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Students use 3D printer to help Tampa hospital

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Students at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School used a 3-D printer to make this model of a cat skull.

TAMPA, Fla. – Students at a Catholic high school wanted to do something useful with their new 3D printers, so they approached a BluePearl hospital and asked how they could help.

Now, after weeks of planning and design, the students from Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School are set to visit the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Tampa with models and other devices they have fabricated on 3D printers for possible use in the hospital.

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Students visited the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Tampa last year.

“The ingenuity of the students is remarkable, and so is their desire to help the community,” said Dr. Erick Mears, a veterinarian who is board-certified in internal medicine and who also is BluePearl’s Florida medical director.  “We’re proud that our hospital stays up-to-date with top-notch equipment such as a CT scanner, ultrasound, endoscopes and more, but small customized devices like these can also be a help.”

Jane Schuster, a teacher at Bishop McLaughlin, said “Working with BluePearl gives the students the chance to practice the engineering method and learn real world technology.”

After the students’ visit, their devices will be carefully evaluated by BluePearl veterinarians for possible use in the hospital.

Some of the devices made by the students include:

  • Plastic models of cat and dog skulls, which can be helpful as visual aids so veterinarians can explain medical procedures to pet owners.
  • A modified kennel door to assist in animal comfort and care.
  •  Small plastic positioning devices which can help make sure dogs or cats are in the correct position during procedures.

Students who collaborated on this project are members of Bishop McLaughlin’s STREAM Club, which stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art and mathematics. Students raised money to buy the school’s 3D printers and then looked for projects that would be challenging for them to build and also beneficial to the community.

Principal Camille Jowanna thought of BluePearl, where her dogs have previously received veterinary care. She had been impressed by the compassion and expertise in BluePearl’s veterinary staff. She thought, “what if we could make life better for animals and get the students involved?”

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The STREAM Club stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art and mathematics.

So the students scheduled an initial visit to BluePearl in November and gathered ideas.

“Being part of the BMCHS Stream club and designing different items for Blue Pearl has helped me use my potential to help people, and animals, in need,” said student Carissa Brand, a senior. Fellow student Ray Cordova said he was glad that “Stream club has given me the opportunity to develop applicable skills, which I can use to help others in my community, including animals.”

BluePearl’s Tampa Bay hospitals in Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon and Sarasota are open 24/7, with veterinarians always on hand for emergencies. They also are known for providing specialty medicine similar to human hospitals, with veterinarians who are board-certified in such areas as cardiology, neurology, surgery, ophthalmology, oncology and more.

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This is one of the school’s 3D printers.