7th-10th graders, parents to explore surgical robotics, advanced prosthetics at daylong Vanderbilt workshop

Snake robots will perform palpation of mockup tumors followed by a demonstration of a snake robot that’s sensitive to touch. A parallel robot system will demonstrate its value for eye surgery and cochlear implant surgery.

On Saturday, Nov. 13, a daylong program designed to showcase the role of mechanical engineering in the future of healthcare robotics – and robotics in general – is being offered by Vanderbilt University’s mechanical engineering department and Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth. The program is full – 30 students plus one sibling or one parent – and will consist of lectures and lab demos.

Students will see a virtual reality-based system that can sense a person’s eye gaze and physiological signals and infer if the person is paying attention or becoming frustrated, and then act adaptively in response. The latest prototypes of a robotic arm and leg for amputees will be demonstrated as well as a laser scanning system designed to give surgeons 3D X-ray vision.

Nabil Simaan, mechanical engineering associate professor and program coordinator, will give an opening keynote presentation: “Mechanical Engineering: An engine of innovation in medical applications of health care technologies.” He will introduce the role of the mechanical engineering discipline in the future of health care robotics and robotics in general. Design considerations and proper choice of mechanical architectures will be highlighted.

Participants will choose two sessions from five offered:

  • Parallel robots and snake robots for surgery – N. Simaan, Advanced Robotics and Mechanism Applications Laboratory (ARMA)
  • Intelligent virtual reality system for automated inference of biological signals – Nilanjan Sarkar, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Robotics and Autonomous Systems Laboratory (RASL)
  • Assistive robots for disabled persons –Michael Goldfarb, H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Center for Intelligent Mechatronics Laboratory (CIM)
  • Haptics, lasers and parallel robots for surgery – Robert Webster, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Medical and Electromechanical Design Laboratory (MED)
  • Precision pneumatic MRI compatible robotic surgery – Eric Barth, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Design and Control of Energetic Systems Laboratory (DCES)