From children to dogs, the Purdue E-Nable 3D Printing Club is creating prosthetics for all kinds of members in the community — and they're doing it for free.
What started with a few students’ Communications 114 project has turned into something much bigger, as now over 100 students work together to print 3D prosthetic limbs for community members and people across the globe.
The group competed last year in the Fraser Speaking Competition. After gaining funding from the competition, it was able to expand their group and open a chapter through E-Nable, a global outreach program with chapters all over the country.
Mrigank Sharma, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, is one of the founding members of the group.
Sharma shared how one of the group’s current projects involves computer graphics technology professor Craig Miller. They are working with Miller’s dog, Brutus, to build a prosthetic for his hips.
“We’re also working with a girl from Arkansas, and she’s basically missing the entire palm of her hand,” Sharma said. “She only has up through her wrist, and we are going to build her an electronic prosthetic so she can grip things and have some movement in her arm.”
Sharma also explained how the team creates these prosthetics through sponsorships, which allows the recipients to recieve these products, which are normally expensive, for free.
“So we’re not charging our clients anything for their prosthetics, we try to make everything, be able to design everything and deliver completely on us,” Sharma said. “The whole goal of E-Nable is to be able to provide prosthetics for people, people who are underserved and underprivileged, (who) can’t afford to get a traditional prosthetic, which costs thousands of dollars.”
Adrienne Rudolph, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, is also one of the founding members of the group who participated in the competition with Sharma.
“There’s an interface that we can use to find people,” Rudolph said, explaining the E-Nable website that connects clients with groups.
Rudolph also described the process of working with a client.
She said they use the E-Nable interface to get information from clients far away, such as a client they’re currently working with in Indonesia.
But for other cases, like Brutus, they can take measurements in person, and E-Nable provides a portal which helps them get the measurements correct.
“It makes it a lot easier and a lot faster, because it can be difficult communicating with people who are halfway across the world,” Rudolph said about the E-Nable interface.
One of the first clients that E-Nable had worked with start-to-finish was a girl named Bri, who was in high school in Arkansas last year, when they worked with her.
Kate Winger, a senior in the College of Engineering, just joined the group this semester, and one thing that drew her in to the club was the story of Bri and her student-made prosthetic.
“When I went to the callout for the club, they showed a picture of her wearing her prosthetic that they designed for her, so it was pretty cool to see that everything we’re doing at this club is directly going and effecting someone,” Winger said. “You could just see in her face how cool it was for her to have (the prosthetic).”
Rudolph said the club experiences are rewarding and that she likes to see the end results for these people, and looks forward to giving people life-changing technology.
“It’s a lot different than being in class and writing down math problems and not seeing any real results,” Rudolph said. “Then to actually see someone have something that works for them, it’s a completely different experience.”
Winger said clubs like E-Nable were what made her come to Purdue in the first place.
“This was why I decided to come here, because I can see so much impact in the local communities or world communities of what engineering students do outside of class,” Winger said. “(It) just feels so rewarding to do this kind of work.”
Sheesh Singh, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, also joined the group this semester and reflected on his excitement towards getting to help with these projects.
“I’m really excited to learn about it,” Singh said. “I’m very interested in philanthropy, and I’m really dedicated to volunteering. This past summer, I interned at the Make-A-Wish foundation in my free time so I really wanted to be able to continue doing that kind of stuff on campus.”
Sharma also spoke on the importance he saw in the work the club is doing, and beyond with engineering in general.
“I think engineering is one of the coolest majors available out there because there’s so many things you can do with it. ... Not only do you get to learn about amazing new technology, but you get to make a real difference in people’s lives,” Sharma said.