3-Legged Box Turtle Receives 3D Printed Leg
Stumpy, a 12-year old female box turtle, had to have one of her front legs amputated last year due to an infection. Lesley Mailler, a veterinarian at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah, Georgia was responsible for operating on Stumpy. However, after the operation Mailler wasn’t ready to quit. Mailler had seen a photo of another box turtle that had a Lego wheel prosthetic. She decided that Stumpy could benefit from a prosthetic and have to live the rest of her life with three legs.
Mailler has a daughter attending the May Howard Elementary School in Georgia. She decided to contact the school to help her design a new prosthetic for Stumpy. The school had a willing team of teachers and students who were interested in taking on this project. The reason Mailler chose her daughter’s school was because they had a 3D printer.
The teachers at the school selected a team of six 5th grade students based on their interest in 3D printing and animals. The teacher leading the team of students was Reagan Dillon and the six students were Kaylee Mailler, Isabel Duke, Matthew Brimblecom, Jake Gilluly, David Richbroug, and Emily Goldstein.
Last year Mailler brought Stumpy to the school for the children to see the box turtle and work on her new prosthetic leg. For six weeks the team of students and teacher worked on the project during PE, after-school, and lunches.
The students had to consider several designs for the new leg. The new leg had to reach the bottom of her shell and be the right height off the ground for the turtle to be balanced and walk. Furthermore, it needed to give the turtle mobility in all directions and not interfere with the hinge of her shell where the plastron pivots upward when the turtle retreats into their shell.
The team of children used 3D Tin software to print out 15 different models of the wheel for the turtle. After each printed wheel, the children looked at their design and modified the finished prosthetic for Stumpy. Finally the children were satisfied with their prosthetic and took their design to Oatland’s Veterinary Clinic.
Mailler needed to remove Stumpy’s stitches before fitting the prosthetic leg on the turtle. When Mailler attached the prosthetic to Stumpy there was an issue with the height of the wheel. It was too tall and left Stumpy lopsided and unable to walk. Mailler decided to take the holster off the prosthetic and attach the wheel directly to Stumpy’s leg. This solved the height problem for the turtle, but the caster did not fit against the turtle’s curved chest.
Mailler decided to modify the children’s design with a Dremel tool and sculpted away the plastic of the caster so it would align correctly with the turtle’s shell. Mailler attached the caster to Stumpy with Gorilla glue and allowed the glue to dry for ten minutes. After that, the turtle was placed on the floor so she could test her new prosthetic leg.
The school project was a success and Stumpy has her new leg. It just goes to show that the new technology of 3D printing has no age limit. The students learned a great deal during the weeks of the project and most importantly, they will be ready to take on new adventures with their 3D printing skills. Check out this video about Stumpy's journey: