By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
When students walked into Effingham High School’s CAD II class a couple weeks ago, they were expecting to design chess pieces.
But they didn’t know Val Soltwedel had contacted their teacher, Ty Totten, with a unique request that would provide three of his students with a challenging new opportunity.
Something that would require a totally different design and use of the class’s 3D printer.
You see, Soltwedel’s pet duck – Aflac – needed a new foot. And after talking with a veterinarian, she was encouraged to contact Totten.
And he was more than happy to present the challenge to Brennan Barr, Zach Keitel and Jacob Conrad, students in his CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) class.
“Aflac injured his foot last July,” Soltwedel explained. “By mid-February, I knew it wasn’t getting better and something would have to be done.”
Aflac eventually lost most of his right foot, leaving a short nub.
“He still gets around pretty good,” Soltwedel noted. “He hops all over the place and even gets in the wading pool. But sometimes he needs help.”
And Barr, Keitel and Conrad are hoping to provide this friendly duck with exactly that – in the form of a fitted plastic foot that will allow Aflac to walk more naturally.
“We started off with an idea and a sketch,” Totten explained. “When Val brought the duck in, we measured his good leg and compared that to the bad leg. We also measured the good foot so we could design and reinvent what the new foot would look like.”
The three students also went to the Internet for some research, which helped them develop a few ideas.
After a week, the first design was completed and run through the printer. It took about four hours to complete.
Aflac was then brought in for a fitting. But it didn’t fit right. The plastic design was too small and wouldn’t slide onto the nub.
So revisions were made and a second fitting was conducted last Thursday. It was a better fit, but not quite right.
“We need to extend the leg piece that connects with the nub so the foot can lie flat,” Barr explained.
“We need to make the inside bigger at the top but make the plastic thinner,” Keitel added.
Val brought Aflac back Tuesday. The “foot” fit better, but now the students are working on a silicon sleeve to fit the duck’s leg.
The students are confident they can make it work and are eagerly awaiting Aflac’s return for another fitting.
Aflac has lived with Val and George Soltwedel for almost a year since being purchased at Rural King.
“It’s fascinating to watch what these students are doing,” Val said. “It would be great if they could help Aflac. I really appreciate their efforts.”