A group of high school students from Armorel, Arkansas, have proven that it’s possible for the younger generations to truly apply themselves and make the world a better place.
It all started when Patsy Smith discovered one of her newly hatched baby Indian Runner ducks sitting by the bank of the pond. When she picked him up she saw he only had one leg. Smith suspected the other had been bitten off by a turtle.
She nursed the duckling back to health, and named him Peg, after his pegleg-like stump. But as the duck got older, its stubby leg seemed to be causing him some difficulties.
Watching the duck hobble around, Smith knew she had to see if she could do anything for the creature.
Smith started looking for a suitable prosthetic leg.
“I began to do a lot of research and I even reached out to a company in Ontario, Canada to a rescue group in Tennessee,” Smith told Region 8 News.
Last September, she posted about her search on Facebook and that’s when three students at Armorel High School, Arkansas, heard about Peg and wanted to help, according to ArkansasOnline.
Eighth graders Matthew Cook, Abby Simmons, and Darshan Patel were learning how to use a 3D printer as part of their school’s Environmental and Spatial Technology (or EAST lab) class, which is part of the EAST Initiative that aims to support and train schools in technological learning with real world applications.
They had been looking for a project that incorporated the 3D printer. Peg’s leg was perfect timing and a perfect fit.
Together with their teacher, Alicia Bell, the students set to work designing a prosthetic leg for Peg.
“We already were looking into ways of creating sophisticated creations with our 3-D printer and we saw that we could do just that for a duck,” Bell explained. “Animals bring everyone together and this was just a great way to show how work in the classroom can impact real life.”
Building the prosthetic was a lot more difficult than the students initially assumed.
“We thought it was just going to be a shaft with a hole in it connected to a foot,” Cook told Region 8 News.
The first model ended up being, in Bell’s words, “not very good,” so the group kept experimenting.
It took 36 prototypes, but eventually they figured out how to make a prosthetic that worked.
“It was really frustrating because we had to make sure it fit him perfectly and we had to start over due to some issues with the printing,” Simmons told Region 8 News.
Yet the students stuck with the project until the problem was solved, not accepting mediocrity. What’s more, they did it all by themselves! Their teacher would offer them support, from time to time, but it was the kids putting everything together.
“I just ask the questions,” Bell said in an interview with Education Week. “They know they have to fix it. You can’t turn in a paper and, OK, you have a C, and that’s it. It’s either it works or it doesn’t.”
“They come across a problem, and sometimes it takes a day, or sometimes it takes a month,” Bell continued, “but we don’t stop until we figure it out.”
To get the leg exactly right, students had to learn the specifics of the Indian Runner duck’s legs. The original model assumed that Peg’s legs worked the same as other ducks, squatting with their knees bent at all times.
Yet they soon learned that Peg needed something more adaptable which would be able to bend when sitting but allow him to extend his leg when he needed to stand up and walk.
A notch in the front of the prosthetic gave Peg’s knee the ability to bend and he stayed upright with the help of a round surface.
Now, 8-month-old Peg’s running around with ease and Smith couldn’t be more happy.
“Not only is it heartwarming but it is exciting and I am just so grateful that there are people that truly care and they have gone out of their way to do all they can to make it as comfortable for the duck,” Smith told Region 8 News.
“To have three students locally express interest with Miss Bell, I was just elated and it has been a wonderful learning experience.”
After months of hard work, I hope that Cook, Simmons, and Patel got an A on their project. They definitely deserve it!
Watch the video here.