When Christy Waters adopted her dog, Zoey, from Zeus’ Rescues in New Orleans, she knew Zoey’s medical history.
“She was in very poor health,” Waters said. “Zoey had been abused, had a broken jaw, was underweight, tested positive for heartworms and was missing her hind leg, so her gait was off.”
Today, Zoey feels better and walks better thanks to a new device designed by a group of engineering students from Willow School, which was Lusher Charter School until July 1.
The school’s Lead the Way (PLTW) project, in partnership with Zeus’ Rescues, used 3D printers to create prosthetics for Zoey and another rescue dog without hind legs, Amelia. The program included both sixth graders, who worked with Amelia, and high school students, who worked with Zoey.
Teachers Matthew Owen and Ralph Alvarado were the program instructors.
“It was our first year working on prostheses, although we did a wheelchair setup for a dog a few years ago that was successful,” Owen said. “The main objective of the class is to teach an interactive design process. We start with a design challenge, come up with the plan, try to figure out how to solve the problem, and then try something. Once we have tried it, we analyze the results and try again.
Using a 3D printer, the class experimented with different flexible materials, including one called thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU, a rubbery material that can be flexible and smooth to the touch.
“But when we put it on Zoey, it was wonky,” Owen said. “So we ended up with a more standard plastic. Zoey visited the class three or four times to get measurements and try to fit things to her legs. Then she came back once more to check in so we could see how the device worked.
(Amelia’s owner decided to take her dog to a professional prosthetic fitter, Owen said, but the sixth grade class continued to “stay in touch with the owner so he could see this process as well.” )
The goal of Zeus’ Rescues, owned by Michelle Ingram, is to eliminate pet homelessness and euthanasia in the New Orleans metro area, as well as to provide pet adoptions . Ingram also has a child at school.
“The PLTW classes took their time to analyze the problem and come up with prototypes that worked with the unique structure of pets’ legs,” Ingram said. “If we (Zeus’ Rescues) were to buy prostheses for these dogs, it would be a major dent in our budget. And they wouldn’t be as suited to their needs on PLTW prostheses.”
Waters said Zoey’s new prosthesis has made a difference in her quality of life.
“Students made several prototypes to design the right one to help Zoey,” Waters said. “This new device gives Zoey a much better balance.
“Every time we visited the class, the students were all so wonderful and kind to Zoey. They really wanted to impact Zoey’s life and they really did.
Owen said there was one main thing he wanted the students to take away from the project.
“I want them to know that they are capable of solving real problems in the world,” Owen said. “At first, it seemed a little overwhelming to have such a big responsibility on our shoulders. But the students worked hard to learn new design and engineering skills, and weren’t afraid to put those skills to good use. a good cause.”