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Eighth graders create wheelchair for kitten with spinal condition

UPI News Service, 07/17/2017 

A team of New Hampshire eighth graders designed a 3D-printed wheelchair for a blind kitten with a spinal condition that affects his ability to walk.

Carrie Barron of Portsmouth said Ray, the 6-month-old kitten she adopted from the Odd Cat Sanctuary in Salem, Mass., faces unique struggles due to being born with abnormally small eyes that can't see and an inoperable spinal disorder that makes it so his back legs can't be used to walk.

"He does have a lot of challenges but he doesn't know that. He's very happy. He plays and he's really well-adjusted," Barron told WGME-TV. "He's not paralyzed he can feel his legs but he can't move them in the motion to walk. He can move them though to scoot, so he does scoot around the house really well."

Ray also captured the heart of neighbor Erin Bakkom, who teaches eighth graders at Portsmouth Middle School. Bakkom teamed with Michaela Pugh, the Portsmouth Public Library's emerging technology assistant, to secure use of the facility's 3D printer.

"She said, 'I want to do this,'" Pugh told "She had two teams of eighth-graders who made two complete designs."

Barron said Ray has already outgrown the first design, which has two wheels, and test-drove a four-wheeled design Thursday. A piece broke off when Ray attempted to escape from the wheelchair, an occurrence Pugh said is part of the design process.

"We have kids that face challenges and I think that's an opportunity for them to see you know maybe it isn't such an obstacle and it's just a different way to approach it," Bakkom said.

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