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11/12/2017 11:28:00 AM
Surgical robot helps foster the future of health care, and get kids interested in science
Brad Cordes, center, shows Zeke Biek, 9, how to use the da Vinci Xi robot during the GEARS FIRST Lego League Qualifyinf Tournament in Mishawaka on Saturday, Staff photo by Robert Franklin
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Brad Cordes, center, shows Zeke Biek, 9, how to use the da Vinci Xi robot during the GEARS FIRST Lego League Qualifyinf Tournament in Mishawaka on Saturday, Staff photo by Robert Franklin

Becky Malewitz, South Bend Tribune

MISHAWAKA — Twelve-year-old Sean Lidy performed surgery for approximately six minutes Saturday.

Using the da Vinci Xi, Sean was able to manipulate the robot to move pieces of rubber similar to how a surgeon would use the machine in a hospital.

“It’s very cool because it’s a virtual version of what’s actually used in surgeries every day,” he said. “You get very used to it because when you look at it, it just feels like you’re moving your hands.”

The da Vinci Xi was set up at the GEARS FIRST Lego League Qualifying tournament as part of the partnership between GEARS and Saint Joseph Health System. The idea for the partnership came as a way to introduce the machine to the public and to get kids interested in science and engineering.

“We were just all brainstorming how to involve the public with our robot,” said Connie Nichols, director of St. Joseph Health System’s surgical services. “Rather than just do a billboard that says ‘we have a robot,’ we just wanted to make it real in the community and let them really understand what the robot does and how it helps our surgeons.”

The robot on display during the competition Saturday in the gymnasium at St. Monica’s in Mishawaka is actually a working model brought in by the company that built the one being that has been in use by the health system since October.

“This robot has changed what we can deliver in the operating room,” said Dr. Matthew Folstein, SJHS medical director of robotic surgery.

“The people who made this, they started somewhere, and these kids are on the cutting edge of technology, the cutting edge of robotics and in the future who knows what this is going to look like,” Folstein said.

“This is our future, these kids and so once we found out about what they were doing here we knew that we just had to be a part of that and help encourage them to continue with their dreams,” he said.

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