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High school students find ingenious way to help a 3-legged dog to walk again

Students from Stillwater High thought of an ingenious way to help Sadie, whose leg was amputated in an accident.

High school students find ingenious way to help a 3-legged dog to walk again
Cover Image Source: Instagram / Stillwater Area Pubic Schools

Sadie, a 3-legged Brittany, loved going on walks. But without a left front leg, she finds it extremely hard to rely on her remaining limbs. “She gets tired, she gets sore. Sometimes she won’t walk,” said her owner, Nancy Schoenecker, explaining that Sadie’s leg was amputated after being hit by a car. However, students from Stillwater High thought of an indigenous way to help Sadie get back to her old lifestyle. They made a makeshift cart of PVC pipes, swivel wheels, and a couple of sponges for extra padding, reports The Washington Post. This project gave the students hands-on experience to test their math and computer skills. The 8-year-old dog could run on three legs for most of her life without problems, but “it’s taking a toll on Sadie now,” Schoenecker said.



 Schonecker, a special education paraprofessional at a high school, shared Sadie's story with fellow teachers when Matt Howe, who teaches engineering and design classes at Stillwater High, had an "aha moment." He realized that his students could showcase their math, design, and computer knowledge by designing something that could help Sadie walk. “I was like, ‘This is absolutely perfect,’” Howe said. “It’s a real, authentic manner of learning.” Since this was a pooch-related problem, the students would be even more enthusiastic. Sadie needed assistive technology to make walking easier for her, so 90 students at the school committed themselves to this project.


Howe and Schoenecker called this, “Project Saving Sadie”, and presented it to students in three elective classes, ranging from freshmen to seniors. “Everyone really locked in and started doing their work,” said 17-year-old Sam Doughty. “This is very unique, and I think it caught a lot of students’ attention.” Schoenecker brought Sadir to the class so students could take her measurements,  including her height and weight. “She loves the kids. She seeks the attention,” Schoenecker said. “When she goes to school, she is in heaven and the kids are so good to her.” Students were divided into three groups and created prototypes of assistive technology for Sadie. Since prosthetic limbs on the market are expensive and form-fitting, the students wanted to make something that was "as customizable as possible for Sadie."


They brainstormed and built models out of sponges, cardboard, hook-and-loop fasteners, and dog harnesses. Some also designed parts by using a 3-D printer. The central objective was to ensure that the prototype was properly positioned on Sadie. “The dog doesn’t have a stump, it’s just a shoulder, so that was a big challenge for the kids to figure out how to hold something securely in place,” Howe explained. On February 3, students tested out their prototypes on Sadie, who tried walking with the makeshift devices in a hallway outside the classroom. The students were able to understand which parts of their project were working — and which weren’t. They tried to make it as accurate as possible. 

“It’s all part of the learning process,” said Howe, explaining that Sadie was secure in all the prototypes, and the measurements were precise. “It showed me what kind of improvements I could make on my design,” said Christian Harvel, 15, a sophomore, who created a cart design. “It made me happy to see that it at least kind of worked.” This was a team effort, said Doughty. “I think a big factor of this is the community. Everyone has been working together,” he said. “Some people take ideas from others; some people grab materials from others. Everyone working together is always a great thing.” The school has partnered with SMC, which manufactures medical devices. The volunteer engineers will help students produce a usable product for Sadie. “They’re going to have a ton of resources and knowledge and access to materials and equipment that we don’t have access to,” said Howe, adding that it will take another few weeks for the project to complete. 

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