Mentored by engineers from the Technion, Israel’s leading technology university, a high school robotics team in Haifa produced a robot to deliver equipment, medicine and food and help protect hospital medical staff from COVID-19.
The robotics club at a Haifa high school has teamed up with engineers at the world-class Technion-Israeli Institute of Technology and developed a robot that will help medical workers keep their distance from coronavirus-infected patients.
Dubbed the “COROBOT,” the remote control service trolley allows medicine and food to be delivered to patients without another person present, driving right up to the patient’s bed and complete with a computer tablet to allow two-way communication.
The robot was tested last week, showing officials at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center how it can be also be used to carry equipment to the coronavirus isolation ward to the protective rooms. Like with a remote control car, an operator uses a radio control device to steer the robot.
As of last week, almost 3,000 medical staff at Israel’s hospitals were in mandatory isolation after being exposed to somebody carrying the coronavirus. That total included 631 doctors, 1,023 nurses and 1,220 other medical staff, including lab technicians, orderlies and others. Although the country has tens of thousands of medical workers, health officials are worried that continued exposure to infected patients will put too many people into protective quarantine.
The head of Rambam, Dr. Michael Halberthal, mentioned the problem of protecting staff from infection as they perform routine tasks during a meeting with colleague Dr. Rafi Beyar, a former director of the hospital and a professor of biomedical engineering at the Technion, Israel’s equivalent of MIT, Walla! News reported. Beyar suggested offering the challenge to the Galaxia robotics program at Haifa’s Reali High School, where students are mentored by Technion engineers.
“Rambam requested we help them reduce the danger to their medical teams who are working in coronavirus departments by using a robot that could replaced a team member to perform simple tasks like bringing medicine, food and medical equipment,” said Technion Professor Gil Yudilevitch, who knew that the high school’s robotics team participated in several robot competitions and had a core group of bright and capable students.
The students realized they needed something sturdy, maneuverable, bottom-heavy and able to get in between hospital beds.
The prototype was demonstrated at the hospital, where “the doctors fell in love with the robot and wanted to continue working with it,” Yudilevitch said.
The high school robotics program “is a team that can program very quickly and make it happen very quickly,” said the group’s supervisor, Tirza Hochberg. “If there is the need, we can produce several dozens of these robots in Israel.”
“It’s a very proud privilege to be working with such a talented group of youth, and and even bigger privilege helping the people who are at the front of the [coronavirus] struggle,” said Roi Yudilevitch, the professor’s son and one of the team advisers.