Imagine RIT: Students enrich lives with technology – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Imagine RIT: Students enrich lives with technology – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle


Groups of students at Imagine RIT displayed prosthetic projects that could have real-life impacts.
Video by Sarah Taddeo

Allow a dog to walk again. Give a combat vet a new ear or eye or nose.

Prosthetics can open up new opportunities for people or animals who’ve been wounded or born with disabilities, and groups of students at Imagine RIT are experimenting with creating “replacement parts” for those who need them.

Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, in its 10th year, is an event showcasing creative projects from Rochester Institute of Technology students in fields such as business, technology and art. Many projects had realistic value, but some could address real quality-of-life issues.

Take students in Joyce Hertzson’s class, who learn how to make molds and casts of noses, ears, eye sockets and other body parts for prosthetic use or film special effects.

Willing volunteers sat for over a half hour at the class’ booth at Imagine RIT Saturday while dripping white goo dried on their faces — the end product was an exact imprint of a face in the gel-like substance, which’ll be used to create facial busts.

Some of the students, who come from an array of backgrounds and major programs, are interested in using their talents to create realistic prosthetics for those in need, said Hertzson.

“They’re working on the social motivation behind what they’re doing,” she said.


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For the students at the Puppy Prosthetic booth, a year’s worth of work revolved around a local 4-year-old Labrador-German shepherd mix named Kara, who had her back leg amputated as a puppy.

The team’s challenge was to create a prosthetic leg that was comfortable, light and mimicked a real leg’s movement.

Now, Kara’s learning to walk with a 3D printed prosthetic leg that has built-in comfort foam and a springy “foot” that will allow her to run with a similar gait once she gets used to the new appendage. The 3D printed parts took about 60 total hours to create.

The prosthetic would cost about $150, compared to one that someone might buy through a veterinarian’s office, which can top $1,000 in price, said Brandon Powell, a senior mechanical engineering major from Annapolis, Maryland, who worked on the project.

3D printers are cheap enough for an average buyer nowadays, so the team is hoping to release its assembly information to the public to potentially outfit other handicapped dogs with spiffy, cheap prosthetics.

“We’re hoping people can take this design and fit it to their dog who might need it,” said Powell.

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