If you like design, engineering, modeling, 3D printing and animals, this is your sign to join the NJIT Prosthetics Club! This organization is dedicated to the creation of prosthetics for use by those in need. Primarily, this consists of cats and dogs with missing or non-functional limbs. Club members model with Creo and use 3D printing to create the prosthetics.
NJIT Prosthetics Club meets most weeks to review current prosthetics and decide on how to improve them before applying those improvements in the existing models. The club has several formal and informal Creo crash courses that take place throughout the semester to help students become familiar with computer-aided design modeling. Club members also have the opportunity to meet with their clients’ animals to see the prosthetic perform in action during fittings.
The current president of the club, Edgar Canario, is a fourth-year biomedical engineering major. “I was able to achieve my goal of obtaining design experience,” he said. He joined the club back in Spring 2019, before it was an official club.
“I remember meeting one of our clients, Jax, for the first time. He was a large dog missing a hind leg,” Canario recalled. “Jax was so excitable and energetic despite his missing leg.”
First-year biomedical engineering major Connor Thomas shared a memorable story about the pitbull. “In the case of Jax, he only had a single missing leg. Most prosthetics for dogs are made with the consideration that both of their hind legs are missing, meaning that Jax’s owner didn’t have many options when it came to getting Jax a proper prosthetic,” he explained. “This is where the club comes in. With the resources we have, we can design a singular leg prosthesis for Jax that will allow them to hopefully walk in a ‘normal’ manner once again.”
Vice president Christian Rodrigues, fourth-year biomedical engineering major, mentioned, “The way we design things is by brainstorming and then weighing the pros and cons of each idea we came up with for a prosthetic design.” Thomas emphasized that there is always something to do in the club.
Dr. Max Roman, assistant research professor and director of M.S. program in biomedical engineering, is the advisor of the Prosthetics Club.
“I enjoy seeing the students come up with unique solutions and taking an interest in the animals that they are helping. As biomedical engineers, the first thing that comes to mind is helping people. Unfortunately, many animals are sacrificed for research. These animals have given so much so that we – and even other animals – can benefit from the research,” said Roman. “Seeing the club give something back and designing prosthetics specifically for the animals is a great way to give something back to them. One of the things I enjoy most is when the students do their own outreach and find subjects and owners to work with.”
The main student founder of the club was Jonathan Ziner, a 2018 graduate in biomedical engineering. He had help from Kyle Watt, a 2018 mechanical engineering graduate. Ziner mentioned that his favorite part of the club was that “we create tangible products that go out and make a real impact on animals and their families. There’s physical evidence that we are helping society.”
Watt’s favorite aspect of the club was that “right before COVID-19 shut down the school, we actually finally got a working model for the cutest cat in the world, Super Duper Cooper” from the Associated Humane Societies animal shelter in Newark.
Members of the club visited the shelter, where the cat was very depressed and was not moving much. The nature of the amputation made it very difficult to fit a prosthetic.
“Although the students were not successful in fitting a prosthetic to Cooper, it was amazing to see the students week after week in their meetings coming up with different designs and solutions. They tried really hard. They spent several months with Cooper,” Dr. Roman said.
The director of the shelter was very excited and wanted to put out a press letter about the collaboration between the shelter and NJIT to promote the club.
Farhan Ahmad, a 2021 graduate in biomedical engineering, was the project coordinator, a designer and the lead designer during his time in the club. It was memorable “going to the first shelters as a group to take measurements,” he explained. “It was a very unique feeling because we had to present ourselves as professionals who were interested in creating prosthetics, not just playing with the animals.”
Colton Prentzel is a senior biomedical engineering major who wanted to help make the club an official organization on campus. “Producing our first prototype was a spectacular achievement for us,” he said. “Watching our feline friend try to use our product, even if it wasn’t perfect yet, gave us confidence that we were making progress and we would be reaching our goals in no time.”
He also spoke about some of the major challenges that he, along with the rest of the club, faced while trying to establish the organization.
“Securing a budget was one of the toughest things starting out. Creating effective prosthetics is not always cheap, and we aren’t provided funding while a club is in its early stages,” he explained. “We had to make as much use as possible of the Fenster 3D printing lab, where I fortunately was a technician at the time. That allowed us to print prototypes free of charge, while we waited for the budget to construct our final designs.”
As a team of students with different levels of expertise, Dr. Roman did an excellent job of helping members lay the groundwork of what an effective prosthesis requires. Professor Mario Accumanno, manufacturing specialist and laboratory manager, also helped greatly, running a SolidWorks lesson for the club and keeping the 3D lab in working order.
Cassandra Martin is a first-year graduate student in biomedical engineering who took on leadership positions in the club in the past. “Even though the Prosthetics Club has biomedical applications,” she said, “I found that students regardless of major joined, and that’s pretty special.”
Club activites don’t just consist of engineering; there is an artistic aspect to it as well. Members can participate in outreach, website development and the creation of promotional material.
Ideas and solutions to problems can come from anyone. The more students involved, the more exciting and productive the club will be.
Dr. Roman encourages anyone with a passion for engineering and animals to come and participate: “Making prosthetics is much harder than it looks. There are many poor parts of the world that are in desperate need for inexpensive and functional wearable prosthetics. Poor countries tend to have a larger percentage of people with amputations due to disease, war, or unexploded landmines. By joining the club you will also gain experience in CAD modeling, 3D printing, scanning and materials selection. I hope you consider joining!”
The Prosthetics Club meets in Room 640 in Fenster Hall on Fridays during common hour most weeks. Give these animals the helping hand they need!