A group of high school robotics students and a veterinarian have teamed up to make life better for a cat named Flipper. Flipper was unable to function on all fours, even simply standing, because of her unfortunate physical malformation. Dr. Harry Gurney at the Aspen Park Vet Clinic in Colorado explained Flipper’s unique challenge.
“Our problem was the spinal cord was twisted much like a telephone cable is twisted, so that while half the body was going forward the other half of the body was going sideways.” Flipper was just a few steps away from being put to sleep, until the Conifer High School ‘Blitz Robot’ club entered the picture.
The hope was that over the long term, doctors would be able to restore communication over Flipper’s entire spinal cord, so that full function would return. But for the short run, the Conifer High robotics club set out to create a kind of intelligent ‘walker’ for Flipper to give her better mobility and ongoing physical therapy.
The club drew up several prototypes, then managed to create a ‘Cat Cart’ to support flipper’s twisted legs. Amazingly, Flipper quickly adjusted to her new-fangled aid, dashing around the vet clinic. Now, the veterinary staff’s hope is that Flipper’s legs will get stronger, and her spine may straighten out to allow her to use her back legs.