Janie Veltkamp is a trained nurse, raptor biologist, educator and master falconer. She founded and directs the non-profit Birds of Prey Northwest (BOPNW), a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permitted raptor rehabilitation and education facility near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. There, she educates the public about raptor conservation and treats and rehabilitates wild injured birds of prey.
This interview will focus on the amazing work Janie did to rescue Beauty the bald eagle, an eagle that had lost its beak to a poacher. Janie has lifetime care of Beauty the bald eagle at BOPNW.
Janie, can you tell us about your 3D printed beak project?
I first saw Beauty the bald eagle in Alaska, where she had been rescued after a poacher shot her in the beak. I was determined to help her and got special permission from USFWS to bring her to Idaho, where I launched the multidisciplinary team effort to create a prosthetic beak for her.
What made you choose 3D printing over other technologies?
Nate Calvin, the mechanical engineer on our team, was using 3D printing in his work in aerospace engineering and advised me that this technology could work for Beauty’s pioneering beak. The use of 3D printing helped us refine our prototypes as we printed and tested multiple beaks before producing the final beak to be attached to Beauty’s face.
Did you have any previous experience/projects using 3D printing?
No, I had no previous experience and knew very little about the process. That is just one reason why the collaboration with Nate was so valuable and scientifically exciting.
Any specific challenge you ran into because you were using 3D printing?
Nate was 3D printing our test beaks in Boise, which is in southern Idaho, while I was test fitting them on Beauty hundreds of miles north. Having a 3D printer on-site where Beauty lives would have come in handy. At the time we were doing this project, 3D printers were not something most people could afford or would need.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
My new children’s book, Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle, about Beauty and our project will be published in early August. I co-authored it with award-winning children’s author and STEM writer Deborah Lee Rose.
With the advent of 3D printers in so many schools and libraries, we are hearing from teachers and librarians how much they need books like Beauty and the Beak to connect 3D printing with both STEM and literacy. Interestingly, Nick Kloski of Honeypoint 3D (co-founded by Liza Wallach-Kloski) helped format the STL file for 3D printing replicas of the prosthetic beak for schools and libraries.
Do you see more exciting applications of 3D printing in the future? How would you like to see it evolve?
Teachers and librarians across the country are telling us how excited their students are about 3D printing—in connection with every kind of project. Now people can contact me via my website, www.birdsofpreynorthwest.org, to purchase a 3D-printed replica of Beauty’s beak or discuss with me the possibility of using the STL file to 3D print the beak at their school, library, science center or elsewhere.
You’re a biologist using 3D printing. In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D printing and sciences?
As technology becomes more and more a part of all fields of science, including biology, I think it’s very important to engage girls and women in any part of science that intrigues them, as well as give them the skills and understanding to use technologies like 3D printing in their chosen area.
We should encourage scientists, engineers, and technology developers to collaborate more and more—with the potential to solve problems that can’t just be solved by one person or one discipline.