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Metro State Engineers Lend Helping Hand To Doctors

By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) - It went from an idea over beers to a breakthrough design. It's a new take on the cumbersome cast.

The three engineering students at Metropolitan State University behind it are teaming up with medical professionals to make a completely unique product.

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(credit: CBS)

"Literally over beers the idea came out, 'Hey can you 3D print a cast?'" asked Josh Kenning. "(We) Started doing research and kind of had this 'Really?' moment, like this hasn't changed in 200 years!"

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Josh Kenning (credit: CBS)

Kenning and one of his partners, Michaela Beadles, both seniors in Mechanical Engineering Technology, got to work in the lab. With the university's state of the art 3D printing technology they turned the idea into their senior project.

"We printed our first miniature one and that was our 'Holy cow! This is going to work!' moment, but that took about six months," said Kenning.

The miniature model wasn't the only big break-through.

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"A good friend of ours had a very serious accident, wound up in the hospital and because of that, we were able to get direct access to doctors, casting technicians and physical therapists," he said.

Kenning said their injured friend was a fellow engineer and understood the opportunity. They quickly learned that the doctors actually needed what the students were trying to develop.

"That's when it started to take on a life of it's own. They (doctors) started asking us questions like 'Well, can you make it do this?' 'Hey, we really need this ability. Could you do that?'" said Kenning.

The students began to perfect their design with medical grade material. Beadles demonstrated the latest lightweight model to CBS4.

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Michaela Beadles (credit: CBS)

"It fits together on the arm so if there is swelling or atrophy you can make it tighter or looser, but the alligator teeth make it so that it doesn't slip along itself," said Beadles. "We are still using mostly Velcro straps, but we eventually hope to switch to a wire ratchet design."

Not only did the college news service get wind of what the students were up to, there was an investor ready to market their product. That's when Kenning said they decided to pull back the reigns.

"Because people are depending on us. We want to make sure that we've done everything that we can to make sure that it's going to work for the user and we're just not there yet," he said.

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The students graduate May 11 and plan to continue working together, perfecting the design.

"We'd like to be able to add a hatch or maybe a spot to put in an IV," said Kenning.

He says they owe their injured friend a lot for giving them access to doctors, but he says it was the teachers who pushed them.

"They provided us with the technical tools and the education through the classes that they've started to offer here, and without that, we wouldn't have been able to tackle this project," he said.

The students say they have become best friends and love the work they are doing.

"It's been enjoyable in every conceivable way that you can think of. It's been challenging mentally, it's been great to put our degrees to work," Kenning said.

LINK: MSU Mechanical Engineering Technology Program 

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn't imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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