How middle schoolers and a 3D printer built this penguin a walking shoe.

What happens when a bunch of middle schoolers, an aquarium, and rad new technology get together to help a penguin? Answer: brilliant results.

GIF from 3D Systems/YouTube.


Purps, a 23-year-old African penguin, suffered an injury to her left leg in a spat with another bird back in 2011. She tore a flexor tendon, which is similar to a human tearing their Achilles tendon in their ankle, an injury that often affects walking.

Her caretakers at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, fashioned a makeshift boot out of moldable plastic to help her walk, but it was time-consuming to make and bulky. There had to be a better solution out there.

GIF from 3D Systems/YouTube.

When Kelly Matis, vice president of communications and conservation at the aquarium, learned that the local middle school had recently acquired a 3D printer, she realized it was the perfect opportunity for some community teamwork.

Enter the creative, genius students from Mystic Middle School.

After the aquarium reached out to the school, the kids came to meet Purps.

Image via 3D Systems/YouTube.

They knew they wanted to help her by using their 3D printer, but weren't exactly sure how to create the design.

Enter Connecticut-based 3D equipment and services company ACT, who initially supplied the school with their new printer.

ACT brainstormed a better-fitting, lighter boot design, then went back to the kids and taught them how to put the plan into action.

Mold of Purps' foot and ankle. Image via 3D Systems/YouTube.

“The students truly amazed us in how their creative thinking, imagination and intuitiveness led this process,” said Nick Gondek, director of additive manufacturing and applications engineer at ACT, in a statement.

Mystic Middle School kids. Image via 3D Systems/YouTube.

With the help and guidance of ACT, the students created a much more functional boot for Purps and even utilized a computer software program called Geomagic Sculpt to give it treads for traction.

Penguin-sized boot with traction. Image via 3D Systems/YouTube.

The students' innovative efforts alongside the help from ACT and the Mystic Aquarium resulted in this penguin walking up a storm.

Purps walks! Image via 3D Systems/YouTube.

The students were thrilled to get to see their work really make a difference.

It just goes to show that a little inspiration, creativity, and collaboration can help a penguin go a long way.

Check out Purps' whole story below:

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