What’s Up With Robotics?

Last week, Mr. Benjamin Schwartz (p ‘21) brought the daVinci robotic surgery system to Blair. The daVinci surgical system is a robotic surgical device that is used by surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery allows less pain and quicker healing time. The daVinci allows the robot to do surgery all around the body. These surgeries include: pelvic, breast, abdominal, and thoracic. It is manufactured by he Intuitive Surgery Company in Sunnyvale, California. The idea of the robotic system developed within the military and Department of Defense. They wanted to avoid having their most qualified surgeons on the battlegrounds. The idea of the daVinci is allowing a surgeon to do a surgery without being in combat. When 9/11 happened, the satellites that were once used, had to be used to track Al Qaeda. Now the robotic system are in place in many surgery rooms where doctors operate directly.

Upon asking Mr. Schwartz about where he learned how to use the surgical system he said, “I learned how to use it during my training at the Cleveland Clinic, which was one of the first hospitals in the world to do robotic surgery.”

After speaking with him, I decided to talk to Mr. Garrant about Blair robotics along with talking to the roboticists of the club. The Blair Robotics team is up to some exciting stuff this year! In only two weeks, the team will be traveling to the New Jersey First Tech Challenge.

Dylan Bentley: What is robotics doing this year?

Mr. Garrant: Robotics is an after school activity which competes in the NJ First Tech Challenge. We compete against other NJ high schools in northern NJ. Every season, there is a new tech challenge. This year it is called the Rover Ruckus and our course models a lunar lander. There are different ways to build and program robots based on challenges we receive. We even had one of our roboticists go to states last year!

DB How would you define what robotics is?

MG: A chance for someone to develop creativity and a maker mindset. You get to do programming, mechanical assembly and some electronics

DB: What are they creating?

MG: I don’t know. They are trying to create something that will fulfill the requirements for the game.

DB: What are your hopes for the robotics team this year?

MG: I hope that students become more comfortable, confident, and interestested in robotics.

DB: What makes a good roboticist?

MG: High individual initiative, and someone who will take on a new task even if they aren’t sure. A person who is faced with a tough problem doesn’t let it defeat them, rather it drives them to want to solve it.

DB: What makes a robotics team successful?

MG: It is a lot about working together. One person by themself will not be successful. It seems silly to think of this as a team sport. It isn’t a [physical] exhaustion, but rather a mental exhaustion as the roboticists must work hard to solve problems. In a competition, you have two drivers and a coach, so we do have a competitive edge.

DB: How can students who don’t participate in the club, but still want to do robotics, fulfill their need?

MG: They can come to the makerspace. I have robot kits that they can try easily which have the same concepts and ideas as what we are doing.

What I got from my interview with Mr. Garrant is that in robotics there is no experience needed. It is perfect for someone with motivation and initiative, or someone who wants to start something new. In reality, robotics is for the students to have ownership of their robot at a competition.

I interviewed the members of the robotics team and asked them several questions: (1) Why did you join robotics, (2) do you have previous experience, (3) what are your favorites things about it, (4) and how do you like using the daVinci surgical system?

Hannah Walker (‘21): (1) Because I didn’t get into the play, I knew about robotics from Peter Lau, and I love Mr. Garrant. (2) I have minimal experience. (3) I get to eat fruit snacks and I enjoy creative thinking and design. (4) It was cool, and less scary than I thought. And it was pretty easy to maneuver.

Hayden Lee (‘22): (1) Because I didn’t make it into the play. (2)I have no previous experience. (3) Peter is very funny and Mr. Garrant is very helpful. (4) I really like it and it inspires me to research this topic.

Hank Cui (‘22): (1) I joined robotics because it is the best activity, and it is the best team sport. (2) I did robotics at my previous school: we did machine learning. (3) Our motors, chains, and Peter are my favorite parts of robotics (4) It was as amazing as Peter! We are using some of the same concepts for our robot but the daVinci has better precision.

Simon Dong (‘19): (1) I joined robotics because I had always had a passion for building things like Legos. The first year I decided to not join, but now I see potential in the Robotics team. (2) I did robotics at my old school. (3) You never really know what you are doing in robotics you just go with what you’re thinking. It is very innovative and cool. (4) They did a good job with making what your hand does exactly reflect what the robot does.

Alex Schamberger (‘22):  (1) I joined robotics because the play and tech crew were full. (2) I have done stuff in the makerspace before and it will be a learning experience, but honestly it is really fun. (3) My favorite thing about robotics is the people! (4) It is really interesting. I think it’s so cool that we were able to have access to it.

Peter Lau (‘21): (1) I did robotics last year and it was pretty fun. (2) We don’t have to run in this which is nice and it was fun last year. (3) I joined robotics because it was something new. (4) I liked how it used a gyroscope; it was fun to use.

Throughout this interview process I have learned so much about Blair Robotics, the robots, and the daVinci surgical system. We are so lucky to have all of these amazing opportunities at our school, and I greatly appreciate everyone who I interviewed.

(Copyright 2018 Dylan Bentley)

Dylan Bentley

Dylan Bentley is a freshman at Blair this year, and a contributor to the Oracle. She has a passion for both animals and history. Dylan has prior writing and photography experience from her position as editor of the yearbook at her old school.