2 January 2024

Life-changing idea: Uni students' tailor-made device helps amputee land dream veterinary job

| Jarryd Rowley
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Student helping woman fit a horse-grooming attachment to her arm

University of Wollongong student Charles Crisp was one of two students who helped quadruple amputee Grace secure her dream job by creating a device that allows her to groom horses. Photo: Supplied.

Local employment agency CVGT Employment has partnered with the University of Wollongong to create an assistive horse-grooming device, allowing a quadruple amputee to secure her dream job.

Grace, who contracted meningococcal as a baby, experienced difficulties pursuing her passion for grooming horses due to her unique needs.

To help her find employment, CVGT contacted the UOW Makerspace program about finding ways to create a tailored, assistive horse-grooming device that would allow Grace to care for the animals.

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The UOW Makerspace is a workshop for students to explore their creative side using technology, with access to tools and equipment, and regular events and training on 3D printing, virtual reality and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities.

After hearing Grace’s story, UOW Makerspace coordinators and lecturers in the UOW’s School of Mechanical, Materials, Mechatronic and Biomedical Engineering, Dr Lucy Armitage and Dr Jon Roberts, asked the students from UOW’s Biomedical Engineering Society whether they would take on a real-life engineering challenge to create an assistive horse-grooming device tailored to Grace’s needs.

Third-year engineering student at UOW Charles Crisp said he and his friend Stephan Fonti decided to take on the challenge of making the device.

He said he and Stephan first had to conduct thorough research on prosthetic limbs and assistive devices, biomaterials and their properties to understand the logistics of the device they planned to make.

After the initial research period, the students spent the next five months undergoing an intricate design process to create Grace’s tailor-made, assistive horse-grooming device.

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Grace’s measurements were sent to UOW, where a 3D-printed prototype was crafted, and the most durable and comfortable materials were chosen. The final product, equipped with interchangeable brushes and a comfortable Velcro strap mechanism, was fitted in July 2023, opening new possibilities for Grace’s employment in equine care.

By mid-December, Grace was able to secure a position with a Wagga Veterinary Hospital.

She said she was extremely grateful to UOW as it had helped give her a chance at an independent life.

“This device is going to help me a lot. I will have a job now. Nothing could make me happier,” she said.

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