Designing Prosthetic Devices

Students will design a prosthetic device. Students will apply knowledge of human arm/hand anatomy and biomechanics to design, build, and test a hand prosthetic using standard office items. Students will collaborate to decide which combination of materials meet design requirements and generate a prosthetic that is able to grasp, lift, and release akin to the hand. Educators are encouraged to develop extension classroom activities based on supporting content provided in this module.


Biotechnology, Properties of Materials. Technology and Society


  • Students will be able to:
  • Execute and explain the Engineering Design Process:
    • Identify a need
    • Research the problem
    • Design a solution
    • Build, test, and evaluate a prototype
    • Communicate the solution
    • Troubleshoot and redesign
  • Design and build a model prosthesis that can perform similar functions to the human hand
  • Recognize design constraints and critically assess design solutions

Materials in this kit:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Elastic bands
  • Wood pencils
  • Binder clips
  • Masking tape
  • Film ribbon
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Paper clips
  • Straws
  • Scissors

Any other inexpensive basic office or paper materials.

Suggestions for the Teacher:

Students should have a foundational understanding of arm/hand anatomy and biomechanics. Basic skills in geometry and algebra coupled with an understanding of physics principles of motion will aid in the successful construction of a model prosthetic hand.


Additional Resources:

Designing Prosthetic Devices Teacher Module
Designing Prosthetic Devices CRISP aligned standards
Prosthetic Student Sheet

Engineering, Go For it! Lesson: Build a Prosthetic Device
Pearson Education, Inc. Project STEM. Designing Prosthetic Devices.

Rochester Institute of Technology Traveling Engineering Activity Kits (T.E.AK.)  Biomedical Engineering Kit:
The Biomechanical Hand and Joint

STEM Careers:

Biomedical Engineer
Bio-mechanical Engineer
Manufacturing Technician
Mechanical Engineer
Occupational Therapist
Physical Therapist
Research & Development Scientist


NGSS Performance Tasks:


  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


  • Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
NGSS Scientific & Engineering Practices :


  • Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.


  • Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.


  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solution to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet criteria for success.


  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.


  • Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.


  • Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.


  • Use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions to a complex real-world problem with numerous criteria and constraints on interactions within and between systems relevant to the problem.
NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts:

CC-4: Systems and System Models

  • Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows— within and between systems at different scales. (HS-ETS1-4)

CC-2: Cause and Effect

New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology. (HS-ETS1-1) (HS-ETS1-3)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:

SEP 2- Developing and Using Models

  • Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
    Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

Suggested Video(s):