COROBOT: Fighting COVID-19 with robotics

The COROBOT-2 prototype is enhanced to be able to navigate alone while seeing and reading signs marked with QR codes placed throughout the hospital.

THE PROTOTYPE of COROBOT – the dedicated robot at Rambam Hospital (photo credit: TIRTSA HOCHBERG)
THE PROTOTYPE of COROBOT – the dedicated robot at Rambam Hospital
(photo credit: TIRTSA HOCHBERG)
‘In March 2020, the citizens of the State of Israel entered a time of ‘war,’” relates Tirtsa Hochberg, who is lead mentor of the Galaxia Robotics team in memory of David Zohar at Hebrew Reali School in Haifa. “When in a war mode, we in Israel know how to unite and get things done.”
She and the team members of Galaxia made a significant contribution in building a robot to assist in fighting the COVID-19 war.
In March 2020, COVID-19 was an unknown challenge. Two situations presented themselves at the outset. The need for sterile isolation wards for COVID-19 patients, and protection of medical teams that are at the forefront.
The Rambam Health Care Campus approached the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Prof. Alon Wolf, founder and director of the Technion Biorobotics and Biomechanics lab, and Prof. Gil Yudilevitch of the aerospace engineering faculty at the Technion, who became project coordinator. The mission was to answer the need for a dedicated robot at Rambam Hospital. This robot would serve in the coronavirus ward, deliver food and medicine and transport medical equipment to and from the ward.
 “Prof. Wolf and Prof. Yudilevitch turned to our robotics team in the Reali school,” explains Hochberg, “because they knew we would be able to provide proof of concept, and build the robot prototype Rambam Hospital needed. Moreover, they knew we had the parts available and could build it fast.”
“The feeling of solidarity was important,” Hochberg tells the Magazine. “We were three organizations – Rambam, the Technion, and the Galaxia team at the Reali school – working together for the good of our country.
“To widen our pool of expertise, we gathered past members of our robotics club, and even parents and mentors. Within two weeks, we completed the first prototype and gave the initial demonstration at Rambam. They were impressed and asked us to keep working with them.”
Prototype 1 of COROBOT is mounted on a bi-level, stainless-steel serving cart and is directed remotely by hospital staff with a joystick or phone application. The COROBOT-2 prototype, developed a month later, is enhanced to be able to navigate alone while seeing and reading signs marked with QR codes placed throughout the hospital.
“We can manage and drive it from far away,” explains Hochberg. “We also added an interface and mounted a tablet on its upper tray, enabling fluent communication between the patients and staff.”
“We envision,” Yudilevitch says, “future models of COROBOT will be able to measure and transfer the vital signs of the patient.”
“Currently, COROBOT is a limited edition,” Hochberg clarifies. “We have not found the manufacturer to build this robot in quantity, and provide the necessary service, instruction and maintenance. However, we created the data and prototype. We are proud to provide the innovation to fulfill the need now and for the future.”
“The COROBOT is not a replacement for doctors and nurses, only an aid for their work and safety,” stresses Hochberg. “From my point of view, it was a maturing experience for the Galaxia Robotics team at Reali school. This time, we developed a robot not for a prestigious competition but to assist in a critical, real life situation.