Doctors will in future be able to operate remotely on patients on different continents using a robotic hand, which was on show during this year’s Wits Science Week.
The exhibition is a part of the National Science Week initiative, which hosts events all over South Africa. The robotic hand was one of the most popular exhibits, along with flaming balloons and flying drones.
The robotic hand, which can be controlled from any location using two cameras, a computer and Wii remotes as sensors, was developed by Health Systems-Dynamics lecturer, Steven Dinger.
“It’s a new field,” he said. “It’s creating the ability for world-class surgeons to operate on patients in a different country.”
Dinger explained that such technological advancements would allow surgeons to operate safely in war zones without going into the field.
“It will also make way for surgeons to operate on patients in third-world countries from South Africa, Europe or America.”
The flaming balloons were filled with hydrogen and then set alight, creating a large boom, which wowed the crowds of Witsies and school children. The drones, built by engineering students, could hover above the ground and fly, when controlled from an iPad.
With over 15 exhibits, students could observe different experiments, look through microscopes at microbiological samples, drink South African herbal teas and even eat instant frozen yogurt formed using nitrogen.
Lectures during Science Week ranged from how modern human thought developed by Prof Lyn Wadley to understanding the importance of crystal structures by Chemistry lecturer Dr Manuel Fernandez and also searching for life beyond Earth by Dr Andreas Faltenbacher and Sashin Moonsamy from the Wits School of Physics.
Head of Wits Community University Partnerships, Dr Mahomed Moolla, highlighted the importance of getting all school kids to do science, irrespective of gender or race.
“We want to emphasise that both girls and people of colour can also do science. We want to break the stereotype that science is inaccessible to women or black people.”
Moolla headed up an initiative called “Science Slam”, which is the first part of a bigger project to help the public understand science. Wits PhD students are encouraged to present their work to high school students and members of the public.
“We want to create new knowledge that is accessible to the public.”
Dr Ian McKay, an organiser of the week’s events on campus, told Wits Vuvuzela their aim was to expose schools and Witsies to the science and technology Wits had to offer.
”We want to bring about a concept and display of the scientific and biological facets of Wits as an institution.”
Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he “hopes this exhibition will encourage people to understand the wonders and diversities of science. From the science behind teas to robotics, engineering and the origins of life on Earth and perhaps even in the skies.”
The exhibition will continue until Saturday August 9. It closes at 3.30pm.