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Tripura professor creates ‘Warbot’ to minimise human contact with Covid patients in hospitals

"I made this droid completely from scrap materials lying around in my lab. It cost me Rs. 25,000 to put them all together with the help of a worker from a local hardware store and it was ready within a week," Dr. Nath told indianexpress.com.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala | Updated: May 30, 2020 10:49:06 pm
Dr Harjit Nath, one of the youngest faculty members at Tripura Central University, joined the Department of Chemical and Polymer Engineering in 2016.

As governments struggle to manage enough Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) and protective gears for frontline workers to contain the coronavirus pandemic, a Tripura University Assistant Professor has devised a low-cost robot from scrap materials to minimise human contact for doctors and nurses and provide basic services such as distribute food and medicines to coronavirus patients admitted in hospital.

Dr Harjit Nath, one of the youngest faculty members at Tripura Central University, joined the Department of Chemical and Polymer Engineering in 2016. As reports of rapid growth of coronavirus positive cases kept trickling in from across the country, especially during lockdown 4.0, the 31-year-old IITian visualised making something that could help people minimise human contact and exposure to patients admitted in hospital wards.

“I made this droid completely from scrap materials lying around in my lab. It cost me Rs. 25,000 to put them all together with the help of a worker from a local hardware store and it was ready within a week,” Dr. Nath told indianexpress.com.

His droid, christened ‘Covid-19 Warbot’ runs on three 0.5 HP motors, a rechargeable battery pack and is regulated by a transmitter and receiver taken out of a toy car. It can run for 1.5 hours on a full charge and can carry 15 Kg load on a plastic tray trolley mounted on top of the robot.

Harjit feels with more Covid-19 patients coming in hospitals, his robot can cut down on human contact between nurses and patients and minimise the use of protective gears as well as exposure risks.

Similar bots were seen in Kerala, where a Kochi-based startup called Asimov Robotics made a similar, albeit more sophisticated robot to serve patients and minimise health risks for healthcare workers. But Dr Nath claims his bot is the first in the Northeast and feels there is a huge potential to develop it further if it can be put to actual use.

“I could add a program to make it attend certain beds at certain intervals, use thermal scanners on certain patients to monitor their temperatures, get it to run on solar energy, increase its runtime etc. There is so much more that can be done. Tripura doesn’t have many high end gadget outlets and during lockdown, nothing was available,” he told this publication.

On the subject, Medical Superintendent of state-run Govind Ballabh Panth (GBP) Hospital, where most Covid-19 patients are currently housed, said the bot might be used in the hospital but would have to undergo a rigorous technical expert committee test.

“We can’t say if this can be used in our infrastructure or not yet. There are a lot of things doctors and nurses would still need to do like collect swab samples, blood samples, push injections, run drips etc. However, such devices are being used in few foreign nations. If the innovator contacts us, we shall consider putting it through our technical expert committee,” he said.

At least 254 persons tested positive with coronavirus in Tripura till date, out of whom 171 were discharged from isolation unit after they crossed 10 days observation without showing any symptoms. Tripura claims to be conducting the highest number of Covid tests in the Northeast region, proportionate to population at 6,355 persons per million.

Out of 29,359 persons placed under surveillance for coronavirus, 18,078 completed the 14-day observation and were discharged. 11,281 others are now under surveillance, including 510 in quarantine centers and 10,771 under home quarantine.

Dr. Nath claims his warbot can prove exceedingly efficient in serving such patients.

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