Flagler Palm Coast High School teacher and the Anatomy of Design class instructor Courtney Vandebunte was discussing potential projects that would appeal to her students with her fellow teachers when she came upon the idea of using the Florida school’s recently acquired 3D printers to build prosthetics. Her first instinct was to contact e-NABLE, a charity that helps local makers 3D print prosthetic hands for the needy, however she was unable to make the logistics of bringing experts in to mentor her students work. Vandebunte liked the idea of her students working with prosthetics however, as it would directly inform her class’ mandate. So instead of prosthetics for humans, she started calling around to local animal shelters and humane society locations to see if she could find a pet in need of a prosthetic device.
When Yashoda Sandoval and David Zolondek adopted their 3-year-old German Shepherd mix named Champ he had unfortunately lost one of his legs. He was struck by a car and had been left at the humane society where his injuries required the staff vets to remove his entire front leg. By the time Sandoval and Zolondek found him at Green Cove Springs K9 Services German Shepherd Rescue Champ was all healed, but was still a special needs dog. Vandebunte and her students at the i3 Tech Academy offered to design and 3D print a prosthetic leg for the friendly pup, and they would have plenty of help doing it.
Vandebunte arranged for several professionals to come meet the students and offer their opinions during an Ask an Expert Day, including Dr. Stephanie Badge Kindred, a vet who has been certified in canine rehabilitation, occupational therapist Kymber Whitney and 3D printing expert from Forge 3D Bryce Pfanenstiel, who has previously made a prosthetic device for a cat. And of course the class was able to meet Champ and his owners, where they took measurements of the friendly dog, interviewed his owners about his mobility and even got a chance to take a mold of the area where his missing limb is located so the prosthetic leg could be properly fitted to him.
The class was split up into small groups of three or four students and each tasked with creating their own concept and prototypes. One group proposed a spring loaded prosthetic with a wheel, while another team used a design with several easy to find Razor scooter wheels. There was even a design for a prosthetic that has tank treads on the bottom of it. A few of the student teams were inspired by human prosthetics like the “J” shaped blade device that was worn by Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius. Another team was inspired by Derby the Dog and his figure 8 shaped front leg devices that were created by 3D Systems. Several of the student teams plan to incorporate softer NinjaFlex parts into their final designs so the prosthetic device will be more comfortable for Champ to wear.
Aside from being able to help a lovable dog like Champ, the students are also going to be competing for a $5,000 Motorola Solutions Innovations Grant for their classroom. The grant comes from the Flagler County Education Foundation, and they only award ten each year. The educational charity works closely with students, teachers, families and businesses to improve graduation rates and the job readiness of students. The i3 Tech Academy, part of Flagler Palm Coast High School, has won the grant for three years in a row.
The students were able to present their designs at the Motorola Solutions press conference in Tallahassee on Feb. 25 during a STEM conference. Sandoval and Zolondek will be selecting the final winners, and are planning on bringing Champ in one more time for a final fitting when the project is complete at the end of March. The winning team’s design will be 3D printed on the school’s MakerBot Replicators and given to Champ and his owners for free. Each of the 24 students participating in the class will receive two credits, one for anatomy and a second for art. But an even bigger reward is the experience in design, 3D printing and prototyping that working on Champ’s leg has given them. What do you think of this idea for helping animals? Discuss in the 3D Printed Prosthetics for Animals forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: Palm Coast Observer]