AN INVITING ECOSYSTEM
America Is a Nation of Makers, Says HHS’s Fox

Susannah Fox, HHS chief technology officer,
addresses a recent National Week of Making
assembly in Masur Auditorium.
Susannah Fox, HHS chief technology officer, addresses a recent National Week of Making assembly in Masur Auditorium.

Susannah Fox, HHS chief technology officer, sees herself as a lookout sitting in a crow’s nest. Perched high atop a ship’s mast, the lookout’s job is to alert the crew down below to both hazards and opportunities on the horizon.

“The opportunity that I see in the current landscape is in manufacturing—the ability to prototype, test and share designs for medical and assistive devices at lower costs and on a faster timeline than we’ve ever imagined,” she said at the recent “Making Health: Inspiring Innovative Solutions for Research and Clinical Care” symposium in Masur Auditorium.

Fox presented the keynote address at the event, which also featured a panel discussion and five presentations from scientists who are using new technologies such as 3-D printing to improve health care.

From Dr. John Gibbon, who built the first heart-lung machine on his kitchen table, to Alaskan natives who can fix a plane or a boat with only duct tape and wire, the United States is a nation of makers, Fox said.

She called NIH a “shining beacon of creative confidence. This campus is full of people who look at a problem and say, ‘Let’s go, let’s solve this!’”

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‘Co-Robots’ Capture Congressional Attention

Dr. Cang Ye demos his
NEI-funded co-robotic
cane, featuring speech
interface, 3-D camera
and motorized roller tip.
Dr. Cang Ye demos his NEI-funded co-robotic cane, featuring speech interface, 3-D camera and motorized roller tip.

Three NIH-funded co-robots caught the eyes and interest of Capitol Hill staffers at a National Robotics Initiative (NRI) briefing: a co-robotic cane for the visually impaired, a brain-controlled exoskeleton for stroke victims and a mechanized exoskeleton that helps people paralyzed from the waist down walk.

Coordinated by the Congressional Robotics Caucus and co-hosted by Reps. Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), the recent event at the Rayburn House Office Bldg. marked the fifth anniversary of the NRI.

The NRI is a multi-agency research initiative that supports the development of next-generation robotics technology. Co-robots are robots that work cooperatively with people. “The focus is on applications in which robots work with or beside people to extend or augment human capabilities and make the most of each other’s strengths,” said Doyle.

The NRI is coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Institutes taking part include NIBIB, NEI, NIA, NICHD, NIDCD, NINDS, NINR and OBSSR.

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