The Art Institute of Colorado used 3D printing technology to create a paw that allows Sonic to walk with ease

By Kelli Bender
June 21, 2016 08:11 PM

Sonic is catching up to his video game hedgehog namesake with help from The Art Institute of Colorado and the Denver Animal Shelter

Sonic, a black, 4-month-old kitten, was found hobbling around the streets of Denver with a congenital orthopedic deformity in his right leg that caused him to have trouble walking. The Denver Animal Shelter took the needy sweetheart in and partnered with The Art Institute of Colorado to form the Sonic Project. 

The mission of the new do-good team was to find a way to help Sonic walk with ease. 

“It all started with Gregg Harvey and a project he had for a sculpture class to make a cat statue for the Denver Animal Shelter. In one of his visits to the facility, he stumbled upon Sonic, a four-month-old kitten that was born with axial hemimelia, a deformity in its right leg that requires a prosthetic limb to walk properly. While talking with the veterinarians, he suggested that his students could help Sonic by creating prosthesis for him with the help of 3D printing,” Salim Fermin Pereira, a student at The Art Institute of Colorado, told PEOPLE over email. 

Moises Fermin and Salim Fermin

Working with professor Harvey, Pereira, who hopes to become a professional prosthetic designer, used Autodesk Fusion 360 software to create a custom prosthetic limb for Sonic. The pair worked non-stop to make the perfect paw for Sonic, going through several test models before developing the ideal fit. Finding the right model for the kitten doesn’t mean their job is done. Since Sonic is a growing guy, he will require a new prosthetic each week. Pereira is dedicated to the task. 

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“The next step for Sonic is giving him some physical therapy so he can get used to a prosthetic and learn how to properly walk with it. Meanwhile we create one prosthetic a week and try to understand what Sonic needs and wants as he grows. After Sonic reaches his adult size, we are going to create a final prosthetic. This will probably be made out of carbon fiber and some rubber for the base of the prosthetic so it can have traction and a bit of cushioning while he walks,” Pereira said. 

Moises Fermin and Salim Fermin

“Sonic hasn’t been adopted yet, but we’ve just learned that he has passed behavior tests and progressed in physical therapy to be available for adoption. I’ll continue to work with him even after adoption until the final prosthetic is completed,” he continued.

In fact, Pereira hopes helping Sonic is just the beginning of a career in aiding animals and humans in need. 

Moises Fermin and Salim Fermin

“This project means everything to me, as it’s my first step into the world I want to enter: the prosthetic field. I want to be able to help not only animals but also people with my designs. This project turned out to be harder than I thought and it has been a wonderful challenge for me,” Pereira shared. 

“After all this work and spending time with him, I can tell you there is no better reward at the end than seeing this little buddy Sonic, walking around better than how he walks now,” he added. “That feeling is what keeps me running and busy everyday behind my computer creating things that animals or human beings can use to improve their lives.”