All Saints Students Use 3-D Technology to Make ‘Sneadals,’ Orthotic Supports for Lame Chicken

By VICTORIA FORD | Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Fifth- and sixth-grade technology students at All Saints Regional Catholic School in Manahawkin came to the aid of a chicken in need last week when they designed and 3-D printed “sneadals” (sneakers plus sandals) to help the farm fowl stand and walk on its own. The 3- or 4-month old chicken has a birth defect called “spraddle leg,” a condition caused by a vitamin deficiency or lack of humidity during incubation. The chicken’s gender is uncertain.

All Saints librarian Pauline Barber has a sister, Amy Barber, who works at Calling All Creatures, an animal clinic in Toms River. Brought to the clinic for help by “very sweet” owners who had “tried what they could,” the chicken would need an orthotic solution to correct the muscular problem.

Amy reached out to Pauline, who had been reading about 3-D printing for prostheses, and she ran it by Principal Kathleen Blazewicz, who said, “It’s right up our alley; let’s try it.”

All Saints has four 3-D printers – three Dremels and one MakerBot. The kids have made everything from pencil boxes to drone parts to motorized bug robots.

“I’ll take them as far as they can go,” technology coordinator Angela Weimer said.

Selected to help with the “sneadal” project were sixth-grader Thomas DeDomenico and fifth-grader Adriana Schirripa, who are members of the school’s CAT (computer assistance team) and top achievers in their STREAM curriculum (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math). They used AutoCAD to draw up prototypes and revised as needed after fittings. The fourth and final prototype was printed and fitted to the patient at the school on Friday.

Pauline held the chicken securely while Amy slid the “sneadal” (a flat, rigid sole, shaped like a chicken’s foot, with a side ankle support and a toe loop) onto each foot and gauze-wrapped them in place, careful not to impede circulation. Wrapping the legs would help the muscles develop, Amy explained. A temporary hobble would keep the legs together to assist in taking steps.

“Now all we have to do is teach him how to stand up,” she said. For the next week, six to eight times a day, she would work with the chicken, holding it up while it finds its footing.

After a week, the chicken’s progress would determine its fate.

Update: Unfortunately, the chicken’s condition was too advanced to benefit enough from the sneadals for a decent quality of life, so it was euthanized. The owners are very sad, Amy said Monday. If the condition had been caught earlier, the outcome might have been different, she said, but the bones had become too misshapen to be corrected.

The valuable part of the experience was the lesson learned by the students, which has laid the groundwork for future projects that might help other animals or people.

“There’s always a silver lining, even if it’s not the one we want,” Amy said.

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