Guillermo Mireles and Leonel Yracheta love being challenged in their robotics class at Todd Middle School in Donna. So when their teacher, Juan Lopez, told them about a puppy that had been born without two front legs, the boys knew they had to do something about it. That something was coming up with a device that would help the dog walk.
The first thing the trio needed to do was track down the dog’s owner. They ultimately found Amairani Rodela through social media (Facebook). They shared with her their idea of making a 3D-printed front-wheel cart that would be designed to act as a scooter and propel the puppy forward. Rodela was elated that someone, in this case Donna ISD students and teacher, cared about the welfare of her two-legged pet she named Brownie.
“Everyone at home was very happy when we heard the news,” Rodela said. “It even seemed like Brownie knew because when we told him, he got very excited. We told him that he was going to get help and be getting some wheels. It was very exciting for all of us.”
Brownie, who was three months old at the time Lopez and his students met him, was one of five puppies born from the same litter. Two passed away and of the three that survived, Brownie was the only one who did not have his front legs.
“I became concerned when I saw how he was born,” Rodela said. “I wondered how we were going to take care of him because he was going to be special. He wasn’t going to be like the other dogs. That’s what really worried me. I asked myself ‘what am I going to do to help him live a little more of a normal life.'”
Rodela said her heart particularly aches when she sees that Brownie can’t move around like the others. “When he looks at the other dogs running, he wants to do the same,” she said. “He wants to run alongside them, but he can’t so he quietly stays behind. Sometimes, he jumps from side to side on the bed and barks at the others. But, when they leave the room and leave him by himself, he cries.”
Students Mireles and Yracheta said they got involved in the wheel cart project because they wanted to make a difference in the puppy’s life. “I was sad when I saw the puppy without his front legs,” Mireles said. “I wanted to do something that would help him so we researched, viewed videos, and tossed some ideas. Ultimately, we agreed to make a wheel cart. We wanted to make sure that what we built would fit the puppy. I was nervous about making it, but we knew it was going to help the puppy have a better life.”
“I have dogs at my house and I see them running, walking and chasing me everywhere,” Yracheta said. “I want this puppy to be able to do the same, be a normal dog.”
Lopez said he is proud of his students and their desire to make a difference in the community through their robotics and engineering projects. “I know that puppies play an important role in students’ lives and sometimes the students become very attached to them,” Lopez said. “It gives me great pleasure when I see my students involved in projects like this one. I try to instill in them a passion for helping out those in need. I want them to think of how they can help others, solve problems with a budget, and make the community a better place to live.”
Lopez also hopes projects like this one will entice his students to want to learn more about robotics and engineering, and consider a career path in these fields.
“This time it was a puppy, but next time it could be solving a water leak or a technology-related issue or helping a human being,” Lopez said.
As for Brownie, Lopez and his students said their first wheel cart device is a “work in progress.” They plan to stay in touch with the owner to make adjustments to the device as Brownie continues to grow.