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Wells Seventh Graders Design Custom Orthotics

There were glue guns and dowels and a lot of chatter in Anthony Forte’s classroom at Henry H. Wells Middle School as groups of students huddled over lab tables. With Chromebooks open and design sketches close at hand, the seventh graders were hard at work on foot orthosis prototypes.

The instant design challenge, which is part of a Project Lead the Way Design and Modeling class, required students to work in a group to “design, test, and build a model solution for patients with a movement disorder.”

“The idea is that they’re building a prototype of a foot orthosis for someone with cerebral palsy,” said Forte. “They’re supposed to make a model, try it on, decide whether they want it inside the foot or outside the foot. And they have to follow specific criteria.”

Some of the criteria students had to problem solve around included things like making sure the orthosis attaches to the patient’s foot and lower leg, allows upward movement at the ankle, places the foot flat on the floor when standing, is comfortable and removable.

Students work together on a PLTW challenge

Students were certainly up to the challenge. The room was full of laughter and excited conversation as they tried to figure out the best way to make their designs come to life. Most began by tracing one student’s foot for the base, but from there the groups worked in different directions, utilizing materials like cardboard, foam, felt and duct tape.

“It’s really fun to make,” said Gerardo Guida, who noted how much he loves hands-on projects. “I’m into making things.”

The project incorporated all of the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan skills. Students had to use critical thinking skills while they collaborated, adapted their designs when they ran into challenges, and persevered even when it seemed like they might not get their brace to stay together. They also worked on civic responsibility, as their design was intended to help people struggling with mobility issues.

PLTW orthosis design sketch

Students collaborate on PLTW design challenge