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Miami student hopes to create first implantable mobile robot

11/06/2009

Junior Justinn Eddie works with Osama Ettouney, chair of mechanical and manufacturing engineering at Miami.
Miami University junior Justinn Eddie has his little sister to thank for inspiring what has become his life’s work.

Eddie, a mechanical engineering major from Cleveland, is working on an invention of a nano-sized robot that would be implanted under the skin or inside a vein and would travel on its own from one place to another to deliver nutrients or medicine within the human body. For Eddie, the project, from intensely researching the technology to programming a small robot as an example, has become his focus and passion.

"My little sister is diabetic and consistently needs insulin, which is only delivered through an outside pump that’s kind of clunky,” Eddie said. “Theoretically, it’s possible to make a robot at the nano level that could be implanted and deliver the insulin to her pancreas. She was only seven when she was diagnosed, so having a device inside doing all the work would have made life a lot easier.”

The mobile device, which would be nearly invisible to the human eye, is many years away from being a practical application, but Eddie is determined to see it through and be at least one of the first inventors to develop such a technology.

“It would have to somehow communicate to the outside, via small radio communication,” Eddie said. “If you were to enlarge it, it would look like a capsule, maybe football shaped, and have some sort of propeller for guidance to allow it to move throughout the body, but you wouldn’t see it or feel it.”

If anyone can do it, Eddie can, according to Osama Ettouney, chair of mechanical and manufacturing engineering at Miami. Ettouney became Eddie’s mentor in his freshman year through a program called Undergraduate Research Option, a part of the Scholastic Enhancement Program. They met once a week during Eddie’s first and second semesters. The programs promote the student as scholar and give them the ability to engage with faculty.

“When I first met Justinn, he was wearing a suit and tie and looked very professional,” Ettouney said. “It’s very impressive that a young man coming from high school wanted to do something so large. As a first year student, Justinn could comprehend the concepts of research and engineering design and lab work, and I just don’t see that in most students in their first semester.”

Similar research in nanotechnology currently exists, but is not mobile and needs to be injected close to the place of injury or disease, according to Ettouney. While Eddie’s work parallels existing research, Ettouney believes Eddie is the youngest inventor that he has seen to work on such a project.

Eddie, who also runs track and field and is involved in the Christian organization Athletes in Action, is now working on trying to pull together an interdisciplinary engineering team – such as chemists, computer engineers and physics majors – on the Miami campus to take his invention to the next level.

“I’ve been thinking about this and how it could help people since I was in high school,” Eddie said. “This is absolutely my passion and I’m happy to be here at Miami to have the opportunity to work on this.”

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