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VA Research Week Highlights Local Robotic Technology

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is celebrating “VA Research Week,” highlighting the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Bakery Square, where robotic technology is being used to improve the mobility and function of people with disabilities.  

The KitchenBot can be programmed to make an entire meal; the Cueing Kitchen is a cabinet layout with appliances that gives audio prompts to those with cognitive disabilities so they can function in the kitchen.

Hervens Jeannis is a grad student in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences who’s been working on improving the Strong Arm, which is used to transfer someone in and out of a wheelchair, so that it can eventually be used without a caregiver out in the community. 

So far, the device has lifted a 185-pound mannequin.  

"We haven't put a payload of 250 pounds on it just yet," Jeannis said. "We're just trying to run through some tests at 185 pounds to see the pros and cons and what needs to change first before we move on to adding heavier payloads."

Stability control will be key to the Strong Arm’s safety and FDA approval, according to Jeannis.

Charlee Song has been covering news for 90.5 FM since 2000—an opportunity she considers a great privilege. She finds almost every assignment interesting and really enjoys working with both the veterans and interns at WESA.