RAPID CITY, SD (KOTA) – Western Dakota Technical College’s medical simulation wing uses “robot patients” to teach students how to care for real people. These robots, known as mannequins, come in a wide variety. They range from a young boy with stomach problems to an elderly man to a pregnant woman – who can actually deliver a robot baby. A favorite among students and staff is Hal, an “8-year-old” who can make several facial expressions and has a bit of a sassy personality. Assistant Simulation Director Roger Habermann said Hal has many high-tech features.

“He is the most advanced pediatric simulator in the world,” Habermann said. “He actually does breathe, which puts him far and above most other high-fidelity mannequins.”

Other faculty members of the medical simulation wing largely credited Habermann for the program’s success. A former rocket scientist, Habermann was instrumental in maintaining the mannequins and operating them during training exercises. Habermann was named the American Technical Education Association’s National Teacher of the Year for his work in medical simulation.

While the mannequins are capable of replicating many bodily functions, perhaps the most important thing they can do is die.

“It allows students to make these mistakes here,” said Director of Simulation Krista Kirst. “The chances of those mistakes being made out in the real world are significantly less.”

When models “die,” it offers students a chance to learn from their failures and try again. The next line of models will incorporate AI to further develop their personalities and individualized needs. Kirst, Habermann, and other faculty members at Western Dakota Tech say they are excited to continue to grow the program.

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Western Dakota Tech students learn health care techniques by practicing on robot patients

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