12:19 PM

STC Dual Engineering Students Watch Surgical Robot in Action


STC Advanced Manufacturing dual credit students from Mission Veterans Memorial high school were invited for the first time by Rio Grande Regional Hospital surgeons to learn about the advancements and limitations of robotic surgery.  Students were able to operate the DaVinci, a robotic surgery machine used across local hospitals. Shown above is STC Advanced Manufacturing Technology instructor Erika Guerra and Mission Veteran Memorial senior Manuel Salinas (middle in blue) learning about DaVinci. 

South Texas College dual mechatronics students from Mission Veterans Memorial high school witnessed first-hand the DaVinci, a robotic surgery machine used by surgeons from Rio Grande Regional Hospital. Mechatronics is the study of manufacturing, robotics and computer programming combined.  

Surgeons from Rio Grande Regional Hospital offered the engineering students a chance to operate the robot while understanding its real-world applications. 

"The DaVinci can perform anything we do that is laparoscopic," said general surgeon Dr. Ernesto Garza. “I personally use it for gallbladders, colectomies, hernia repair, gastric bypass, colon resection, liver and pancreatic resections and more.” 

Dr. Garza also points out the DaVinci’s limitations.   

“The robot specifically needs increments to be a certain distance apart so slim patients or small babies are not ideal to work with,” said Dr. Garza. “Certain surgeries also may take a while to perform, so the time it takes to set up the equipment for cases will differ from one that we can perform traditionally.”  

Another issue has become the need for availability of the nearly $2 million machine.   

“A lot of the other hospitals only have one, so if there’s only one system it could only be used once at a time, so now the question is, ‘Is it available for when I want it to be done?’.  

Dean of STC’s Technology campus, Sara Lozano said the live demonstration is beneficial to our students who will likely depend on robots in the future.  

"Showing students the potential of technology and the limitations is helpful for our students to learn because they’re the ones who are going to make the changes on how to improve technology and to see what exists and is used in the workforce right now is beneficial,” said Lozano.  

Veterans Memorial senior Manuel Salinas shares his decision in heading for a new direction based on STC’s dual courses. 

"Being in my STC dual credit classes has introduced me to new opportunities,” said Salinas. “I’ve been thinking of making the switch from civil engineering to manufacturing or mechanical because I want to make those innovations while I attend college."  

STC instructor for advanced manufacturing technology Erika Guerra adds that there is a need for local and skilled robotic engineers for the Valley’s growing industries.  

“Right now, in any industry, you can see the increase in where robotics and animation keeps increasing whether it’s in construction or the restaurant industry,” said Guerra. “And the medical field is one that keeps growing especially in the Valley and it’s great to expose our students who are taking these classes to see that this is something they’re definitely going to see in the future.”   

Guerra shares that her mechatronics dual students are FANUC certified— a level one credential in handling operations and programming that is beneficial in a variety of professions.  

The live demonstration was such a success between Valley surgeons and STC students that a similar demonstration will be held next semester.  

To learn more about our advanced manufacturing engineering dual program visit, https://www.southtexascollege.edu/academics/manufacturing/index.html