ITMO University Graduate Is Ready for Solving the Problem of Children's Prosthetics

How to build a lunar rover? When human lives will be fully automated? What is the role of robots in rehabilitation medicine? These and many other questions were answered by Ilya Chekh, the graduate of Fine Mechanics and Technology Department and the member of the VI Science Slam, which was held in St. Petersburg recently. 

How to build a lunar rover? When people's lives will be fully automated? What is the role of robots in rehabilitation medicine? These and many other questions were answered by Ilya Chekh, the graduate of the Faculty of Fine Mechanics and Technology of the ITMO University and the member of the VI Science Slam, which was held in St. Petersburg recently. 

- You're not just a young scientist, but also an entrepreneur. Tell us about how the idea of creation the company W.E.A.S. Robotics appeared?

- My company works in the field of robotics. W.E.A.S. is an abbreviation of the first letters of English words water, earth, air and space. This four elements of our world, which interact with people, and therefore we are ready to make robots for different purposes and for different areas. My team consists of all my classmates, graduates of the ITMO University. We conceived the creation at the IV course, but active implementation phase began only after graduation.

- You studied at the ITMO University in "Mechatronics and Robotics". Has this been a dream since childhood? Maybe you got the idea of creation the Iron Man suit?

- In high school I loved the technique. When I considered the options for entry, then I caught it in this profession. I thought, "If you become an expert in this area, it will open incredible vistas". The dilemma was the choice of university. I considered all the technical universities of St. Petersburg and could not decide. Then my brother, who had already received a higher technical education, advised me to enter the ITMO University.

- Can you tell us about the advantages that studying at the ITMO University gave to you?

- I can tell you about the Department of Mechatronics, historically specializing in mechanical engineering. Mechatronics is in fact a complex science, including programming, electronics and construction. Engineering and construction is seriously taught at our department. Due to this I have been working for two years as an engineer at the plant, has launched a lot of equipment, half of which was author. In general, the faculty gave me a comprehensive knowledge: basic programming, electrical engineering and materials science. If you have a solid foundation, in the future it is much easier to find scope for your knowledge and skills.

- Your team manufactures mechanical and electromechanical prostheses using 3D printing technology. What has prompted you to the realization of such socially significant project?

- The project started with the cooperation with the Moscow company CanTouch, which is engaged in industrial 3D printing. We have developed for them their own unique design, which does not repeat foreign counterparts. Then we met with the doctor from the St. Petersburg Albrecht scientific and practical center of medical and social expertise, prosthetics and rehabilitation of disabled, who told us about the difficulties in the field of children's prosthetics. From his speech it has become clear that this is a real problem that needs solving. Another turning point was the meeting with the seven year old boy Daniel, to whom our finger prosthesis was put. Seeing his smile, we wanted to do the same for thousands of other children. Thanks to the prosthesis Daniel could, like all children, play and move freely. It was this gleam in his eyes which has inspired us.

- You participated in the project under the auspices of the lunar robot "Skolkovo". What are the prospects of this project?

- The company where I worked is called "Selenokhod". It participated in the project for delivery the first private lunar rover to the moon. I was among the few enthusiasts who were engaged in its construction. But the project was canceled because of not enough private funding for its implementation. In October last year, the company won a grant for the construction of a docking system for small spacecraft. And until the end of January, we worked together on this project. But the theme of space in Russia is quite closed, and the market is very difficult. Indeed, in this area public companies usually cause more confidence.

- From your responses it becomes clear that you do designing robots for different spheres. In what other areas are you attracted? And is there any end point in this scientific journey?

- Talking about future plans, my choice is a medical robotics. I want to do good work projects. If we talk about global problems, I do not think I'll focus on one area.

- Due to business incubators, as well as an explosion of entrepreneurial activity in Russia, we can talk about the beginnings of non-university and non-governmental science. Can you explain the prospects and problems of this phenomenon?

- I believe that non-government science has much more prospects, because private companies and investors are focused on the speedy implementation of the project. Before them there is a specific task: to make the most useful and profitable product for a minimum period, spending a minimum amount of money. It is a market-based approach, which is relevant in the field of science. And if the part of scientific research is in the hands of private entrepreneurs, it can be useful for the science itself. However, you need to understand that it is impossible to do without professionals from universities.

- For most people, robots are the heroes of science fiction movies. After how many years robots may become commonplace assistants for ordinary people?

- Partially we already can talk about it now. There is robot - vacuum cleaner, for example. But seriously, the next step in the science is a smart home, which will help to automate the life of human. Then the era of android robots is coming. Smart homes are a phenomenon that will be spread in 5-10 years.

- International projects of science popularization capture Saint Petersburg and Russia. They arouse great interest in research of the most ordinary people. Certainly young women have become increasingly interested in young scientists. Have you noticed this?

- I can tell you that the increased interest in science is seen in students and applicants. There is a turning point now: people are not going to university to get a reprieve from the army or just for the sake of diploma. People enter universitirs to learn and to make their lives interesting and useful. As for the attention of girls, I can not say that I am a public person. Speech on the project Science Slam was my first experience of meeting with a large audience!

- How do you feel about the idea of starting to share experience and knowledge not only on the Science Slam, but also, for example, in the classrooms of the ITMO University?

- I'm sure I'll do it. In the near future I plan to create a course on Biomechatronics based on our department. Indeed, this trend is not developed well now in any university of St. Petersburg. The ITMO University has postgraduate Biomechatronics projects at the Department. But I dream to create a complete unit!

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