A veteran with traumatic injuries. A kitten with an amputated paw. Some stories are just too moving for a blog post, but we’re going to try.

Karolyn Smith - Maker 2017 - Veteran

Meet Karolyn Smith. A native of San Diego, Karolyn enlisted in the US Army shortly after the events of 9/11. Serving as a machine gunner during combat patrols resulted in numerous injuries, including severe spinal injuries, post-traumatic stress, and a mild traumatic brain injury.

After years of medication and pain, Karolyn’s life began anew when a cutting edge treatment from UCLA’s Operation MEND gave her a spinal fusion. But that wasn’t all – that same year, Karolyn met Sophia.

Sophia Bionic Cat - Veteran Karolyn

Little Sophia was a kitten and an amputee. “She had no mother’s milk,” Karolyn said, “She was eight days old and she was still trying to get up… I saw the structural issues that I had for so long. I was like, ‘You are me.’”

Sophia and Karolyn - Bionic Cat at Fab Lab

There was an abandoned male kitten, Leonidas, that had bonded with Sophia. Karolyn adopted them both and found herself inspired. She embarked on a quest to create the first ever 3D printed detachable prosthetic for a cat. “This bore out of the necessity to know how she must feel, because it’s how I felt,” she remarked, “It’s what I saw coming down the line for her.”

At first, Karolyn was surprised no one had created a 3D printed detachable prosthetic for felines yet. “Of course no one’s done it, because it’s really frickin’ hard!” Karolyn laughed. “But that’s what innovation is about.”

Karolyn turned to the incredible makers at Fab Lab San Diego, where together they designed and developed a prototype.  Now, Karolyn is learning more and more about coding at the Fleet Science Center, growing as a maker, and developing the expertise and connections needed to finalize the design of the prosthetic.

The prototype is in its third iteration, still in development, and Karolyn is reaching out. She’s sharing her story and seeking those like-minded individuals eager to help cats like Sophia and their owners, or maybe just excited for the challenge.

“I came to the shelter to save a cat… but she really saved me.”

Hear the story. Learn the details. Meet this inspiring maker.

We’re honored to have Karolyn Smith speaking at Maker Faire San Diego.

Stay tuned for our speaker schedule.

Advanced tickets are on sale now.

Interested in learning more right away? Head to 3PawsUp.org, Karolyn’s nonprofit ambassador program, or seek out her children’s book titled, Sophia: The Bionic Cat. The book was written in an open dyslexic font, a new open source font created to increase readability for those with dyslexia.

Sophia & Karolyn - Kitten and Veteran Collage



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