Will Grandbois

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May 18, 2014
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Teen uses Rifle library's 3D printer for prosthetic project

Most high school students would be set back by the prospect of moving to another state two months before graduation.

Not Tia Valles.

When Valles’ father accepted a job at Colorado Mountain College, she was partway through her senior project for the Idaho Digital Learning Academy. The move from her hometown of Moscow, Idaho, to Rifle might have spelled the end of the project were it not for a new local resource called MADlab.

Rifle Branch Library debuted its “make and design” lab in April, complete with a 3D printer, full-frame digital camera and a pair of iMacs equipped with Adobe Creative Suite and Palo Alto Business Plan Pro. The resources are available to the community, giving people the opportunity to “move beyond learning how to do something and into actually doing it.”

Valles had intended to use a 3D printer at the University of Idaho for her project, a prototype prosthetic. One of her mentors’ colleagues has a daughter with a prosthetic leg, and Valles’ model is designed in Autodesk 3D Studio Max around that girl, complete with initials and custom paint.

Valles is not a licensed prosthetic engineer, so the prototype cannot be used, but someday she hopes to be doing this professionally.

“I would love to work in the prosthetic industry,” Valles said.

After a couple of years at CMC Steamboat, she intends to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Valles has had a passion for engineering from a young age, and once helped her father rebuilding an engine. “I really have always been interested in how people interact with designed objects, and how innovation really impacts people,” she said.

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombings “stirred up a fire” inside Valles. She was touched by those who lost limbs at an event dedicated to the celebration of mobility. Having gone through what she described as “an emotional, physical and mental transformation” in junior high, she decided to help others in need of a transformation.

“I’m really thankful for all the people that have been involved in this project — the professors at University of Idaho and the employees and branch members at Rifle Library,” she added.

For more information on the MADlab, go to www.gcpld.org/madlab.

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The Post Independent Updated May 20, 2014 06:42PM Published May 18, 2014 01:15PM Copyright 2014 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.