COROBOT to Provide Remote Medical Care to COVID-19 Patients

April 13, 2020

Students and alumni of the FIRST Robotics program from the Reali School in Haifa, led by Professor Gil Yudilevitch of Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, are designing a robotic platform to be operated remotely by medical staff, reducing their risk of infection by Covid-19. Dubbed COROBOT, the platform will be used in Rambam Health Care Campus’ new Coronavirus Department.

In recent weeks, thousands of medical professionals have been forced to stop working after exposure to or infection by the coronavirus. Whenever a medical worker is diagnosed with the coronavirus, the entire team must self-isolate for extended periods of time.

Safeguarding the health of medical workers has become an international priority, since medical professionals are on the frontlines against COVID-19 and are the most exposed to the virus. As a result, it is critical to minimize their direct contact with patients whenever possible.

Professor Michael Halbertal, Director General of the Rambam Health Care Campus, has been struggling with this challenge since the opening of the hospital’s Coronavirus Department. He raised the problem with his predecessor, Professor Rafael Bayer, and renowned robotics expert and Technion Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development Professor Alon Wolf. The trio discussed the need to develop a robot that would serve the coronavirus patients and reduce the medical staff’s exposure to the virus.

Prof. Wolf, who is the academic head of the FIRST Robotics program in Israel, contacted the principal of the Reali School, Dr. Yosi Ben-Dov. The school has a vibrant robotics club, “Galaxia 5987 in memory of David Zohar,” which has taken part in FIRST Robotics Championships in the United States. Things developed rapidly fromthat initial conversation, and last week the robot the team designed was presented to the Rambam medical team.

Prof. Yudilevitch joined the effort together with Professors Ezri Tarazi and Reuven Katz. The first prototype fulfils the task of transporting supplies to and from the Coronavirus Department. The robot is operated remotely by medical staff using a joystick or smartphone app, with the help of video cameras attached to the robot.

According to Dr, Ben-Dov, “in recent days we have been working very hard, while complying with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines. In less than one week, we developed a robot according to Rambam’s requirements. Kudos to the high school students and the FIRST Robotics alumni — some who are in the army, some who are Technion students, and others who have been laid off from work during the Coronavirus crisis — and of course to the parents who became involved and are supporting this essential project. I would also like to thank teachers Tirza Hochberg and Asaf Shulman, who spared no effort in helping with this important project, as well as Schnapp Batteries, which donated important components for the robot.”

“If the robot will successfully pass its installation at Rambam, in a relatively short amount of time we will be able to build more robots for Rambam and for similar departments in other Israeli hospitals,” said Prof. Wolf. “Then additional FIRST Robotics groups all over Israel will join the effort.”

“In the next stage the robot will incorporate a communication system that will include a screen, camera, microphone, and speaker, and will be able to move from patient to patient and transmit information to the medical staff in real time,” added Prof. Yudilevitch. “I hope that in the future we will add features that will help with the actual treatment, such as sensors that will check patients’ pulse rates and blood oxygen levels.”

FIRST Robotics is an international educational organization that uses robotics competitions to promote entrepreneurship and learning among children and youth. FIRST ISRAEL, led by the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, runs hundreds of groups across the country totaling approximately 14,000 students between the ages of 6 and 18.

For more than a century, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has pioneered in science and technology education and delivered world-changing impact. Proudly a global university, the Technion has long leveraged boundary-crossing collaborations to advance breakthrough research and technologies. Now with a presence in three countries, the Technion will prepare the next generation of global innovators. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world, innovating in fields from cancer research and sustainable energy to quantum computing and computer science to do good around the world.

The American Technion Society supports visionary education and world-changing impact through the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Based in New York City, we represent thousands of US donors, alumni and stakeholders who invest in the Technion’s growth and innovation to advance critical research and technologies that serve the State of Israel and the global good. Over more than 75 years, our nationwide supporter network has funded new Technion scholarships, research, labs, and facilities that have helped deliver world-changing contributions and extend Technion education to campuses in three countries.