Despite the natural armor that protects Florida’s turtles and tortoises from injuries, the sturdy creatures are far from indestructible. Vehicles, other animals, and simple bad luck can cause cracks in their shells that if left untreated can mean death.
Florida Polytechnic University students donated their 3D printer time and resources to help wildlife rehabilitators educate their peers on effective techniques to repair broken turtle shells. It is a very important mission because not many of them specialize in rehabilitating turtles and tortoises.
“A lot of people who work in wildlife rehabilitation don’t see reptiles as often as they do birds and mammals, so they are not as well versed in the new rehab techniques for reptiles,” said Kim Titterington, founder of Swamp Girl Adventures, a wildlife educational rescue and rehabilitation nonprofit group based in Osceola County.
Titterington approached Florida Poly about helping create a set of realistic turtle shells to give her wildlife rehabilitation peers a hands-on lesson in their repair. Senior Andres Regalado, the Rapid Application Development MakerSpace lead lab technician, was inspired by the challenge and got right to work on the 20 shells.
Each 4.5-inch-by-3-inch 3D-printed shell took eight to nine hours to complete. Once printed, students strategically broke them to mimic a common injury turtles receive. Swamp Girl Adventures then took the shells to the Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association’s 31st Symposium in Haines City, Florida, earlier this month.
“It was a really nice experience,” said Regalado, a mechanical engineering major. “It’s something we’ll be striving toward – doing more outreach to the community.”
Titterington said she contacted several other universities in her attempts to create the shell models but was unable to find the right partner until she connected with Florida Poly. She now hopes to partner with Florida Poly again in the future to help continue her group’s educational efforts.
“I’m so happy with everything the students at Florida Poly have done,” Titterington said. “We are grateful for the great work the University did to help us help Florida’s wildlife.”
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