Innovation from Abilene and Wylie ISDs could help Hendrick motor along
A problem, then a solution.
It’s how engineering, at its best, is supposed to make the world better.
With the coronavirus forcing sick individuals into hospital care, those engineering principles are needed more than ever. Especially when it comes to ensuring patient — and healthcare worker — safety.
Students and faculty from Abilene’s two public school districts, along with engineers from Tiger Manufacturing and the technology staff at Hendrick Medical Center think they’ve developed a new way of meeting those safety needs:
“Why not robots?” Hendrick Health System President and CEO Brad Holland said Wednesday. “Why not create a robotic mechanism that … can put distance between our staff and the patient as needed? We can’t always do that but it saves personal protective equipment.”
Last weekend, Hendrick asked both Wylie and Abilene school districts what they could do to help reduce contact between patients and staff.
Working independently, the two school districts quickly got to work designing their robotic possibilities. On one side was Andy Hope, an engineering teacher at Wylie High School, who recruited in a couple of his students. The other side was Abilene ISD’s Larry Haney and Tracy Long, teachers at the Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math and Science, who created their own prototypes.
On Monday, they reported to Hendrick and found out their concepts were remarkably similar, Haney said.
Essentially, the engineers built a controllable base to a standard patient over-bed table. It allows someone distanced from patients to move the table in, along with whatever needs to be in the patient’s room, without risking exposure.
Driving it isn’t easy, except they also installed an arm capable of holding an iPad. The camera will be able to serve as the driver’s eyes while also allowing for telemedicine applications once in the room.
The iPad also allows patients to talk to their families, who will be able to communicate from distance, as well.
It has implications beyond just the current coronavirus situation, Holland said
“Sometimes chaos creates opportunity,” he said. “On the other side of this curve, I truly believe healthcare will be better, stronger and more innovative.”
Changing the world
Hope said he starts every school year off by addressing his freshmen students. They look around and take stock.
One of you, he says, is going to change the world.
He had no idea how right he’d be, nor that it would happen while they’re still his students.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have students in my actual class be the ones changing the world,” Hope said. “I figured they’d go off to college, go off and get a career somewhere and change the world then. But it’s really exciting to have students who are here making a real life impact on the community, on the hospitals around here.”
While Hope was calling in his young reinforcements, Haney and Long were on lockdown. But they enjoyed the experience because it allowed them to see what they teach their students does in fact have real-world application.
“To be able to do that an experience that as an instructor,” Haney said, “because … we teach this to our students every day. ‘This is how you do this.’ But we don’t always do this, because we’re teaching them and expecting them to see it. This was the biggest blessing I got out of this is I was able to see that process work and I can talk to my students about this.”
Long said Abilene ISD has focused on not just teaching students the skills they need to be successful, but also the morals and ethics they need to make correct decisions.
In engineering, that equates to always helping if it’s possible to help, he said. If the community is in need, you step up and help the people.
“The biggest thing for me was it gave us and our department an opportunity to actually help in a meaningful way,” Long said. “It’s one thing to tell the kids, but it’s another to actually be able to model this for the kids, as well.”
Wylie ISD provides devices
Wylie ISD officials began distributing computers and iPads to students Wednesday morning, meant to assist families with students stuck at home for the foreseeable future.
Those families living in the district were able to grab an internet-capable device, if needed, in a drive-thru manner.
It was similar to the opportunity Abilene ISD parents received last week as their district loaned more than 3,500 computers to families unable to access online education portals with schools not in session.
Any Wylie district resident in need of a device can contact Wylie ISD at 325-692-4353. Students in high school can receive a laptop computer, while those in lower grades will be provided an iPad.
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