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Mystic Aquarium Partners with Local School & Tech Group to Help Injured Penguin

Students Successfully Complete Digital Workflow Framework by Using 3D Technology

Mystic, CT (July 18, 2016):  A string of random conversations resulted in a collaborative effort that today finds an endangered African penguin with added mobility. And, all at the hands of a group of middle school students.  Mystic Aquarium’s veterinary and animal care team partnered with students at Mystic Middle School, local experts from ACT Group and 3D Systems to aid an endangered animal in need.

Several years ago, following a regular exam, it was discovered that one of the Aquarium’s penguins, Yellow/Purple, had sustained an injury to the flexor tendon in her ankle, making it difficult for her to walk or swim normally. Throughout the years, in an effort to provide additional support to the injured tendon, Aquarium staff crafted a boot for Yellow/Purple from a moldable plastic material.

Interested in utilizing a more modern and customizable solution, Mystic Aquarium reached out to its long-standing partner, Mystic Middle School, who had recently acquired a 3D printer for their own studies.

“We initiated this program primarily to engage children in a STEM learning opportunity,” said Kelly Matis, Vice President of Education and Conservation at Mystic Aquarium. “I don’t think any of us envisioned this type of end result.”

Students were able to design, create and print a new boot with support from ACT Group, a Connecticut-based 3D Systems partner.

Mystic Middle School students learned how to use 3D Systems’ technologies including a scanner, design software and multi-material 3D printer through a workshop conducted by ACT Group. Students used a 3D scanner to scan an existing cast of Yellow/Purple’s foot then used that data to create a more efficient boot with sculpting software. The final boot design was printed on a 3D printer that was able to use multiple materials, allowing the boot to be flexible for comfortable movement and rigid to support the injured tendon.

“Our goal is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research,” continued Matis. “In this project, we achieved each of these desired outcomes while benefiting the health and well-being of one of our endangered species.”

The project provided students with a challenging goal that encouraged teamwork, applied knowledge and the ultimate satisfaction of knowing their dedication and intelligence enhanced the mobility and being of an animal at risk of extinction.

“This project not only helped a member of an endangered species, but it gave our students a hands-on understanding of the 3D printing process and how to carry an idea through from a concept to a design to a usable object,” said Sue Prince, Library Media Specialist at Mystic Middle School.

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