Robotic Simulation Olympics get children excited about medicine, technology

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website.

RoboticVisitors get a look at a new robotic surgery system to be used by Lehigh Valley Health Network during the Robotic Simulation Olympics at Da Vinci Science Center. -Troy Strozeski

The Lehigh Valley Health Network is looking for America’s next top doctor.

You didn’t have to go to medical school to compete in the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s fourth and final qualifying round of the third annual Robotic Simulation Olympics at the Da Vinci Science Center on Wednesday. Close to 30 participants from two different age classes competed in the event.

The junior group, which was comprised of children ages 11 and under, competed in the jack challenge. Children competed on the dual robotic console, as they were able to sit in a surgical cart, look through a stereoscopic viewer and use a control panel to maneuver the robotic operating arms to pick up different colored jacks and place them in the right colored petri dish. Parents watched their children on the vision cart that showed images in 3D.

Individuals 12 years and above in the senior group competed on a robotic simulator as they tried to stack blocks and dominoes within a time limit.

Gordon Riggeway, who competed in the jack challenge, said the robotic machine administered motion perfectly.

“It tilts and rotates as your hands move,” Riggeway said.

Jay Vat, who is a college senior, says he envisions many more robotic surgeons in operating rooms across the country, a development which would help to reduce human error.

Although the competition is not robotic surgery, gynecologist Martin Martino said he started it because of the similarity between video games and the robotic systems.

“I think it would be great to give the kids the ability to think about being involved in math, science and technology and get them to dream about being something different and using their video game skills to good use, and I thought what better way than to let the robots come out and see the kids play and they are phenomenal at it,” Martino said.

Stephanie Nelson, the manager of robotic surgical services at the Lehigh Valley Health Network, said the robotic system also develops the children’s hand-eye coordination as they move the robotic arms.

The competition began three years ago to get children excited about medicine, according to Ann Fatzinger, the marketing manger at the Lehigh Valley Health Network. Over 300 people have competed in the three previous qualifying rounds this year. Now the top 16 individuals from each group will go head to head in the Robotic Simulation Olympics on June 28. Along with other top prizes including an iPod and an iPad mini, the winner from each group will also get an opportunity to shadow a doctor or a nurse, Martino said.

Since the Lehigh Valley Hospital received the robotic surgical systems in 2008, over 4,000 surgeries have been performed. Martino said some of the benefits of the robotic surgery are a smaller incision, whether in the chest or abdomen, faster recovery, less pain and smaller scars.

The robotic system is estimated to cost $1.8 million but is used for eight different surgeries, including treating lung and bladder cancer.

“It’s an extension of our hands,” Martino said

For information about the robotic surgical system go to or



11 and older category: Nicolas Kshatri, Milena Nino, Aidon Kontin, Phillip Doyle, Sherrie Zacker, Kelsey Snyder, Sudha Bulusu, Brooke Zacker, Kim James, Tiernan Smith, Cora Shine, Lisa Kshatri, Tracy Le, Madhu Guarau, Sophia Zacker and Heather Rome

Under 11 category: Marley Gardner, Isabella Jagato, Kyle Platton, Grace Wright, Luke Meehan, Natasha Goldman, Kyla Carpenter, Dylan Martinez, Cade Dietz, T.J. Seislove, Logan McNulty, Jessica Kelso, Dominic Walnock, Christian Piper, Lukas Davis, Alex Dai, Riley Aidala and Nicholas Zindcel

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