Kettering University student learns 3D printing skills to help animals during co-op

Before Cierra Haley ‘22 ever stepped foot on campus as a Kettering University student, she was able to get a head start on design skills at her co-op.

Those design skills, working with 3D printing at a Flint-based company, lead to unique projects that helped animals in need in the community. Haley, a Mechanical Engineering major, spent her co-op term with C3 Ventures, a company focused on using its experience and business leadership to create jobs for the residents of Flint and the surrounding areas through sustainable and renewable energy strategies.

Working mainly with C3 3D, which utilizes 3D printing technology and other associated technologies to provide thermo plastic parts to its customers, Haley helped create part of a duck bill to an injured duck and designed a wheelchair for a paralyzed cat.

“I always thought I wanted to focus on the automotive industry, but having this experience has been unique and a lot of fun,” Haley said. “When I got there on the second day of my co-op I got a note saying a kitten will be there at noon. I went online and researched a lot of cat wheelchairs but I needed to make sure the cat could sit down with it attached. The design work took a couple of weeks and with all the fittings and sewing, the whole project took a couple of months.

“It’s a lot of fun. You get to meet the animals, connect with them and then figure out what does work and what doesn’t work.” 

Her co-op experience has allowed her to further explore CAD programs, use new 3D printing machines and software, while using a variety of materials for 3D printing, including nylon infused with carbon fiber, kevlar, fiberglass and high temperature fiberglass. Working with C3 Ventures and C3 3D has also allowed Haley to be a part of a company that helps the Flint community. Kettering University student learns 3D printing skills to help animals during co-op

“The reason they came to Flint was to create new jobs. It’s cool seeing Flint high school students tour our lab. They try to do a lot for Flint and try to give back,” Haley said. “I like the environment. It’s so friendly. It’s great to be part of a company like this. In the four months I’ve been there it’s been through the roof of how we’ve grown.”

Haley first became interested in engineering when she was in high school and got involved in FIRST Robotics. She quit her dance team and joined Team 4998 - TESLA out of Genesee Early College with some friends.

“I was able to learn how to CAD and my love for all things mechanical and robotics. After that I took a CAD class at a local college and learned more about what I do as a career,” Haley said. “I’ve always liked knowing how things worked. My dad is a mechanic. I’ve been in a shop since I was little. When you design something you know exactly how every little thing works. It was a good match for me.”

Her first FIRST Robotics Competition took place at Kettering. She loved it from the start. Haley also participated in Kettering’s LITE (Lives Improve Through Engineering) program while in high school, which further confirmed her decision to pursue a career in engineering and to start her education at Kettering.

“I thought, ‘Whoa. These are the people I want to be around.’ They all think like I think and are interested in the same things,” Haley said.