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Ossining HS Students Use 3-D Printer To Fix Broken Wheelchair

Michael Earle and Olivia Breglia.
Michael Earle and Olivia Breglia. Photo Credit: Contributed

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Two Ossining High School students recently took on an engineering challenge that led to the much-needed repair of a broken wheelchair.

Michael Earle, a junior, and Olivia Breglia, a senior, are students in Mark Scinta’s physics and Doug Albrecht’s engineering classes, and members of an after-school engineering club. Their background in engineering and physics, and a keen interest in the high school’s new 3-D printer, set them off on the endeavor to fix a broken wheelchair – an expensive item to replace – that had been sitting unused in the OHS nurses’ office.

They were first approached by the school nurse, who showed them a small plastic part from the wheelchair that had broken and rendered the chair useless.

“We knew that this broken part couldn’t be found online anywhere, so that’s when we thought about duplicating the item using a 3-D printer," said Earle.

Using an older 3-D printer and CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, the duo created a new part for the wheelchair, duplicating the broken part by creating a new one with 15 percent density. But when they reassembled the wheelchair with the new part, the part snapped, leaving the students back where they started.

Earle and Breglia continued with the project, determined to use their engineering skills to solve the dilemma.

They switched to the newer Makerbot Replicator 3-D printer in the high school’s soon-to-be-opened Maker Space classroom.

Eventually, by figuring out that the replacement part had to be more dense, and using the much faster and more precise 3-D printer, the part worked perfectly in the wheelchair.

Both students will participate in January in the FIRST Robotics Challenge, an international robotics competition in which students compete to build large robots that can complete specific challenges posed by FIRST.

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