High School Engineering Class Creates a Prosthetic Arm So Middle Schooler Can Play Cello

Photo Credit: Dennis Palacios / Vimeo

A high school in Irving, Texas put its engineering class to good use by fulfilling a middle school girl’s dreams of playing in the orchestra.

Kayla Arqueta was born without her left hand and part of her forearm. As a student at Austin Middle School, she wanted to join the orchestra, so she auditioned for cello. Orchestra director Carly Addison was happy to welcome Kayla to the group, but she wasn’t sure how to make it work.

“She told me she wanted to play cello and I had no idea how to make that happen, but I knew I couldn’t say no,” Carly said in a school district video.

Carly did some internet research, and she discovered another young girl who used a prosthetic arm to play the cello. The musical prosthetic was designed by Dr. Jennifer Mankoff at Carnegie Mellon University.

After contacting Dr. Mankoff, Carly found the blueprints for the prosthetic online. Next, she learned that the high schools in her district had 3D printers, so she reached out to Dwight Davison, an engineering teacher at Nimitz High School.

Dwight hadn’t been using 3D printing in his engineering class, but he created a new class project just to help Kayla out. It was optional for students, and six enterprising teens signed up.

They successfully designed and printed a musical prosthetic for Kayla, who is now blossoming as a burgeoning cellist.

“When Kayla pulled on the string, it made this big beautiful cello sound, and I knew we had done it,” Carly said.

As for Kayla? In addition to her new prosthetic, she’s learned a valuable lesson. “I learned that people are willing to help, and that it’s okay to be different,” she said. “I would like other students to know that life is challenging, but everyone is going to love you for who you are.”