Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Comfy Shoes for Penguins?

Students design stylish, orthopedic footwear for sore Penguin feet 

Published April 24, 2013
Happy Feet!
Millions of people suffer from sore feet--there’s hardly anything worse that can put a damper on a delightful day.

But humans are not the only ones prone to this miserable affliction. According to NBC News, the penguins at the John J. Shedd Aquarium, one of most famous aquatic facilities in the world, have foot pain from spending most of their time sunning on the rocks near their pool. "As our birds age and get older...they get sore feet like we do," said Lisa Takaki, Senior Director of Marine Mammals.

Since penguin anatomy precludes them from taking advantage of any Dr. Scholl’s sole soothers, the Shedd staff started thinking outside the box to find something that would alleviate their pain.
Fortunately for these flightless birds, the Shedd staff had a brilliant idea: contact the brainy freshman engineering majors at Northwestern University, who are participating in the school's "Design, Thinking and Communications" class.

The students were asked to create special penguin booties designed to distribute their weight. "My reaction was 'what? This is not engineering. This is arts and crafts!," one of the students remarked. Clarifying Shedd’s unique request into a better perspective, another student acknowledged that engineering consists of finding solutions to problems.

Shedd’s partnership with the students has been in existence for eight years. During this period, the students have solved many "fishy" situations that range from a creating a decompression chamber that helps sea horses eradicate air bubbles from under their skin, to a delivery system that administers medication to fish while they are undergoing surgical procedures.

While the students mainly thought engineering entailed designing buildings, they never dreamed that they would be helping fish and other aquatic animals. That said, they are proud of their accomplishments in helping Shedd provide treatment to their aquatic residents.  One student asked “How many people can say they worked on a fish anesthetic delivery system?" His answer; "I can tell you. It's about four!"

Being fashion-minded as well as ingenious, the students came up with a comforting foot contraption designed in stylish Northwestern Purple. Not too shabby, considering the penguins' footwear looks more like a band-aid!

To get an up close and personal experience with the Shedd’s penguins, watch this video.

 Who knew penguins get sore feet?


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