Inspiring Future Health Care Engineers: SJHS Robotics Challenge Final

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Health System and Robotics Studio team up to inspire kids to enter the world of health care engineering through a robotics challenge with naming rights to surgical systems used in the hospital for the winners.

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Students investigate the da Vinci Surgical System Xi in between their competition times.

"Robotics is such a large part of our care today and will continue to grow," said Dr. Matthew Folstein, medical director of robotic surgery at Saint Joseph Health System. "This generation has a significant ability to impact how health care looks and feels in the future."

Twenty-two student teams in grades 4 - 8 have been working hard to make sure the robots they built and programmed are ready for their final event in the Saint Joseph Health System (SJHS) Robotics Challenge on April 22. At stake are naming rights for two robotic surgical systems used at SJHS Mishawaka Medical Center.

“Keeping the young minds of our community interested in the fields of science, math engineering and technology is crucial for the future of health care,” said Dr. Matthew Folstein, medical director of robotic surgery at SJHS. “Robotics is such a large part of our care today and will continue to grow. This generation has a significant ability to impact how health care looks and feels in the future.”

Launched in January, the challenge series was created through a partnership between SJHS and Granger Exploration and Robotics Studio (GEARS). GEARS is a non-profit organization designed to help kids explore and learn about science, math and technology through robotics. Each challenge hosts a chance for teams to compete with their robots, and learn about the use of robots in healthcare.

The first of the four challenges gave students a glimpse of a robot used in knee surgeries, the MAKO Surgical RIO™ Robotic Arm Interactive Orthopedic Systems. Kids got a hands-on experience where they plotted the surgery site with landmarks, registered arrays, cut with a saw bone and attached implants. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Sieradzki was on hand to guide students through the experience.

The second event featured the InTouch Telehealth robot, used to connect patients with specialty physicians through virtual interaction, real-time audio and visual consultations. Students and staff at SJHS Plymouth Medical Center engaged in a real-time role play of a patient and physician interaction.

At the third challenge, students and coaches got the chance to ask general surgery team lead and da Vinci coordinator Megan Conyveou about her role as a nurse in the world of robotics. She described how she assists the surgeon in repairing hernias using the robot, and the reduced recovery time robots have introduced.

“Robotics competitions are held all around the world,” said Scott Chase, owner of GEARS. “But giving our students a chance to see how robots are used in hospitals today is invaluable and hopefully inspiring.”

The challenge finale will be held at the South Bend Mini Makers Faire, where winners will be announced. Competing students, as well as faire goers, will have the chance to encounter a hands-on experience on the Intuitive Surgical da Vinci Surgical System Xi®, which is used in a variety of procedures such as colon resections, hernia repairs and treatment for endometriosis. Folstein will show students how he uses the robot with patients during his surgeries.

The two winning teams will be invited to a “Doctors for the Day” tour, guided by Folstein and the SJHS surgical team. Students also will have a chance to see the chosen names inscribed on the robotic systems during a naming celebration.

In addition, these two teams, as well as the third-place team, will receive robotic equipment for future competitions. Currently, the Washing MISHines team has a one-point lead for first place. Trailing closely behind are the Holy LEGOs, Amazzi, and Creative Crusaders.

The South Bend Mini Makers Faire will be held at Success Academy, located at 3408 Ardmore Trail, South Bend, Indiana. The SJHS Robotics challenge will begin at 10:30 am with an awards ceremony at 3:30 pm in the Main Gym. The special presentation, final competition and award ceremony can be seen live by visiting the Saint Joseph Health System Facebook page at 10:30 am on April 22.

About Saint Joseph Health System
Saint Joseph Health System (SJHS) is a not-for-profit healthcare system located in North Central Indiana that offers acute-based hospital care and post-acute services including: community wellness, physical rehabilitation, home care, physician clinics, outpatient services, independent and assisted senior living, memory care and affordable senior apartments. SJHS includes: Mishawaka Medical Center; Plymouth Medical Center; Rehabilitation Institute; Outpatient services of the Elm Road Medical Campus; Health Insurance Services; Physician Network; VNA Home Care; the Senior Living Communities at St. Paul's, Holy Cross and Trinity Tower; and Saint Joseph PACE. SJHS serves more than 200,000 members of the Michiana community annually. SJHS is a Regional Health Ministry of Trinity Health in Livonia, Michigan.

Granger Exploration and Robotics Studio is a not-for-profit organization designed to encourage and challenge kids in the world of science, math and technologies. It hosts competitive robotics leagues for students in grades 1-12. It also uses real-world problems and challenges students to critically think about a solution. GEARS is an ETHOS Science Center program.


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Jessica Schramski Shirley