype and get it on its way to becoming one of those “can’t live without it” inventions." 

In order to participate in this (or any) FIRST Challenge, the Flying Monkeys had to agree to the following 'Core Values':

  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display Gracious Professionalism in everything we do.
  • We have fun. 

Here is team member, Maria Werner Anderson, explaining what the first Core Value means to her: