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The Most Amazing Field Trip Ever

Saint Nicholas School's 8th grade class.
Saint Nicholas School's 8th grade class.
Saint Nicholas School’s 8th grade class.

By Devon Montgomery-Eder

My name is Devon and I’m an 8th grade student at Saint Nicholas School in Los Altos Hills. Recently, my classmates and I were lucky enough to go on a science field trip to Intuitive Surgical Corp., in Sunnyvale. We got to see, touch, and explore the epic robots and 3D software that were developed and manufactured here to help doctors perform different types of minimally invasive surgery.

After watching a video highlighting Intuitive Surgical’s technology in science class, I knew right away that our upcoming field trip to visit the world’s top manufacturer of robot-assisted surgery products was going to be really cool! For one thing, “robots” helping doctors perform intricate surgeries on patients seemed like the stuff out of a sci-fi movie. For another, actually being able to see the robots in action and meet the brainiacs who designed and developed it was an amazing experience. The field trip began with an overview from an engineering manager, about what Intuitive Surgical calls its DaVinci XI Surgical System. The main point we learned was that developing technical products requires lots of research, design work, testing, changing, and retesting, until everything works together the way it’s supposed to. It can take years to develop a product that is ready and safe for customer use.

We also learned that the DaVinci XI is called “robotic-assisted” because the surgeon keeps control of the tools and software used to perform the surgery at all times. These tools include a camera that is inserted through small holes in the patient’s body so the doctor can view the area being operated on in 3D high definition from a console next to the patient’s body. It’s like the surgeon can be “inside” the body to see everything up close and in detail. A variety of small-scale surgical tools can also be inserted through the same holes so the doctor can complete surgical procedures, such as cutting, stapling, tissue sampling, cauterizing, etc. The doctor manipulates the instruments from the console using a technology that Intuitive Surgical developed that allows a much greater range of motion than the human hand.

Once the overview was done, we were invited to “play” on several different DaVinci consoles. We enthusiastically took turns sitting at the surgeon’s console, viewing the 3D images, and manipulating a variety of surgical tools attached to the robot. It wasn’t easy at first to move the instruments accurately, but trying was both challenging and fun. The field trip was one of the best I’ve experienced in my eight years of the elementary school. After playing with some of the hardware and software that make up the DaVinci Systems, I was blown away by how closely it merged science, medicine, engineering, and technology. I am still in awe of what Intuitive Surgical accomplished. I hope one day I can help design and develop products that do something as useful and helpful for others as Intuitive Surgical has.