DIX HILLS, New York, July 24
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
In its two-year existence, The Science Academy at Park Shore Country Day Camp in Dix Hills has helped campers to explore the basics of life science, physical science, engineering and robotics.
But on Friday, the academy hopes to brush the basics to the side and instead put campers into the driver’s seat.
Thanks to Intuitive Surgical, Inc. – a California-based manufacturer of robotic surgical systems – the 60 first- through fifth- graders of the academy, used to working with Lego and VEX robots, will have the chance to operate a robot valued at $2 million: the da Vinci Surgical System.
“It’s like playing with a Matchbox car and then having someone bring you a Ferrari to sit in,” Benjamin Schwartz, the medical director of Island Gynecologic Oncology, said. “The purpose of the presentation is to demonstrate to the campers what the da Vinci robot – typically used for minimally invasive surgical procedures – looks like and feels like. They’ll also see what it’s like to sit in it, drive it, and apply that knowledge to real-world situations.”
The da Vinci system was created by Intuitive Surgical and approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000. Surgeons like Schwartz, who will lead Friday’s venture, sit at a console and translate gross movements into the slight, precise gestures necessary for procedures like open-heart surgery and cancer operations.
Schwartz – also chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip – was first exposed to these types of robots years ago during his time at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Today, he works with them on an almost-daily basis.
“Over the last 15 years, robots have become incredibly commonplace and are found in many community hospitals,” Schwartz, who has children that attend Park Shore, said. “When I see what the kids at the academy are building, it’s fascinating how they’re almost identical to the technology found inside of the da Vinci.”
The robots built by the campers are part of an initiative sparked by Park Shore’s co-owner and director, Bud Budah – a former teacher – to further educate kids in the fields of math and science through the academy.
“Our robotics program is something that has to be seen in order to be believed,” Budah said. “Now [on Friday] we’re trying to take what we offer in the robotics program and show the kids real life experiences where they can use them.”
This push by Budah to give kids real-life experiences in the classroom is also backed by Julian Aptowitz, director of The Science Academy.
“Part of my educational philosophy is that you need to give kids a reason to learn,” Aptowitz, also a science teacher at Half Hollow Hills High School West, said. “By connecting campers with the da Vinci robot, probably the latest and greatest in surgical robotics, they’ll get to see what it’s like to apply this technology at a much higher level.”
While this venture into real-life robotics is open only to only those campers already in the program, Friday marks the end of the academy’s second of four two-week blocks that run throughout the summer. According to Aptowitz, there is still space available in the two coming sessions.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills (Thursday, July 24, 2014; A2)