By Gigi Ekstrom
Seventh grader Lily Bracken has always loved animals. Her family has two rescue dogs and, some day, she would like to have her own animal shelter. She wants to be a veterinarian when she is older, and specifically to work with animal prosthetics. When Lily signed up for a Maker Space elective this semester, she had no idea how she would soon combine her love to create with her passion for animals.
Students in Evelyn Tan’s Maker Space elective are charged with the task of researching and developing a product. Students first submit a proposal, including an estimate of the time that will be needed to complete the project.
Bracken started by building a prototype using PVC pipe. After further research, she found a 3D printing template online. Using those plans as a starting point, she tweaked some of the sizing of the templates and design elements.
Bracken admits that a fair amount of trial and error was necessary for the project.
Libby is a Chihuahua that was attacked by a Rottweiler/another dog when she was a puppy. It broke both of her legs, and they had to be amputated. Libby has since been adopted, and lives in Sherman, Texas. While she has gotten around by “scooting,” she often got rug burns. “I was surprised by how strong she was,” says Bracken of Libby before she got her new chair. “She sort of hopped like a kangaroo, but she got tired.”
Now a vet is working with Libby to help her get used to her new mobility. “She really likes being up off of the ground where she can see,” said Bracken. “I think she is really grateful.” The wheelchair Bracken made for Libby was purple. “She really needed something to match her wardrobe,” said Bracken. “She likes to wear dog clothes and has a whole wall of jackets.”
Bracken wants to continue by making wheelchairs for other disabled dogs. She is contemplating starting a Go Fund Me page so that she can purchase her own 3D printer. The original design she found on the internet was in Sketch Up. Bracken says she felt limited by the design and will learn the program so that she can make changes. It would also allow her the flexibility to make back-leg wheelchairs.
Bracken has done considerable research on shelters and the needs of disabled animals. “Many people don’t want to take the responsibility for a disabled animal,” says Bracken. “Having a wheelchair could help animals in the shelters get adopted.”
Tan was impressed by the nature of Bracken’s project. “I love the she created something to help others.
What would Bracken say to other young people who want to try to make a difference? “Just go for it. It’s OK to mess up — in the end, you could make someone really happy.”