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Engineering students build wheelchair for puppy with genetic disorder

Roo the dogRoo, a young chihuahua mix at the Humane Society of Yuma, needed help.

The puppy, who has a rare genetic disorder that caused him to be born without front legs, had been tipping over walkers and hopping around for months. That’s when the San Luis High School engineering program stepped in.  

“We were asked to design a walker for a little dog to make it walk,” SLHS engineering teacher Fernando Ramirez said.

The level 2 engineering class, which is part of Yuma Union High School District’s Career & Technical Education program, is often seeking real-world projects for its students.

“I felt very excited, but at the same time I felt that this was a big responsibility for the entire class and especially my team,” SLHS engineering student Alejandra Pasillas said. “First, we identified the problem. Then we did a little bit of research about how the dog will grow and asked for measurements of the dog. We were in a group of three. We each designed a different design and then combined the best parts of each one.”  

The project was assigned in class with the engineering design process in mind. Ramirez required his students to submit prototypes and present their solutions. He then selected the most adequate submission to take on the project. A team of seniors (Pasillas, Carlos Rodriguez, and Chris Morales) earned the winning “bid” and spent the next several weeks building a functional wheelchair for Roo.

“The high school did an incredible job on his wheelchair,” HSoY Volunteer Coordinator and Foster Supervisor Trentie Oliver said. “He uses it. It’s probably the best one we’ve had that actually suits him. Roo likes to hop like a bunny. So, the problem was that he would hop with the wheelchair and would fall over and could injure himself really easy. So, we needed to find something that would work with him to not hop but also light enough where he could maneuver it around on his own. This has worked perfect. He loves it.”

The wheelchair was delivered to the Humane Society in early November and Roo took a test run a couple days later.

“We’re really grateful and thankful that [the students] came through and did such a fantastic job,” Oliver said. “I don’t know if they realize the impact they are having on his life and his future of getting around and learning to adjust and be a phenomenal puppy.”

“I feel really good about the project,” Rodriguez said. “I hope it will inspire a lot of people.”

YUHSD and HSoY have posted video and photos of Roo on their official social media channels. The video can also be viewed here: https://youtu.be/-oBALW9F-vA

Eric Patten
epatten@yumaunion.org