CLEVELAND — When students in the Greater Cleveland FIRST Robotics Initiative heard about a young woman named Samantha in Ecuador who was in need of prosthetics, they immediately knew they could help. Together, these students put their heads together to build Samantha a right arm, and on Tuesday, they were able to speak with her about the new prosthetic.
The Greater Cleveland FIRST Robotics Initiative brings together students from four Cleveland high schools along with the Great Lakes Science Center to teach robotics skills and learnings in STEM. Together, these students worked to build a free prosthetic arm for 13-year-old Ernest Priester, a Cleveland Metropolitan School District student who was born without an arm.
Upon hearing the story of Samantha Alejandra Chiluisa Chango, who lost her arm in a bus accident, the students knew they could apply their skills and help her, as well. The project was particularly personal to one member of the FIRST team, Daniela Moreno, who is originally from Ecuador.
“This is a great opportunity to do something to help others,” said Yariselle Andujar, a sophomore at David Aerospace & Maritime High School in Cleveland.
Non-profit IMAHelps, a group which organizes medical humanitarian missions, brought the prosthetic to Samantha and her family in Ecuador. On Tuesday, the students were able to speak with Samantha via Zoom and through a translator, to advise her on how best to care for her new prosthetic.
“So Samantha is telling me that she would just like to thank you for the work that you have done,” said Jeff Crider with IMAHelps, who was also serving as Samantha’s translator.
"Thank you Samantha,” said JonDarr Bradshaw, with FIRST Robotics and the Great Lakes Science Center. “It is our honor, it’s a pleasure to do this for you.”
Though the prosthetic does need some adjustments, Samantha is able to write and hold items with it. She said she wants to be a doctor to be able to give back and help others.
“Samantha is just saying thank you again for everything that you’ve done for her, and she’s really happy to see that what you’ve done for her, you’re now doing for other people as well,” said Samantha via Crider.
The students who worked on the prosthetic were happy to be able to meet Samantha.
“Being able to see her with them, it was truly an amazing experience,” said Gabriel Leonard, a senior at Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School and participant in FIRST Robotics.
The power of learning and the skills learned through FIRST Robotics inspiring the students involved to chase their dreams and seize opportunities.
"If you're passionate about something, go for it,” said Ortez Littlejohn, a senior at Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School and participant in FIRST Robotics. “Don't let nobody tell you what you can't do, because the only thing that's limiting you is your mind."
On the Zoom Tuesday, the students also met a 15-year-old named Elvis, who also lives in Ecuador and needs a hand. The students will begin creating a prosthetic for Elvis.
Bradshaw said those who are in need of a prosthetic or know someone who does and who is facing economic hardship, can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
More from Isabel Lawrence: