homepage logo

Cape teen uses 3-D printer to raise money for Friends of Wildlife

By Staff | Jul 9, 2020

An already sharp mind of the next generation found a way to tie his school project into protecting Cape Coral’s official bird via new technology.

Alex Brown, a 13-year-old Pennsylvania native whose family owns a home in the Cape created miniature burrowing owls using his 3D printer to raise $150 for the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife.

What started as a school project that never came to fruition due to COVID-19 is now the inaugural donation for CCFW’s brand new “Adopt an Owl” fundraising program.

“I think they’re the cutest things ever,” Brown said when asked why he chose Cape Coral’s feathery little friends. “I realize their population is in danger, so I decided I needed to try and help them financially by donating to the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife.”

Brown, like many Cape Coral residents, often gets an up-close-and-personal look at these owls via a nearby burrow at his Northwest Cape Coral home. The connection he’s made with the owls travels with him up the East Coast to his home in Pennsylvania where this school project originated. His family decided to come down to Cape Coral to stay when schools closed due to coronavirus, and is now planning their return home shortly.

Brown could have picked any topic of his choosing in his “project based learning” class at Dock Mennonite Academy, and he chose burrowing owls. He went to work on researching the owls, their appearance, their habits, habitats and all things burrowing owls.

When the school was forced to close and the class effectively ended, Brown’s passion for Cape Coral’s — and clearly his — favorite bird did not.

Determined to continue on, he created his design, fired up his 3D printer, and through trial and tribulation produced his finished product. The little owls are made of plastic filament and stand about 2 inches high. He sold 15-20 of them to friends and family and provided a brochure with information on the owls and why their donation would make a difference. Brown did not put an exact price on the owls and said donations varied in size.

Brown got into 3D printing at his school a few years back and first created fishing lures. He got his own, smaller 3D printer for his home and started experimenting with it.

One example of his proficiency in design was making sure his base template of a great horned owl was modified in a way where their tufts, or “horns” would essentially disappear, as burrowing owls do not share that feature.

“I had to use the software to smooth the horns out and take them off to make it look organic,” he said.

Brown has also made fidget cubes, a mini-guitar, a grappling hook and a fishing reel using a 3D printer.

Giving back to CCFW made the young man feel good, he said.

“I was excited to give that money to them because I want to start seeing the effects and how it can help these owls out,” Brown said.

Vice President of CCFW Pascha Donaldson said Brown is an extremely bright young student whose generosity and enthusiasm for his age is inspiring.

“He’s just in eighth grade and wow, so articulate,” Donaldson said. “Meeting him was very impressive. He’s a sharp kid who is very into wildlife and very sensitive to it. It was a kind gesture from him to help a non-profit. I expect to see good things out of this kid.”

Brown received his certificate from CCFW and was surprised by the organization’s gesture and his family hopes to attend their annual Burrowing Owl Festival next year.

“We’d love to come back with more 3D owls and try to raise more money,” said Brown’s mother, Tara Brown. “We have a pretty big burrow here in our neck of the woods. We see them every day. I’m proud of him for getting the project off the ground and sticking with it.”

The newly revealed “Adopt an Owl” program gives the public the opportunity to help preserve burrowing owl habitats now and in the future.

There are five levels of adoption starting at $25 and ranging to $10,000. CCFW is in the process of trying to secure plots of land that have known burrowing owls or gopher tortoise burrows.

For more information on CCFW, their mission and programs, visit www.CCFriendsofWildlife.org.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj