Delhi students build robot to aid health workers in fight against Covid-19

The robot Prithvi
What do a bunch of teenagers do when schools are closed and exams are postponed amid a fast-spreading contagious pandemic that has taken the entire world in its sway?

Instead of just spending leisure time on social media or OTT platforms, they come up with a prototype of a robot that can reduce the contact of healthy persons or health care personnel with the infected people; more so when the number of health care professionals, catching Covid-19 from patients, is rising day after day.

Consider these: On April 7, two Mumbai hospitals were cordoned off. While 26 nurses and three doctors of Wockhardt Hospital were tested positive for the Covid-19, Jaslok Hospital had 10 coronavirus positive staffers, including six nurses. On April 9, 30 health care workers, including doctors and nurses, of AIIMS in New Delhi were advised quarantine after they came in contact with a 72-year-old patient who was Covid-19 positive.

With steep and steady rise in the number of coronavirus positive cases over the past few days in India, health care professionals, who are at the front line of the battle against the pandemic, are most vulnerable, especially with dearth of Personal Protective Equipment. There were news reports, which said doctors in West Bengal and Haryana even resorted to raincoats and helmets to protect themselves.

Taking cue from countries like China, Thailand and Israel where a remotely-controlled robots tend patients, three Class XII students of Delhi schools have come up with their own Robot Prithvi. In China’s Wuhan – where the disease originated — a robot, Cloud Ginger, tended patients at a makeshift hospital. In places like Thailand and Israel, robots are being used for doctor consultations via video conference.

Nishant Chandna with the Rlrobot Prithvi.
Robot Prithvi has been designed by Nishant Chanda, Sourav Maheshkar and Aditya Dubey (an examinee of Class XII boards, which have been postponed). The robot aims at minimising contact between a Covid-19 positive patient and health care workers.

Maheshkar said the prototype of Prithvi was conceptualised, designed and built after a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 22. “It has been developed to protect the front line workers so that they don't fall sick in such times.”

Chandna said the robot had been designed to dispense food and medicines to patients and can be controlled remotely through an app. "It has a cardboard body and comes with a tablet mounted top so that doctors and nurses can hold conversations with the patient via the screen and camera.”

He added Prithvi came with an in-built Bluetooth and that it could also work seamlessly on Wi-Fi. On Bluetooth, Prithvi has a connectivity range of up to 50 metres.

They also plan to add another feature in form of a temperature gun, besides incorporating radio sensors for the bot to function smoothly.

So, how did they build this?

Maheshkar said at school, they had been exposed to the basics of robotics. “Robot Prithvi has been built using those ideas. We have tried to keep the designed as simple and ergonomic as possible so that one and all can use it without much training.”

Made of cardboard, basic motors, and a programmable board, building the robot Prithvi cost them Rs 5,000.

Maheshkar hoped if they could launch Prithvi at hospitals, sturdier material could be used to build the bot.

“We will use plastic, which can be sanitised easily and frequently as needed. Prithvi will reduce the number of touch points with the patients who are isolated, thereby reducing risk for health care workers,” he says, hoping to make their little contribution in this war against the coronavirus.


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