SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

July 10, 2015 10:00 ET

Footless rooster is happily footloose again

Vet Med and Biomedical Engineering researchers join forces to 3D print new feet for frostbitten rooster

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - July 10, 2015) - Foghorn is strutting his stuff again thanks to the collaborative efforts of some creative minds at the University of Calgary.

Earlier this year, the plucky rooster was removed from a city property by Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services. He'd lost both his feet -- most likely to frostbite -- and, left with just stumps, couldn't walk.

Dr. Daniel Pang, an assistant professor at University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) who researches small animal pain and welfare, learned of Foghorn's condition and wanted to help.

"I immediately thought of Dr. Mark Ungrin as I knew he had a 3D printer in his laboratory and he might be able to design and create prosthetic feet for the rooster," says Pang.

Ungrin, an assistant professor at UCVM, does some work in his lab in the area of prototyping and simulated body parts.

"We have mostly focused on the development of teaching simulators, to give veterinary students something to practice on without needing to work on a live animal," Ungrin explains. "But you can imagine there is a lot of overlap between making imitation body parts for the vets to train with, and making imitation body parts for the animal to use as we have here."

Enter Douglas Kondro, an undergraduate mechanical engineering student at the Schulich School of Engineering, enrolled in the Biomedical Engineering Specialization. Kondro is a summer student in Ungrin's lab and was given the task of engineering 3D printed prosthetic feet for Foghorn.

"I went and got some molds of his stubs and scanned them to make a computer model," says Kondro. "I got my hands on some wild turkey feet and used the scanner for that as well and matched them up to get a negative of the foot stump. Then I printed off the stumps and printed off the new feet and painted them with silicone so they'd be sturdy but flexible and soft for the rooster."

Kondro's initial effort, or 'rooster feet 1.0' as he calls it, wasn't a success.

"The first ones didn't work. He couldn't really walk and kept falling over so I was pretty disappointed. So I made version 2.0 and I strapped the feet onto him. It was pretty exciting to see him strut around."

"This was a very interdisciplinary project," says Ungrin. "Dr. Pang is a veterinarian, my background is cell biology and tissue engineering, and my student Doug is working towards a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Given that this is not our major research focus, the fact that we were able to come together quickly, find a solution and implement it without drawing unduly on anyone's time was really a function of having the connections in place ahead of time. It also helps that Doug has a lot of energy and is willing to jump into new things with both feet!"

Down the road, Ungrin says rapid prototyping approaches such as 3D printing have the potential to lead to customized prosthesis that are designed specifically to meet the needs of an individual patient, for a wide range of conditions in both human and veterinary medicine.

"Even though things started out purely by chance, this collaboration is really a very good example of how clinical sciences can tie in with basic researchers and solve a very real and very acute problem," says Pang.

Meanwhile, Foghorn, equipped with new feet, was adopted by a family and is enjoying a normal rooster life at his new home on an acreage near Didsbury, Alberta.

NOTE: Dr. Daniel Pang, Dr. Mark Ungrin and Douglas Kondro are available for media interviews on Friday, July 10 between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The rooster will not be available at this time but b-roll and photos will be available for media.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary has positioned itself as a global leader in the area of biomedical engineering. A new, forward-thinking research strategy -- Engineering Solutions for Health: Biomedical Engineering -- channels cross-faculty research in engineering, medicine, kinesiology, veterinary medicine, science and nursing, and provides a carefully-considered strategy to help the university address complex, global health-care research challenges, and opens the door for even broader collaboration.

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Contact Information

  • Media Contact
    Collene Ferguson
    Manager, Marketing and Communications
    Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
    University of Calgary
    204.295-9452 (cell)