Student Robotics Meets Medical Robotics

More than a hundred thirty members and parents from 17 FIRST robotics teams, with students ranging from kindergarten to high school, coming from Livingston, Short Hills, Cedar Grove, Springfield, Old Bridge, Glen Rock, Morris Plain and Kendall Park, all gathered at the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey on June 24 for a day of surgical robotics adventure.

The 2010-11 “Body Forward” challenge season might be over for most FLL and Jr.FLL teams, but the interest in biomedical engineering is still going strong and moving forward in Livingston for many Jr.FLL teams from many towns and Livingston Robotics Club FLL teams.

Thanks to the St. Barnabas Medical Center who had sponsored the 2011 Livingston Robotics Club Jr. FIRST LEGO League Expo on Memorial Day weekend, the hospital had also opened its doors and the students’ eyes to the world of surgical robotics and real world application of biomedical engineering. This has been a collaboration between St. Barnabas, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Livingston Robotics Club/Landroids.

Spearheaded by team Landroids over the course of last few months, as the founding team of Livingston Robotics Club, the team is leading the way to make the real world connections with the medical, educational and engineering industries, in order to provide the club members and the associated event participants with opportunities to meet and learn from the professionals. Followed Landroids’ success in various competitions sponsored by FIRST, the US Army, Google, and the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the team had helped spread the interests and awareness in different Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competitions.

Shortly after the noon time, the “da Vinci” surgical robot and a simulator took the center stage at the St. Barnabas auditorium. With more than an hour of set up and testing by multiple doctors and surgeons, these video console-like machines were opened to a non-stop stream of youngsters and adults invited by Livingston Robotics Club. They stood in line anxiously to get a chance to look into the 3-D monitor and to delicately control several surgical “claws” with just using 2 fingers from each hand.

Below the stage on one side, was a video showing of surgeons pealing the skin of a cheery tomato using the da Vinci as a minimum invasive surgical tool and rock steady precision. On the other side of the room was a demonstration of laparoscopy surgery without using the robotics aid.

“St. Barnabas has been a leader in several different areas in the robotics surgery, such as urology, GYN surgery and gynecology,” said Dr. Michael LaSalle who led a team of robotics surgeons for this exhibition. “The first robotics transplant was performed in this hospital. The technology has been revolutionary and it is getting better. We are very happy to see all these young people who are interested in biomedical engineering, we thought it would be a great opportunity for people to see what we are doing at the Center”.

Meanwhile, team Landroids FTC robot roamed the auditorium as a crowd magnet to show the lights, sounds and the precision pneumatic claw design. Landroids also brought in a 3-D printer robot known as the Makerbot to showcase their real time CAD design and prototype making capability by printing souvenirs for the doctors and guests on demand.

“We are very pleased to work with the Landroids who asked to come to St. Barnabas to see the robot,” Dr. LaSalle added.

You can see more photos from Landroids’ Facebook page. For more information on the LRC Jr.FLL Expo, visit


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