by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Some Cuban experts have taken apart a Chinese electric scooter to build a prototype robot that helps out at a COVID-19 quarantine center on the outskirts of the country's capital.
Palmiche Galeno Plus, the autonomous robot, is named after a popular Cuban cartoon character and was developed by a team of professors and students at Havana's Technological University (CUJAE).
Juan Antonio Pinera, 24, a researcher at CUJAE, said the quality and availability of Chinese technology in Cuba made it possible to innovate such creations.
Palmiche is programed to carry out daily tasks, including delivering meals, medicine and medical supplies to resident patients and healthcare workers, while promoting safe social distancing.
"Chinese imported scooter engines, batteries, and wheels improve the mechanical performance of the prototype robot, making it more powerful," said Pinera.
"Cubans have learned to be very resourceful due to economic restrictions and the U.S. embargo against the Caribbean nation," he added.
Palmiche, which can move at a speed of up to 60 kilometers per hour and carry up to 500 kilograms, is also able to cope with local environmental conditions and changes in weather.
The robot has transformed the daily routine at CUJAE student housing-turned-isolation ward, where nearly 3,000 suspected cases of COVID-19 have received medical attention during the pandemic.
Ariel Reyes, 49, head of isolation centers in Havana's Marianao district, said the robot could be an affordable solution for hospitals across the country, guaranteeing delivery without human contact and reducing people's chances of contracting infectious diseases.
"Doctors and nurses are working in areas with a high risk of exposure. This prototype robot helps healthcare workers maintain physical distancing during the health emergency," Reyes said.
Ivon Benitez, 37, head of the Robotics and Mechatronics Group at CUJAE, said the robot not only opens up new possibilities for using the Chinese scooters in innovative ways, but also allows Cubans to learn from China's technological development.
"We want to increase partnerships with Cuban companies and enterprises that import from China. We want to help automate services and production processes in different areas of the Cuban economy and society," Benitez said.
Cuban professors and students at CUJAE have developed 25 prototype robots since 2017 as part of a government program to boost robotic automation in industrial processes and introduce young children to robotics.
In 2019, a Cuban team for the first time won an international award at a regional robotics competition in Chile, qualifying for the "All Japan Robotrace" contest to be held in December 2020.
Among them was Alexander Gonzalez, 27, one of Palmiche's developers, who said innovation in robotics should translate into progress for the country.
"We want to provide Cuba with robots to be used at hotels, factories, warehouses and hospitals. For the moment, we will continue improving the performance of our brand new prototype," Gonzalez said. Enditem