TVA IT Lends a Hand

TVA IT employees teach Chattanooga elementary students how STEM skills can improve lives. The students’ final assignment? To 3D print and assemble a prosthetic hand to help a child in need.

’final assignment? To 3D print and assemble a prosthetic hand to help a child in need.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., Orchard Knob Elementary fourth graders like Jaden Roberts, 11, could not wait for Chris Welch, TVA IT program manager, and his team to come back to the school to help teach STEM skills.

“On the first day we started Jaden told me ‘I don’t like math’,” Welch recalls. Then Welch asked Jaden and the class, “Who likes video games?” and everyone raised their hands. Welch explained that video games were created with math and you use math when you play them.

“It was that ah-ha moment where you saw it in their eyes an abstract concept become real and fun,” Welch says. “We knew we had them.”

For the past few months Welch has been using 3D printing and virtual reality technology to teach math and engineering skills. “We started by printing cubes to calculate volume,” said Welch. “Then things expanded as the students quickly caught on.”  

Welch used virtual reality to explain architecture and design. The team also used circuit kits to teach electricity and electrical engineering. “One student [Raven Chapmen] even made a fan from the electrical parts because she said she was hot that day,” recalls Welch.

Everything was building up to the student’s final assignment in mechanical engineering—printing and assembling a real prosthetic hand.

The week of May 15, Welch and his students completed printing the prosthetic, which that will be used by a young child through the Enabling The Future charity based out of Atlanta, Ga.

“This was an amazing journey with the students,” Welch says. “At TVA our mission is to serve. I believe that we not only opened career doors for these young minds, at the end of the day, together we helped a child who literally needed a hand.”

TVA Community Relations

TVA supports the progress of regional communities through human services, community enrichment and support of education programs and competitions focused on energy-related subjects (STEM). By narrowing our focus to STEM—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—we are helping build the workforce of tomorrow and making sure the Valley's students are ready for tomorrow's jobs. Read more about Community Relations at TVA.