Media & Content

Experiential Learning: The Hand That Changes Lives

  Tanya Aitken   |     January 10, 2023 |   2 minute read
Mark Harris, a CTE teacher from the Ulster BOCES school in New York led a team of students to create a life-changing exoskeleton hand.

The statistics are staggering. On average, one American dies every 4 minutes from a stroke and strokes happen as frequently as every 40 seconds. For those who survive, the aftermath can be devastating and life-altering. Speech, cognitive impairment and loss of mobility often lead to significant life changes. No longer able to do things they were once able to do, many stroke patients lose their independence in the blink of an eye.


I can’t help but think of my grandfather… Left paralyzed on his entire right side at the age of 60 after his stroke, literally overnight. But what if there was a way to help? What if there was some sort of device that could have given him some of his independence back? The latest Edge Factor film, The Hand was created in partnership with Mastercam and shows how Mark Harris, a CTE teacher from the Ulster BOCES school in New York led a team of students to create a life-changing exoskeleton hand.


Stroke Recovery: Real World Problems Require Real World Solutions 


Mark Harris knows that changing the world is a task bigger than he is, so he is inspiring a small army of CTE students to join him. Mark’s strategy is experiential learning through CTE programs. Students are given real-world problems and are challenged to come up with real-world solutions. The students featured in this film set their sights on an innovative and unique project: the Exoskeleton Hand – a robotic device that can be used to move the fingers of a person who has lost mobility in their hands.


This project was life-changing for many of the students involved in the project in a different, but also a significant way.  Student Daniel Waligurski said “Most high schools don’t do anything like this. This is pretty far from your typical high school senior project and the opportunity to get to work on a patent before I’m even in college is just amazing.”


After being one of 14 schools in the country awarded with a $10,000 grant from MIT, Mark’s team of students spent most of their summer working on the project. “I’m very proud of what these students have done. Just to have them come in and see them work as a team, they’re motivated, they’re dedicated, I don’t have to push them to work. They come in and they want to do it, they don’t need me to prod them,” said Harris. “I’m just there to guide them and it’s a great feeling because that’s what teaching should be.”


Check out this all-new inspirational short film by Edge Factor and find out what your place is in changing the world!


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