SPARTA, NJ –Many young people in their high school careers can speak in broad terms about what they see for their future.  A Sparta High School senior has carefully honed his direction and  his goals to that of working in the area of prosthetics.  Passionate, energetic, goal oriented, forward thinking, generous; these words have particular meaning to this young man Joseph Nocerino. 

Nocerino has had that all figured out since his freshman year.  After his first biology class he knew what he wanted to do. 

“No kid knows what they want to do but for me each of my science classes helped me to know,” said Nocerino.  “Freshmen year laid the foundation,” for his senior independent “prosthetic hand project.”

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Nocerino has followed his interest in bioengineering which has been developed through his coursework at Sparta High School. He has “taken advantage of the curriculum and facilities” and expresses gratitude for “the opportunities available to the students of this community.”  

Nocerino approached Mark Meola, the Sparta High School Robotics teacher about his desire to do this project.  Meola said, “I came across a project years ago that helps kids who had lost limbs as the result of Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs, land mines and bombs.”  Most of these children have no hope of “being made whole again.”  Meola found the organization called Cyberbeast that provides the files to 3D print a prosthetic for free, as long as the device is provided to the recipient free of charge. 

“I gave him the information and told him to do the work,” said Meola.  Which he did.

 “A lot of aspects of science go into this,” said Nocerino. 

But it is more than doing science for this young man.  “A family friend from church” has a 14 year old son that is missing most of his hand.  “He has a wrist but no palm or fingers,” said the student.  “It’s good to make something.  Giving it to someone makes it great.  I always want to give back.”

In discussing the project Nocerino keeps coming back to the theme of “being able to serve” and “enriching lives of others.” 

In addition to Meola, Nocerino has enlisted the assistance of Engineering teacher Lisa Tafuri and even a neighbor Vincent DeCataldo who works in the field of prosthetics.  Tafuri has helped with the engineering and design and making the 3D model. 

Tafuri said the project uses about $50 in materials; ABS plastic, nuts, bolts, string, wire. “One of the reason it works well for children is because as they grow they will need to get a new one.” 

The team has created a prototype and plan to make two more. 

“Joe had to do a lot of fine tuning,” said Meola.  “A lot of things had to be tweaked.”

“That’s how it works in real life,” said Nocerino. 

In talking about the project he is energized to the point that he cannot get the words out of his mouth fast enough.  After a few minutes talking about the project and one quickly understands he is ready to launch into the next phase of his life yet he is cognizant of the steps that it will take to get there.   

“I’m really excited about this,” he said.  While there was some trepidation at first, DeCataldo explained it better, his excitement grew.

“Lots of students have great ideas but don’t have the ambition to follow through.  I put it back on Joe,” said Meola.

“I’m lucky enough to have two teachers who are as enthusiastic as I am,” said Nocerino.  “I couldn’t be happier to have the teachers I’ve been blessed to have.”

He has applied to Rutgers University, The College of New Jersey, University of Connecticut and the University of Pittsburg.  He hopes to major in Bio Mechanical Engineering.