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Legless duck walks again with 3D printed prosthetic feet built by middle schoolers

When Philip the duck was rescued in this year’s harsh Wisconsin winter, a terrible case of frostbite had caused him to lose both feet. But thanks to some creative young minds, 3D printing has helped him get back on his feet. A middle school class at a local Wisconsin school put their technology and engineering lessons to good use by 3D printing a pair of duck feet that have Philip up and waddling once again.

Vicki Rabe-Harrison thought that Philip would never walk again when she rescued him this past winter. The duck was clearly handicapped, and Rabe-Harrison thought she might have to put him down to relieve him from his pain. Then she stumbled across the videos Jason Jischke’s South Park Middle School class had posted online, showcasing their MakerBot Replicator Mini in action. When she emailed Jischke as a last resort option to help her help Philip, his entire class stepped up.

Related: Biologists just made infertile mice fertile again by giving them 3D printed ovaries

Jischke and his class full of middle school students immediately set to work 3D printing a pair of custom artificial duck feet. They weren’t sure that Philip would be able to balance wearing them, but their efforts paid off in a perfectly timed surprise. When they informed Rabe-Harrison they had the prosthetics ready, she was just an hour way from putting Philip down.

Since then, Jischke and his students have iterated through more than six different prototypes to get Philip’s prosthetic duck feet just right. The most recent prototype is made with Ninjaflex, and each “webbed” foot is designed to slide onto Philips’ legs to help him walk and waddle naturally. Through trial and error and a lot of waddling practice, Philip is learning to balance again. Hopes are high that in time, Philip will even be able to swim again once he gets used to using his 3D printed feet.

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