Novi High robotics team gives helping hand to kids around world

- School is winding down for most area students this week, but even though school year is ending the impact of some students in Novi goes on.

Novi High School's robotics team is giving a helping hand to kids all over the world.

"It really makes me feel amazing to be able to see that high schoolers can change the world. That high schoolers can have the ability to help someone out in a literal helping hand way," says Heidi Aguas.

They call the project Helping Hands, and it's part of the outreach efforts of Frog Force 503.

"Frog Force is the high school robotic team, and what we do is build these 120 pound robots to complete a specific challenge, and that challenge changes year from year," explains Eric Mazza.

Frog Force is known for their impressive record. They have qualified for the world championships 16 of the past 17 years. They've proven themselves in robotics - but they're also known for giving back.

"We really don't just build robots. There's so much more going on. Outside of the robots, we do a lot of volunteer work," says Mazza.

"Last year, we held over 93 different events that gave back to the community," says Fenton Lawler.

'We'd have community nights where we have demos, where we try to get more kids involved with robotics and create more teams," says Anne George.

"There's just a ton of different opportunities that students get to work with people, make connections, and help out and have a sense of joy," says Mazza.

Their Helping Hands project is a partnership with an organization called e-NABLE - a global network of volunteers using 3D printers to create free prosthetic hands for those in need around the world, focusing on children in underserved countries where a typical prosthetic hand would be too expensive.

"A normal prosthetic costs so much. The good thing about 3D-printed prosthetics is that you can easily replace them and it's for such a low cost," says George.

With a 3-D printer donated by Bosch and the enthusiastic support of the Novi School District, Frog Force started reaching out across the world.

"Obviously our students are very talented and gifted in the classroom in regards to their achievements academically, and with this group their achievements are at the world level, even but we take things a step further," says Novi High School principal, Nicole Carter. "One of the taglines of the district is service over self, and Frog Force definitely embodies that."

So far they have donated 75 hands - and they're just getting started.

"We are actually looking to expand it here in the community since the school district got some new printers were hoping to print at different schools, start activities with people at the schools so we want to go in and have kids assemble hands," says Lawler.

Their hope is to inspire children in the Novi community to help children around the world. It's a global movement bringing together creative and kind people, using technology to change lives.

"Last year we were able to give a hand to a girl in Tbilisi, Georgia. She is about six. Her name is Misha," says Aguas. "I got a thank you picture of her holding her Barbie for the first time while I was at a competition, and it sounds really cheesy but IO actually started tearing up because she looked so happy holding her doll for the first time with the pink prosthetic that we gave her."

"It's like, 'Oh, she's holding her Barbie for the first time with her prosthetic' - and it just hits you. It's a younger kid finally holding her Barbie. When I was little I used to pick them up with both hands, but to think that she's never held it with both hands, it really hits you," says Shivani Bongu.

Frog Force may be Novi High School's robotics team but they're not just building robots, they're building a better community.

"Anyone can take initiative, which anyone can find something that they love, run with it, give a helping hand to someone else -- you may be helping something bigger than yourself," says Aguas.

All of that wonderful video of kids using their prosthetic hands came from e-NABLE. They're hands made by volunteers from all over the world just like Novi's Frog Force volunteers.   

If you would like to support the cause, CLICK HERE for the e-NABLE site and HERE for the Facebook page.
 

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