YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – YSU mechanical engineering students took their senior project to the next level by helping a 13-year-old border collie named Shelby.
Shelby has several health issues that make it hard for her to walk, but she is able to walk with a little comfort after the students finished their senior project. She has rheumatoid arthritis and some of her legs are deformed causing her paws to drag on the ground and become sore when she does walk.
Shelby’s owner, Laurie Wittkuegle, is an administrative assistant at YSU and came up with the idea to make the brace. She said that, with Shelby, it is more of a matter of keeping her stable so she does not trip or fall, and the brace keeps Shelby stable.
“I happened to see a video of a dog with 3D-printed prosthetic legs, so I e-mailed Brett Connor in charge of our additive manufacturing here, hey, if you ever want to do something like this, I volunteer my Shelby,” Wittkuegle said.
Associate Professor Brett Connor responded.
“I thought it was a great idea, and, honestly, Dr. Gruaha and myself thought it was achievable and the students can actually do that,” Connor said.
With the help of the 3D printer, the students started working on Shelby’s brace in October.
“It started off with a lot of research. I was surprised with how much research we had to do before we had to come up with the design for Shelby’s leg,” said mechanical engineering student Jason Doll.
The research included the pros and cons of different types of braces that are currently available on the market as well as coming up with the final concept.
After weeks of research, it was time to design Shelby’s brace. It took a couple tries. The first brace was made of plastic.
“That ended up being too stiff of a material. It wasn’t workable to open it and put it on the dog’s leg,” Doll said.
After some trial and error, they found the perfect material.
“It has two different hardness. One of them are along the lines of a Croc material, that kind of spongy, soft material, and the support parts are like a rubber, a little more dense and harder,” Doll said.
It took 7 months to get the brace perfect.
“We now have a brace for Shelby to offer support on her most deformed leg,” Wittkuegle said.
The senior project helped the students get their degrees and helped a dog enjoy her life.
Shelby still has some discomfort with all of her health issues. So far, her vet said she will be able to move along a lot more with the brace made by YSU students.