Making Change Through Student-Led 3D Printing

MakerSpaces have become common sights in universities and libraries across the world in recent years. They typically have three features in common – an active community of practice, a physical space in which individuals can collaborate and communicate in person, and access to otherwise difficult to obtain tools or technologies. 

In our Library MakersSpace, students from various disciplines come together to make, break, remake, experiment, and have fun. One part-time postgraduate student is employed to keep the 3D printers running, while other students work in the space on a volunteer basis. These students help foster a friendly and welcoming environment in the space, and also work in self-managed groups on projects throughout the year. One such project, Make Tobē Mobile has recently concluded its first phase.   

MakerSpace volunteers from left to right: Daniel, Xiao, Matthieu, Mustafa, Tristan, Bradley, Amy

Meet Tobē

Dr Liam Carr of University of Galway’s Discipline of Geography was looking for a dog to foster, preferably one who could accompany him on runs. As fate would have it, he wound up with Tobē, a slightly arthritic but totally lovable three-legged, “tri-pawd” corgi. Not to be deterred, Liam found himself a puppy stroller and Tobē became an ideal running companion. 

Tobē the "tri-pawd" corgi

Initially, Liam approached the MakerSpace enquiring if we could repair a broken part on the stroller. The volunteers modelled and replaced the part, but then asked if they could take the project a step further, creating a custom mobility solution for daily use.

The Project 

Project leaders Xiao and Matthieu, second year Engineering students, organised regular meetings with Tobē and Liam, 3D modelled and printed a number of prototypes, and tested a working design. My role as the MakerSpace manager was to facilitate any necessary connections, provide materials as needed, organise regular check-in meetings to address any blockages, and assist with sewing – my own area of expertise. 

In November 2023, Xiao and Matthieu met Tobē for the first time. They took her measurements and, importantly, dispensed treats! Over the next several months they examined current mobility solutions for dogs, consulted with Dr Kevin Moerman, a computational biomechanics and computational design expert at University of Galway, designed, printed, tested, and redesigned.

Design of a portion of the mobility device prototype

3D printed prototypes tested on a model dog, the same weight as Tobē

Finally, in May 2024, DAWGS: Dogs Assistance Walking Guidance Support was ready! Tobē will spend the summer testing the device so the design can be reassessed and improved when the students return from their summer break.

Tobē testing the completed DAWGS prototype

The key outcome, apart from improved quality of life for one little rescue corgi, is an opportunity for students to practically apply what they learn in lectures in a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment.

This blog post was adapted in part from a presentation delivered by Eileen Kennedy at CONUL Conference 2024.