Feature Stories

MME Seventh Graders Work Together to Design 3D-Printed Prosthetic for Pet Chicken

This spring, seventh graders in Dawn Sorenson’s technology education class worked together to make life a little easier for Maple, a local pet chicken beloved by an MME family. During the winter, Maple’s foot was caught in a fence and she contracted frostbite, which ultimately led to the loss of her claw. 

After seeing the effectiveness of the engineering design process she learned in Sorenson’s quarter one class, a seventh grader brought the project idea forward as a learning opportunity for other students. In partnership with the family, Sorenson moved ahead with the project for the class in quarter four. Students collaborated to build a prosthetic foot that might give Maple the ability to rejoin her flock.

To begin their research process, students studied current animal prosthetics for chickens and other animals, shared Sorenson. “They saw what was existing, so they could continue to refine their ideas.” Then, Maple came to visit the class, along with fellow flock mate Priscilla. Students were able to observe both Maple’s and Priscilla’s gait to inform their ideas.

To follow the engineering design process, students begin broadly, with a lot of ideas and then combine the best aspects of each to refine their solutions. Students used the application Sketch Up to create 3D renderings of their ideas, which were then fabricated using a 3D printer. 

Once the plastic models were created, Maple’s family helped her to try the different models. 

Pet chicken wears the prosthetic foot designed by MME seventh graders

The best-fitting and best working design came from a group in Sorenson’s first hour class. The students created a “rocker” design that was inspired by existing prosthetics for dogs and horses, as well as from their observations of the way chickens walked. “They then combined several ideas together to create the rocker so Maple could have the most movement with her new foot,” said Sorenson.

“The engineering design process is important for students to learn because it teaches them that there is no perfect design,” said Sorenson. “The process allows the students to work through their ideas and refine them to meet the established criteria.”

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