3D fix for school wheelchair

Notre Dame senior uses CAD and 3D printer to produce a much-needed part for wheelchair.

When Rick Winiarski, who works in Notre Dame's business office, got word that a used school wheelchair recently acquired by facilities manager Julie Frakes needed a critical part replaced to make it operate correctly, he faced a bit of a conundrum.

"After Julie purchased the wheelchair at an auction last summer and after a closer inspection of the chair, we determined one of the leg supports was in need of repair," Winiarski said. "We researched the make and model of the chair, but we discovered that replacement parts were no longer available. It was missing a small metal piece of hardware that was rather unique in shape and certainly nothing that could be found on the shelves at Home Depot or Lowes." 

After studying the piece a little more, Winiarski thought perhaps one of the school's CAD students could possibly design and 3D-print a replacement part. 

"I contacted Katrina Palushaj, who is our computer sciences teacher in the upper division, with this potential project," he said. "So fast forward to early last week and Katrina presented me with a 3D-printed part to match the original part."

Palushaj said she gave the project to senior CAD student Matthew Wiebelhaus, who had taken all three CAD courses offered by Notre Dame and is a member of the school's award-winning robotics team.

"Matthew is one of the highest achieving students in my class," Palushaj said. "He started out not knowing how to use CATIA V5/V6 and as the years progressed, he took all three classes and as you can see, he was able to use the software he learned and create a part for the wheelchair and 3D print it. This is what real-world connection and the CAD courses here at Notre Dame are all about — making those connections."

Winiarski said Bob Strong from the school's maintenance department then put the leg support back together using the newly created piece created by Wiebelhaus.

"Now the school has another working wheelchair for use when needed, thanks to the creativity and CAD skills of one of our students," Winiarski said.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org