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How These School Students are Helping Save Stray Dogs With Their 3D-Printed Prosthetic Limbs

When Alita, an Indie puppy, was just a few months old, she lost a limb in a railway accident. The puppy has since been cared for by a Noida-based NGO and while her medical needs were taken care of, it looked like Alita would never walk again. But now, at 10 months, Alita has got a new lease on life thanks to five schoolgirls from who have found a way to make Alita walk again.

With over 30 million stray dogs, India has a problem of canine overpopulation. While many consider these strays a nuisance to humans, the lack of facilities to care for these animals makes the situation hellish for the animals themselves, many of whom get run over by cars or suffer starvation and disease.

It was to to make life a little bit more ‘pawsitive’ for these furry comrades that five class 10 students from Noida designed a unique, 3D-printed prosthetic leg for dogs.

(10-month-old Alita lost her paw in a railway accident some months ago. Image credit: shiv Nadar School)

The product was designed as part of Shiv Nadar School’s ‘Capstone’ project that requires students to identify societal problems and use design thinking to come up with ideas and products to solve them.

“When we started our research, we were looking at human prosthetics,” Arushi Shah, one of the six girls involved in the project, told News18. “But we realised that humans already have a lot of options and can self-administer their treatment”. The 15-year-old classical music and genetics enthusiast said that it was then that the group decided to instead look at dogs.

From ideation to manufacture, the process took Arushi and the rest of her teammates- Utpal Chauhan, Navya Aggarwal, Sprihaa Singh, Navya Jain and Shreya Mittal – six months.

The group worked with many models and checked out a number of options and also studied amputee dogs before zeroing in on silicone prostehtic options.

legs

(From the first prototype (left) the group went through a numbers of versions before arriving at the final product (right). Image credit: Shiv Nadar School)

Usually, dogs with amputated limbs have wheelchairs attached to their bodies, but that is not very comfortable for them, Nayva Jain said. Most of them, additionally, came in standardized sizes and may not fit all dogs equally. “We instead designed a prosthetic limb that can easily be produced using a 3D printer. Unlike mass-produced moulds, a Pawsitivity prosthetic can be created using measurements for the specific dog so that it gives a ‘shoe-fit and causes no pain,” Navya, who is an expert at art and craft and drawing, added.

To make the product even more customisable to fit different dogs differently, the students decided to add foam padding inside the prosthetic limb that can be adjusted according to the height of the dog.

Since strays usually have no one to care for them or pay for their medical treatment, said Navya Aggarwal, the students who all loved animals decided to create something that can easily be produced by anyone at minimal cost. All one would need to do is to take photos of the dog in question, run it through a 3D design app like Maya and print the design using a 3D printer.

“We consulted several design experts, animal welfare NGOs such as Sophie Memorial Animal Relief Trust (S.M.A.R.T) as well as local shops that deal with 3-D printing. We wanted an eco-friendly option so we chose a silicone printer,” Utpal told News18 adding that plastic could also be used. The girls also raised money for the product through fundraisers and bake sales where they made and sold cupcakes fund the project. The students even ran an online fundraising campaigning and managed to raise over Rs 12,000 which helped them fund the several prototypes that were designed before the final product.

dog with pros

(Delena successfully wearing ‘Pawsitivity’ prosthetic leg. Image credit: Shiv Nadar School)

As of now, the group is aiming to create awareness about the product so that anyone who needs one can contact them and the students can get it printed for them, free of cost. “The idea is that slowly, people with understand and adapt to the idea and start making prosthetics themselves,” Shreya said. Until then, the girls were happy to provide expertise.

The students are not the first to design a prosthetic limb specifically for animals in India. In 2017, a veterinary surgeon from Jaipur, Dr Tapesh Mathur, designed prosthetic limbs that could be fit on animals including cows with amputated limbs. Each prosthetic limb cost about Rs 3,000 to 4,000 each. However, what is distinct about ‘Pawsitivity’ is that it can easily be self-produced at much less the cost and is designed especially for dogs, one of the most neglected stray animals in the country. The total cost of materiel required for making one ‘Pawsitivity’ prosthetic leg is approximately Rs 15,000 including the cost of silicone for outer body, plastazote for inner padding, rubber and medipop bandages.

The process wasn’t easy. First, the students had to figure out how to create prosthetic limbs for dogs ad for that, understanding canine anatomy and physiology was key. The students spent several hours poring over books and online literature on the subject and even consulted their biology teacher for help.

“We had an hour-long class dedicated to the project at school every day. After that, we would meet at one of our houses and continue to work on the project till late evening,” animal lover Sprihaa who also loves to dance and listen to music, told News18. The teen mentioned that the support she had got from both home and the school was intrinsic in the project’s development.

As per Mark Nelson, the school teacher-in-charge of the project, there were no plans to monetize the product. “Animal welfare is one of our social responsibilities and the girl’s project is a small step in that direction,” he said.

The school also plans to put out DIY videos capturing the process of creating the prosthetic so that more and more could follow.

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