Ooltewah High School teacher Karen Haynes took her dog in for a routine checkup at Sale Creek Veterinary Clinic and ended up leaving with a 3-D printing project for her engineering class. She discovered the need when she saw the vet tech wrestling to keep the blood vials on the counter.
"[They] drew some blood and the tech just laid the vials on the counter," said Haynes. "They kept rolling around and she kept pushing them back."
When Haynes asked about holders, clinic employees said they tried to find some but were struggling to get some that accommodated the smaller vial sizes. Haynes offered to have her students design custom holders and took an empty vial for specifications.
The holders were designed by Dylan Vaca and the printing process was overseen by Santiago Ruiz, both seniors at OHS. Ruiz said they often use free designs that they find online, but for this particular situation they used 3-D printing software to meet the exact specifications needed by the vet.
Katherine Thigpen, veterinarian at Sale Creek Veterinary Clinic, was delighted with the results.
"They went above and beyond. I didn't expect that," Thigpen said. "They fit just perfect and hold our blood tubes. These are better than what I could have bought."
The time it takes for a print to be completed depends on the complexity and size of the product, with some of the prints taking up to 70 hours, said Ruiz. The holders took around 12 hours. After the initial prints were done, the team assessed how to tweak the design.
"Sometimes we get a lot of defects, and they're not fun," Ruiz said.
Vaca's design included a paw print on the bottom of the holder. Tommy Sluss, senior at OHS, got inspired and incorporated the clinic's logo on the holders for a more personalized touch and said he was happy with how it turned out.
"It was great, especially the feedback from the veterinary clinic and knowing they were actually able to use it," Sluss said. "Being in high school that's a big step up from doing just homework."
OHS has a manufacturing team that takes orders from local businesses and the community. The students are in charge of designing the product, taking orders, clarifying details, ensuring the product is satisfactory to the client and handling all invoices.
"I want the students to see this is how business works," Haynes said. "I want them to see that whole process."
Haynes said the process goes beyond the standard class assignment and receiving a grade. Students are gaining real-world experience and producing work and acquiring skills that they can one day put on their resumes.
"I could go on and on about my students," said Haynes. "They are so good at what they do."
Email Kaitlin Colon at firstname.lastname@example.org.