Eastside students compete with robotic surgery device at Overlake

Curtis Reid of Lake Washington High School prepares to work with the robotic da Vinci surgical system at Overlake Hospital.  - Joshua Adam Hicks / Bellevue Reporter
Curtis Reid of Lake Washington High School prepares to work with the robotic da Vinci surgical system at Overlake Hospital.
— image credit: Joshua Adam Hicks / Bellevue Reporter

Robotics teams from Eastside high schools warmed up for their upcoming robotics competitions Thursday by trying out the da Vinci surgical system at Overlake Hospital Medical Center.

Students participated in a challenge to see who was fastest at completing certain tasks with the $2 million machine, which is designed to perform minimally invasive operations.

Issaquah High student Greg Finch finished first, earning a trophy and a $100 gift certificate to an electronics store.

Jonathan Pyke of Bellevue's International School took second place, earning a $50 gift certificate to the same store.

The students tested their abilities with skill-building tasks that actual surgeons use while training on the da Vinci system.

"It felt natural, like using my own arms," Lake Washington High School student Curtis Reid. "You can just pick up the objects and go right there."

Robotics students nationwide are gearing up for FIRST Robotics competitions, which begin next month. The Microsoft Seattle Regional takes place March 25-27 at Key Arena.

Contestants have six weeks to plan, build, and practice for the events, which involve a series of games played by remote-controlled robots.

International School student Da-Hee Im said the da Vinci operates smoother than anything her team has built.

"The movements are really fluid," she said. "It's not like our robots that are really clunky."

The da Vinci system is designed to create tiny incisions that cause less trauma to the body and allow for speedier recovery times.

The robotic arms on the machine have a full range of motion, which allow movements that are impossible with human arms. The system also provides three-dimensional views of the surgical field.

Overlake will use the device for gynecological and urological surgeries.

"We bought it in response to patient demand and to keep up with technology," said Kenneth Rush, director of perioperative services for Overlake. "If you don't have a surgical robot for certain procedures, patients will go elsewhere to get them done."

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