Jasper High School seniors’ idea helps doctors perform robotic surgeries

Sourced from Dubois County Free Press

Nick Pieper and Noah Mehringer have an idea that could save lives and assist doctors with robotic surgeries.

But the Jasper High School seniors can’t talk about it yet. At least not until the idea is awarded a provisional patent.

Wednesday, Grow Dubois County provided the fledgling company, Mehringer-Pieper Innovations, INC., formed by the two 18-year-olds with $4,000 to assist them with the legal expenses of acquiring the patent. The pair is working with attorney Bill Kaiser at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP to complete the expensive process to protect their idea.

They came up with the idea about the improvement on robotic surgery after attending a conference on robotic surgery at Memorial Hospital last September. The pair were there as part of Jasper High School’s Health Occupation program.

“We came out of that meeting bouncing ideas off each other, and both came to the conclusion it was a really good idea,” Noah said. “We went back to the engineering lab (at the high school) and went to work on it.”

They also ran the idea by Dr. Kris Gunn at Memorial Hospital. The urologist regularly uses the daVinci Surgical System, a robotic system, to perform operations and he saw Nick and Noah’s idea had merit. With the confirmation from someone working in the field, the two ran with it.

Utilizing the high school’s engineering lab’s tools and engineering teacher Fred Routson’s expertise, the pair designed and created a prototype over the school year. With the prototype design finished, the patent will protect their idea as they continue to develop it and progress to bringing it to one of the fastest growing fields in medicine.

Robotic surgery is growing because it allows doctors to perform minimally invasive procedures allowing quicker healing for patients. Doctors can make smaller incisions and work in much smaller areas with the added precision of the robot translating their movements during surgical procedures.

Nick and Noah admitted their product would potentially make the interface with the robot more user-friendly for doctors.

For the AP students that also compete in athletics, the added work has been taxing. They have been working on it in the lab before and after school. They even came in over Christmas break. According to Marianne Mehringer, Noah’s mom, there’s been times when her son was working on homework until 2 a.m. as he balanced the development of the idea with maintaining his grades and participating in extracurricular activities.

But for the two best friends, all the work has been rewarding.

“It feels pretty good,” Nick said. “It’s good knowing that we could have an impact beyond ourselves at our age.”

The two credit their teachers, Routson and Health Occupations teacher Atalie Schroering, with helping them get to this point.

“The support from them has been amazing,” Noah said. “You have went way beyond what your jobs call you to be.”

“We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without all of you,” Nick added. “Especially our parents and teachers.”

Nick’s mom is Kim Pieper, and Noah is the son of Andy and Marianne Mehringer.

In regards to their next idea, Nick and Noah have some sage advice. “Good ideas are harder to come up with than we thought,”

Nick said. “We are hoping to do a lot more in the biomedical field. Fusing engineering and medicine is where our niche is. We really enjoy both fields.”

Nick and Noah will be running their company remotely when they report to college this fall. Nick is heading to Vanderbilt University and Noah will attend Purdue, both will major in biomedical engineering.