Questions for ‘Therapeutic robots may soon swim within the body’


Min Jun Kim and his colleagues modeled their microswimmer robot after Borrelia burgdorferi (white squiggles, above), the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.


To accompany feature “Therapeutic robots may soon swim within the body


Before Reading

1.  When you think of the word “robot,” what do you picture? What kinds of jobs do you think of a robot doing?

2.  If you were designing a medical robot to go inside the human body, what challenges do you think you might face?         

During Reading: 

1.  What volume of the human body (as a percent) is liquid?  

2.  About how big are the microrobots in this story that scientists are designing?  

3.  In what way is the physics of the body’s environment different at a microscopic scale?  

4.  What living organisms are roboticists looking to as inspiration for their medical microrobots?  

5.  How does African sleeping sickness get its name, and what causes the illness?

6.  Why might “shape-shifting” be helpful for a microswimmer?  

7.  How has Min Jun Kim’s team solved the problem of powering a microrobot? 

8.  How could Kim’s microrobots deliver cancer medicines to tumors?

9.  What questions do roboticists need to answer before they can use microrobots in people?

10.  How can research in animals, such as mice, help researchers move toward using microrobots in people?

After Reading

1.  If you could design and build a microrobot, what would you like it to be able to do?

2.  Besides doing medical tasks like the ones in this story, what other types of uses might such tiny robots have?

3.  Would you be comfortable having doctors inject you with robots to treat your body from the inside? Explain why or why not.