Rochelle Community Builds New Limb For Local Farmer

May 10, 2017

The Rochelle community used a three-dimensional printer to give a local farmer and mechanic a new prosthetic arm. 

Vic Worthington

Jake Hubbard lost the use of his left arm in 2013, when an 1,100-pound tire fell on him in a mechanical accident. He was able to acquire an artificial limb for work hours, but he took it off in everyday settings.

Vic Worthington, the technical-lab teacher at Rochelle Middle School, attends the same church as Hubbard. He recalls when a child asked Hubbard about the stump, covered in a surgical sleeve. 

"With all the diplomacy of a five-year old [he] goes, 'What happened to your arm? Where’d it go?' And Jake said, 'Well, it got bit off by a shark,'" Worthington recalled.

Remembering this incident, Worthington spoke to Hubbard about building a new arm.

"I’ve got a printer that I don’t use enough. Can I give it a shot?" Worthington asked. “Yeah, sure, if the price is right,” Hubbard responded. 

Ultimately, the price was coming to speak to Worthington's class. They contacted an Ohio-based mechanical engineer whose day job involves designing race-car parts. He helped Worthington's class refit and resize a design to fit Hubbard's body. The class then made use of a 3-D printer purchased as part of a rural education grant from the Monsanto Foundation.

Not every design worked out, but the class received help from community members such as the Hillcrest Fire Chief and the owner of a local fastener store, who donated screws. When the group presented the final product to Hubbard, he was ecstatic.

“This thing will be there to protect me … and just to be able to play with the kids,” he said. “As time goes by and it progresses, it’s going to make life a lot better.” Hubbard said.

Hubbard's three children -- Skylar, Cody and Macklin -- joined him for the presentation at the school, along with the rest of the students and parents that helped build the arm. Both Hubbard and Worthington compare this outreach to that practiced by Rochelle residents during the 2015 tornado.

Worthington hopes the project can lead to further STEM opportunities at Rochelle Middle School.