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Surgery for Engineers

Hands-on Experience with New Robot

da Vinci Surgical Robot

Students in Carnegie Mellon's new class called "Surgery for Engineers" received some hands-on experience recently with a new futuristic robot named "da Vinci."

The da Vinci surgical system — created by California-based Intuitive Surgical — is a robot with four arms. Three of them hold tools, such as a scalpel or scissors. The fourth arm is for a camera with two lenses — giving surgeons a 3-dimensional image of the medical procedure.

Allegheny General Hospital Neurosurgeon James Burgess — who developed the Carnegie Mellon biomedical engineering course — said students get to see how technology is helping surgeons go through smaller incisions, causing less damage and allowing patients to leave the hospital quicker.

"The purpose of this course is to introduce student engineers to real-life clinical situations, to develop relationships between the students and clinicians and to explore those areas of technology that these students have never seen," he said.

Burgess believes inspiration comes first; that advances in medical technology don't just happen. That is why he created the course, which takes Carnegie Mellon students into operating rooms around Pittsburgh.

The course is part of a regimen of studies offered in the fast-growing biomedical engineering field. During the fourth month of the semester, the students watch surgeons at work. In three-hour sessions each week, they observe operations that depend on robotic tools and computer devices developed by engineers. Students work with local hospitals and surgeons to learn the skills they need to develop the next generation of biomedical devices.

The course is also designed to get students excited about these new technologies and to even help develop some technology projects beyond the course, Burgess said.

Related Links: Biomedical Engineering  |  College of Engineering

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