CRASAR holds robotics workshop aimed at medical disasters

ebola workshop

The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Center for Robotic-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR), with funding from the Center for Emergency Informatics and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) Product Development Center, recently held two days of robotics workshops specifically geared toward medical disasters.

The first day’s activities were hosted by CRASAR and held at the National Center for Therapeutic Manufacturing. The day was separated into two portions. The first was a simulcast of shared presentations with the other three sites and brainstorming as part of the planning workshops on Safety Robotics for Ebola Workers for the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy National Robotic Initiative.

The Texas A&M Workshop on Robotic, Automation and Cyber Physical Systems for Medical Response to Disasters was held during the second portion of the day and provided additional discussions and brainstorming on general domestic medical response. These covered the state of the practice in Department of Defense robots and casualty evacuation systems that can be repurposed, lessons learned so far in using robots at the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning (University of Tokyo) and opportunities for community recovery (Texas A&M Hazards Reduction and Recovery Center). The day concluded with a reception and a keynote talk by Andrew Natsios from Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, who served as administrator of USAID for several years.

The Infectious Disease Response Workshop, hosted by Caleb Holt and the TEEX Product Development Center, was held at the TEEX Emergency Operations Training Center/Disaster City® complex the second day. Various aspects of medical response were the emphasis of the day and are included in many of the TEEX courses taught.

A major portion of the day was spent demonstrating the current practices in medical response by walking participants through various scenarios including a field hospital and showing how contaminated waste is stored and over-packed and how first responders, equipment and vehicles are decontaminated.

“The major takeaway was that robots do exist that could be immediately repurposed now to protect Ebola health workers, but how robots fit into the medical response enterprise is as important as what the robots can actually do,” said Dr. Robin Murphy, Raytheon Professor and director of CRASAR.

"It was an honor to be one of the four sites hosting a workshop with the White House Office of Science, Technology and Policy, and it is another example of how Texas A&M is a leader in emergency informatics and field robotics,” Murphy said.

Murphy and the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Texas A&M University has been training first responders to work with robots since 1999 and has developed two courses taken by  760 emergency professionals from seven countries. TEEX offers courses in medical response with props for triage, field hospitals, ambulances, and emergency room points of care at Disaster City and the Emergency Operations Training Center.  TEEX, along with Murphy , believe that robots will play a key role in managing an epidemic and in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. NPR wrote an article about Murphy and her work with Robotics and Ebola prevention at Disaster City. To read NPR’s article, click here.