Lending a helping hand
Posted 02/16/2017 01:01PM

Lending a helping hand

When Holy Ghost Prep sophomore Jack Pinkstone recently showed him the fully-functioning prosthetic hand he had built in his spare time, Mike Jacobs ’01 was equal parts surprised and yet not surprised.

“I was shocked by how great the hand looked and functioned,” said Jacobs, HGP’s director of technology. “But I was not surprised at all that Jack put something like this together.”

Pinkstone’s parents showed their son an article about Dr. Chris Craft, a STEM teacher in South Carolina who had issued a challenge to kids across the country to build prosthetic hands for children in need. To read more about Dr. Craft’s Hand Challenge, click here.

The project was tailor-made for Pinkstone, who became interested in STEM projects as an eighth grader at Pennwood Middle School in Pennsbury. In order to feed that passion, Pinkstone bought his own 3-D printer kit a couple years ago, built that printer himself, and has continually upgraded that printer by making new parts for it on you guessed it, that very same printer.

“I had used the 3-D printer to make fun objects,” said Pinkstone. “But my parents showed me that article and I immediately realized that I could use my 3-D printer and design skills to help children in need. And it was a fun service-type project too.”

After reading the article, Pinkstone went to the website and bought the prosthetic hand kit online for 25 dollars, then downloaded and printed the parts to the hand and then assembled the hand.

“It comes with strings, wires and tips and you have to put it together,” said Pinkstone. “There are videos online to show you how to assemble each piece of the hand. It took about 10 hours to print out all of the parts and then about 90 minutes to two hours for me to assemble the hand.”

The prosthetic hand is triggered by the wrist. Once the wrist moves, the fingers clench together. The kit comes with Velcro and foam, so that the hand can be attached to the child in need’s arm.

Now that he’s successfully completed and mailed off his first hand, Pinkstone and Jacobs have bigger plans in mind.  They plan to team up work with Holy Ghost Prep’s director of campus ministry Mark Whartenby and math/science teacher Mike Pappadakis to assemble a team of HGP students to build even more prosthetic hands. Dr. Craft, the founder of the Hand Challenge, offers a $10 discount for schools who build hands. So the total cost per hand would be roughly 20 dollars ($15 to purchase the kit and $5 for the filament), according to Pinkstone.

 “Jack is obviously blessed with engineering, science, and math skills. And those 21st century skills that we often talk about developing here at Holy Ghost—critical thinking, communications and collaboration skills, and creative problem solving skills—Jack has those in spades.

“If we start this club, the kids can get some community service hours and Jack can develop some leadership skills by teaching other HGP students how to build the hands.  It’s important, in my opinion, that Holy Ghost Prep helps Jack over the next couple years to grown into a leader.”

In addition to the growth of his leadership skills, Jacobs is excited to witness what Pinkstone will accomplish once Holy Ghost Prep completes the first phase of building a STEM Tower in Cornwells Hall this summer with the conversion of the lower level classroom and storage area (approximately 2,000 square feet) into a state-of-the-art maker space.

“That will be the perfect learning space for Jack and other students like him,” says Jacobs.

Starting this April, Pinkstone will undoubtedly be one of the leaders of Holy Ghost Prep’s new Vex Robotics team that will be coached by Pappadakis and new computer science instructor Brandon Petcaugh. Pinkstone has competed for a First Robotics team for three years now, but looks forward to building HGP’s team.

“Competing in First Robotics, I’ve learned CAD (Computer-Aided Design), website management, and how to code and wire the robots,” says Pinkstone. “And I’ve also printed out parts for the robots on my 3-D printer and installed them.”

Another one of Pinkstone’s outside-the-classroom hobbies is Codec Films, the videography production company that he founded along with fellow HGP students Matt Davies and Ted Ciarciello. The trio has done several projects for Holy Ghost Prep—including an aerial drone tour of the campus and a Class of 2020 freshman orientation video—and have used that high-quality work to land outside clients including Grey Nun Academy, a Pre-K through 8th grade school in Yardley, and St. Andrew Catholic Church in Newtown, Pa.

“Nothing Jack does really shocks me anymore,” says Jacobs. “He’s got a rare skill set."