The Tickle College of Engineering and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital have teamed up to entertain and educate patients through the use of a portable 3D printer.
Faculty members and students in the college came up with the idea of creating a mobile science lab to demonstrate science and engineering techniques to children and give back to the community.
One of those students, Brandon Rowell, is a materials science and engineering major with a biomedical concentration. He has volunteered at the hospital since high school and is part of its Childlife program, which is devoted to caring for and enhancing the lives of the children undergoing treatment.
Rowell connected his supervisors at the hospital—Cheryl Allmon and Alexis Niceley—with the college, and both sides agreed to take the device to the pediatric oncology, surgery, and infectious diseases departments.
“Anything that can help them focus on something else for a moment, help pass the time, and maybe take their minds off the stresses of treatment is a win,” said Rowell. “It’s been wonderful to see the reaction of the kids to the printer and their curiosity in how it works.”
The project has been a cross-departmental collaboration and a service-learning activity for students.
Eastman Assistant Professor of Practice Matthew Young and Associate Professor Chad Duty, both of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering, had their classes contribute patterns for the team to use.
As a result, during a visit to the hospital in October, kids could 3D print rockets and dinosaur skulls as well as Halloween-inspired pumpkins and ghosts.
Rowell and Chris Wetteland, a lecturer in materials science and engineering, thought the kids would enjoy personalizing a 3D printed design with their name.
The team hopes to have enough machines that they can leave some at the hospital and provide them in waiting areas as well, and has created a Volstarter page to help reach that goal.
“This is a true team effort, and has helped meet both of those goals and will provide more opportunities for students to get involved moving forward,” Wetteland said.