GOSHEN, Ind. - Two northern Indiana high school students who used their ingenuity and their school's 3-D printer to fix a classmate's problematic walker say they hope to pursue engineering careers.
Goshen High School seniors Evan Smith and Nick Truex upgraded the wheeled gait trainer that classmate Ivonne Lopez uses nearly every day to help her walk. Her backpack had been pushing the trainer's seat into her legs when she tried to walk, throwing her off balance.
After assessing the walker's shortcomings, Smith and Truex used the school's 3-D printer to create a plastic clip that holds a bar between the seat and the trainer's frame, keeping the seat from moving even under the weight of the backpack.
Lopez calls the helpful invention "wonderful," because it now allows her to walk and keep her balance.
"It's wonderful that they came up with something like this to help me out," she told The Elkhart Truth (http://bit.ly/1cKUsAe ).
Smith and Truex designed eight versions of the plastic clip before finding one that worked.
"The first versions weren't strong enough, and the next versions were too strong and not flexible," Truex said.
The project was the first that the classmates, both of whom plan careers in engineering, had worked on outside of the regular curriculum. It was also the first time they'd the opportunity to solve a real-life problem using 3-D printing.
"It's nice to see that you can actually use it for something, rather than just a little trinket," Smith said.
Cara Duell, a paraprofessional at the school, turned to the school's Introduction to Engineering Design class for help after she saw her colleagues trying to fix Lopez's walker with bungee cords.
Duell said she's impressed with the students' ingenuity.
"These kids are on these parts, and they are designing and building it themselves," she said.