By Kaylee Rex, Digital Learning Studio Student Employee
The student employees of the Digital Learning Studio in McNairy Library helped dog owner and Millersville employee, April Speece, build a wheelchair for her dog. Federal, or “Feddie” for short, is a barrel chested, Pug-Jack Russell mix who began losing muscle mass in his hind legs about nine months ago. Even the vet doesn’t know what caused his condition.
April searched for alternative ways to obtain a wheelchair for Feddie, since commercial wheelchairs can cost anywhere upwards of $250. She read an article about 3D printers helping people so she figured she would look around for someone who could use this technology to help her dog. This way the wheelchair would be cheaper and custom fit to Feddie. April, a cashier at the Galley, asked a few people who came through her line if they knew anything about who may be able to help. Her supervisor, Celicia Russo suggested she contact Learning Technologies Librarian, Greg Szczyrbak who was more than willing to take the project on.
Greg manages the Digital Learning Studio located in the McNairy Library. He presented the project to his student employees who showed an interest immediately. “Most of my initial motivation for this was to see how the studio might take on something that goes beyond our normal operations,” says Szczyrbak. “But after meeting April and Feddie, I knew that somehow or another, Feddie was getting a wheelchair.” Greg found various DIY designs at the website, thingiverse.com.
Studio student employee Kat Virula-Vasquez thought it would be a really cool opportunity to help a disabled dog. Kat’s own dog is beginning to lose some mobility in her legs, so she was able to learn through the project what to do for her own dog if she ever gets to the point of needing a wheelchair.
Alicen Reigel, also a student employee at the Digital Learning Studio, was eager to help too. “I have a soft spot for dogs and as soon as I met Feddie I knew I wanted to be involved in the process, even if it was just helping to assemble the wheelchair.”
After evaluating the options at thingiverse.com, the team decided on an openly licensed design by Erica Charbonneau (Rickee). – https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1397964. Kat researched the costs to make the apparatus for Feddie, including materials and 3D printing costs. The total cost was just over $50, a savings of at least $200. The next step involved recording Feddie’s measurements and deciding what type of wheels to use. Finally the team began gathering the materials they needed and 3D printed the brackets for the wheelchair. After getting all the materials, the team assembled the wheelchair and custom fit it to Feddie’s frame. The project was completed in just over a month.
“The number one thing I learned is that technology in the DLS that is usually just used for fun, can be used in a very constructive way,” Alicen says. “In this case to help Feddie.”
“They really wanted to make Feddie have a better quality of life,” April says. Feddie, with his tail wagging and tongue hanging out, seems to love his new wheelchair.
Feddie trying out his wheelchair for the first time: https://millersville.mediaspace.kaltura.com/media/Feddies+First+Walk+with+Wheelchair/1_b7csk7er/34442681
About the Digital Learning Studio
The Digital Learning Studio is located in McNairy Library and Learning Forum at Millersville University. The DLS offers support for the creative projects and assignments of the campus community including presentations, movie editing, photo editing, webpages and more. http://www.library.millersville.edu/dls
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MUDLS/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/MillersvilleDLS
Greg Szczyrbak, Learning Technologies Librarian