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Year 8 student Hannah Black builds a working bionic hand as a holiday project

Ed Gardiner, March 26, 2018 7:26PM Leader

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Student Hannah Black who built a fully functional bionic hand. Picture: Sarah Matray media_cameraStudent Hannah Black who built a fully functional bionic hand. Picture: Sarah Matray


Reading level: orange

Most students could think of nothing worse than extra homework over summer — but Hannah Black isn’t most students.

The Year 8 student from Brighton Secondary College spent her Christmas money and most of her holidays building a fully functional* bionic* hand from scratch.

With a 3D-printed shell and a custom-built electrical circuit, the brainy Victorian teen had her work cut out for her.

Bionic hand girl media_cameraBrighton Secondary College Year 8 student Hannah Black with her school holiday project. Picture: Sarah Matray

“We got to choose a topic for an English project and I thought a bionic hand would be interesting to research … I didn’t really know what to expect,” Hannah said.

“The biggest challenge was designing an electrical circuit and doing the coding — I looked at a lot of other peoples’ open source projects and combined ideas from those.”

Hannah, 13, taught herself to code and spent hours of holiday time tinkering* with her invention.

She is fascinated by the possibility of helping those with a disability.

“I’d love to one day in the future get someone to wear an improved model, to see how it impacts them,” she said.

Hannah is already planning a second prototype*, which would feature “haptic technology” to let the user feel what they are touching.

“Little sensors go at the end of your fingers, so you can give the temperature, force and feeling,” she said.

English teacher Karen Boyd said Hannah was an inspiring student.

“I am just so impressed with her curiosity, determination and generosity of spirit,” Ms Boyd said.

“We often hear about a teacher who has had a big impact on a student, or inspired them in some way, but this definitely goes both ways and teaching Hannah brings such a positive energy to the classroom.”


functional: designed to be useful

bionic: electromechanical body part

tinkering: casually improve

prototype: first version of a device



1. Hi-tech vocab

Based on how they are used in the article, write a one sentence definition of what you think each of these terms mean. Then look each one up and edit your definition if required.

— electrical circuit
— open source
— haptic technology
— coding

Extension: Write a quick summary of what Hannah Black did over the Christmas holidays that includes the four tech terms you defined above.

Time: Allow 30 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Technologies, Science

2. Medical inventions

Perform your own research about one of these medical inventions and create an information poster with a diagram and a minimum of four facts.

– bionic hand
– bionic ear
– pacemaker
– artificial knee

Extension: Describe how the medical invention you chose improves recipients’ lives and the types of things it allows them to do that they may not otherwise have been able to.

Time: Allow 40 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Technologies, Science


After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?


Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.

Extra Reading in science