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Buncombe County students build prosthetics for rooster that can barely walk

Buncombe County Early College students designed prototypes that could change Joe the Rooster's life, including one prosthetic produced with a 3-D printer and another with a Carolina baby shoe as the foundation. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The challenge to help a chicken forced young people to put their heads together at Buncombe County Early College.

Sometimes a special cause gives wings to inspiration.

"Approach a very unique challenge," said Jeff Fleckenstein, beaing about the collaboration of his students. "None of this was for a grade, this was intrinsically motivated to help Joe."

They've been focused on helping Joe the rooster since January.

"The fact that he's letting me hold him like this is astounding," said student Robert Frady, with the gentle bird in his arms. "He's very friendly."

Frady joined others students to launch the Robo-Joe Program and solve a problem. They've designed prototypes that could change Joe the Rooster's life, including one prosthetic produced with a 3-D printer and another with a Carolina baby shoe as the foundation.

"Just giving him that mobility," Frady says of the goal.

Pam Abare of Rescue Dog Cafe in Burnsville took Joe in after frostbite took its toll last winter. He lost a foot because of the bitter cold.

"And I hate seeing that sore," she told us. "I'm constantly having to monitor that sore on the bottom of his foot. So having him out of pain would be amazing."

Friday, they brought in the farm animal to try on some of their creations.

"They've thought about innovation. Some of them did research on rooster biology," Fleckenstein explained.

Along with the Tarheel shoe, the group also improvised with a pool noodle. Both were promising in test runs, so Abare says she'll likely experiment with both of prosthetics.

The Robo-Joe effort isn't just a good deed, it's a great lesson.

"Helping us understand if we want to pursue something in design or engineering," Frady said.

Working as a team, they realize making a small difference is a big deal. So helping the bird's a feather in their cap.

That's precisely why this rooster's not your average Joe.

"I don't think we could have asked for a better chicken to build a prosthetic for," Frady concludes.

"He's warm and cozy now and happy," Adare said.

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