NORTH PORT — Caleb Walton, along with a team of students from the University of Florida, spent seven weeks designing a prosthetic arm that would allow a 7-year-old boy to grab objects on his own.
The child, whose arm did not fully develop, could now clench and release his new fist.
“It’s really amazing because that’s what originally got me in the field — hearing that there is a field where people can do this and have a direct impact on people’s lives,” said Walton, a biomedical engineering major.
Walton became a member of the Generational Relief in Prosthetics club to help improve the lives of people with physical disabilities. GRiP is a nonprofit organization that designs 3-D-printed assistive devices, as well as adaptive controllers and toys, for those in need.
But Walton took a break from his life in Gainesville to return to North Port High School Friday night, where he was one of 17 graduates from the Class of 2018 inducted into the school’s Academic Hall of Fame.
The top 20 students of each graduating class are considered for induction.
To meet the final selection criteria, the graduate must have attended the high school for a minimum of three years and must have earned a minimum college placement score of 1150 for the SAT critical reading and math or 26 for the ACT composite.
“A lot of high schools around the country will run a Hall of Fame for adults if they’ve made some major accomplishment, but this is such a new school — it was only formed in 2001 — and so we wanted to be able to really highlight those students academic achievements while they were still in school,” said Flint Shoop, English teacher and Hall of Fame coordinator.
The students came forward one-by-one, each taking a seat beside a podium, where one of their former teachers stood, sharing stories about their academic achievements.
Karyn Strauss, Walton’s former AICE chemistry teacher, said she and Walton helped each other grow over the time they shared together in class.
“He was great because he pushed me to be a better teacher,” Strauss said. “If I couldn’t explain something fully or I thought I had mastered it, he’d ask something and I’d be like, ‘Well, I didn’t do a very good job at that,’ so I needed to go back, and he made me be able to perfect my teaching skills so that they could understand it.”
Walton credits Strauss with his love of chemistry, noting that his newfound passion for designing prosthetics combines chemistry and biology.
He said he was pleased to reunite with her at the ceremony, along with his former teachers and peers.
“It’s nice to be back here and to see everyone that I was with because a lot of us in the top of our class are close friends,” Walton said. “And to see the great teachers that we had just tell us how we impacted them because we knew how they impacted us, but we had no idea how we impacted them.”