In West Africa, where hospital resources are limited, a group of engineering students from Ecole Superieure Polytechnique in Dakar are using their technical know-how to develop a robot that can protect healthcare workers from COVID-19.  

“At a certain point … we realised that medical equipment was limited,” Lamine Mouhamed Kebe, one of the student investors, told France24. “We can do something”.

In a hospital in Dakar, a small remote-controlled cart previously designed by the team brought equipment and meals to patients. As COVID-19 swept the globe last spring, Abdoulaye Bousso, who leads an emergency ward in the hospital, realized the remote-controlled cart could help hospital staff treat COVID-19 patients. Bousso asked the students to transform the cart into something more sophisticated. Since then, the student team has taken up the task. The team is working on turning the cart into a remote-controlled robot with mechanical arms, which they’ve dubbed “Dr. Car.” 

Dr. Car, which can be remotely controlled by health care workers, is expected to reduce their risk for contracting COVID-19, since it allows them to interact with patients without having to make physical contact. It contains a mounted camera, which health care workers can remotely control with an app, and which allows them to communicate with patients. Using its mechanical arms, Dr. Car allows healthcare workers to remotely record blood patient pressure and temperature. What’s more, it’s expected to save hospitals money, since it reduces the need for health care workers to use up protective gear like gowns and masks, which must be thrown away after use. They hope the robot will eventually be used to help treat patients in hard-to-access, rural areas. 

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