Interview with Courtney Duncan (Dance '17)

Academy students often find that their arts education inspires them to be more creative in their academic pursuits. See below for more about Academy senior Courtney Duncan, and how her experiences in the Academy Dance Department and beyond have shaped her interest in prosthetics and programming.


How did you become interested in prosthetics?

Photo by Thomas Mohr Photography

Photo by Thomas Mohr Photography

It began when I was working with Girls Who Code. When I was teaching in their program and building some robots used for repairing circuit boards, I realized I really loved it. It was a lot of fun to build the robots, and as I was playing around with them, I started doing more research on my own. I’ve always liked Star Wars and thought about Luke Skywalker’s prosthetic hand - he’s able to use it like a normal hand. A lot of time when you see a prosthetic hand, the person is not able to use it the way you could an actual hand.

Hands interest me the most. Right now, we have very advanced prosthetic legs. Johns Hopkins has been working on advanced hands. Recently, a man received two hands that he was able to rock climb with.

What do you hope to accomplish with prosthetics?

My main concern right now is that they are so expensive. There are a lot of people, children, who need them but can’t afford them. I’d like to focus on improving their design so that they are more cost-effective for all involved. I want them to be affordable, but I don’t want the manufacturer to go bankrupt by making one and then giving it away either.

How did you get involved with Girls Who Code?

I always liked math and science. I began as a student in Girls Who Code, and after I graduated I started going to the hackathon Chi Hack Night every Tuesday. I was the only high school student there for a while. As I became more interested, I started interning for Girls Who Code, where I focused on recruitment. I’d run information sessions and events. This past summer I came back and taught there.

How has your experience at The Academy helped you in these areas?

The creative aspect of dance has been the biggest thing - there is so much expression. And dance has given me a strong belief in helping others to have the ability to use their bodies.

I’ve noticed in my few years here, that I have a big hand motif. My senior piece for the Senior Choreographed Dance show in January heavily incorporates hands. And I’ve noticed recently, as I’ve been writing my college essays, that there has been a subconscious connection I’ve made with the hand movements in my dance piece and my wish to allow other people to use theirs. 

I have always wanted to make a difference in some way. I want to know that I’ve helped someone else. Recently I’ve been trying to help the freshmen in the Dance Department become more acclimated and feel settled in.

Do you have any advice for students about to enter high school and perhaps considering The Academy?

Of course. Do your research and discover the artwork. Don’t just meet the students and read about the school. Experience the artwork that the students produce and go to the shows.