Local student stokes young STEM minds

Bishop’s senior Nikita Krishnan visited Torrey Hills Elementary School recently to encourage young students to spark an interest in STEM. Nikita, 16, took her interest in STEM and created her own non-profit Creature Comfort and Care — she uses 3-D printer technology to provide inexpensive but effective prosthetics and assistive devices to animals in need.

Torrey Hills’ science teacher Uma Krishnan (no relation) invited Nikita to the school on Oct. 25 to inspire her robotics students.

Nikita’s innovation evolved out of her enjoyment of community service. She had been working as a volunteer with the Lions, Tigers and Bears, a big cat and exotic animal rescue in Alpine.

“I really loved working with animals but I realized I could be doing more. I wanted to help even more,” Nikita said.

Through her volunteerism with the rescue, she understood how big an expense it can be to take care of animals. She wanted to create an inexpensive solution to an expensive animal-care problem. To find her solution, she turned to STEM and began researching 3-D printing. 

Nikita knew nothing about 3-D printing before she began but found that anything is possible with the amazing technology of the printer — you could make 3-D jaws, beaks, horseshoes, horns, legs and splints for animals made of safe, non-toxic material.

She founded Creature Comfort and Care with her home printer and reached out to many local organizations to see if they would be interested in what she offered. She heard no response.

“Failure was a big part of my experience,” Nikita told the students. “Without failure, I wouldn’t be where I am today… Failure is common and happens to everyone and you shouldn’t let it get you down.”

While there were times she wanted to give up, she was determined and kept sending out inquiries about her free service. Finally, she received a response from the Greyhound Adoption Center, which rescues track dogs, many of them from Mexico. A lot of the dogs suffer from injuries in their legs.

Nikita first met with the dogs, took a lot of photos and measurements and brainstormed ideas for a splint. Through a lot of trial and error, she designed a model to take to the printer using a program called On Shape.

“The splints they had been using were 11-and-a-half ounces and were heavy for the dogs to carry,” Nikita said. “My splint was three-and-a-half pounds, which was much lighter and helped expedite the healing process.”

Her first splint was for a dog named Leah. “It worked for her and I was really happy,” she said.

Media attention for her series of splints has resulted in some requests to create prosthesis for some three-legged dogs. She is excited to be working on designs for those dogs right now.

Nikita said throughout the process she has learned so much about science and technology of 3-D printing and it shows how with dedication, someone can make a difference at any age.

To learn more, visit creaturecomfortandcare.org.

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