Nigerian students design coronavirus care robot

17 February 2021 - 11:49
By Reuters
People are seen going into the National hospital.
Image: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde People are seen going into the National hospital.

Nigerian students have built a machine they hope can one day help hospitals remotely treat Covid-19 patients, taking temperatures, transporting medicine and allowing medical workers to communicate with patients with a webcam and screen.

The robot is a remote-controlled cabinet on wheels, decked out with a vibrant, floral pattern and dubbed “MAIROBOT”.

In a demonstration, a school nurse loaded MAIROBOT with medicine and a student, using a controller and goggles to see through a camera, trundled the machine through a corridor and into a mock isolation room to scan a student's forehead for her temperature.

“I hope this MAIROBOT can curb and reduce the risk that these health personnel get — I want health workers to be safer,” said Nabila Abbas, one of the robot's creators.

The robotics team at the Glisten International Academy in Nigeria's capital Abuja started out trying to build MAIROBOT by collaborating online, but eventually had to come together to finish the project in their lab.

But MAIROBOT, which took about three months to build, is still in its early days. During the demonstration, the isolation room door had to be left open for it, and it can only carry medication, so patients would self-administer while a nurse watches over the camera.

“Right now we are working on upgrading it,” said David Adeniyi, the teacher overseeing the robotics team, who says the students hope to make MAIROBOT commercially available one day.

For Abbas, the robot's use will not stop at the coronavirus.

“Other infectious diseases can also be curbed using MAIROBOT like Ebola, Lassa fever and all these infectious viruses,” she said.