HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4)– Emergency responders in Summit County no longer have to use sheep tracheas for training thanks to innovative students at STEM School Highlands Ranch. They figured out how to print a 3D model that can be replicated and used for years to come.

(credit: Centura Health)

“One of the things that the students at STEM are incredible at innovating things. We had requested to one make a reusable resource and gave them some guidelines and they completely took it over and made it their own,” said Rebecca Duarte, Clinical Nurse Manager for Centura Health’s mountain emergent and urgent care facilities.

In the mountains of Summit County, the three Centura Health clinics work very closely with the ski patrol at the county’s four resorts. Every year, medical director Dr. Kendrick Adnan hosts a large training called “airway night” to make sure the responders are up to speed on important rescue techniques.

“When you have a really bad trauma patient that maybe has some facial trauma and you’re unable to get an airway through their mouth and so we do an airway through the throat, and so this is a place to practice,” Duarte continued, “Historically we have done sheep trachea and Dr. Adnan found that there was 3D printing online and he was like, ‘this is great, can we do this instead?’ and I said, ‘let me find out where we can get 3D printed stuff.’”

(credit: STEM School Highlands Ranch)

Duarte’s daughters both graduated from STEM, and she knew they had a 3D printing lab so she asked one of the school’s secondary engineering teachers, Mike Shallenberge.

“I would love for the students to do it, that would be amazing, please let me know if they can do it and he took it to his phenomenal students who made some adjustments and got it printed and made us three,” she said.

Brent Weiffenbach, a senior at STEM said took an existing design and spent time in and out of school perfecting it over a period of several weeks.

(credit: CBS)

“We did fail a few times, so I had to keep adjusting the settings over the course of a few days but then once I got it down, we just started printing them out on our 3d printers,” he said.

It’s one of many real-world partnerships the school helps facilitate for its students to gain relevant experience.

“It’s definitely going to help me gain more opportunities either with Centura Health or with other companies that see this and are like ‘oh yeah we can use your skills’, so I’m really glad to have this opportunity,” said Weiffenbach.

Jamie Leary