Teens file patent for robotics surgery innovation

Allen Laman/The Herald
Jasper High School seniors Nick Pieper, left, and Noah Mehringer are in the process of filing a provisional patent for a robotics surgery advancement that the two said could help save lives.


JASPER — Most best friends have a special handshake, unique nicknames and loads of inside jokes. Jasper High School seniors Noah Mehringer and Nick Pieper have something more.

The two 18-year-olds recently started a company — Mehringer-Pieper Innovations — and are in the process of filing a provisional patent in the coming days for a robotics surgery advancement that the two said could help save lives.

Marc Steczyk, who’s on Dubois Strong’s board of directors and is a member of the Ferdinand Chamber of Commerce, presented a grant of $4,000 to the seniors Wednesday on behalf of the Grow Dubois County board of directors to help the teens secure the patent.

“We can’t go into super detail with it yet,” Mehringer explained, keeping the details of the two’s creation hush-hush because the patent filing process had not yet been completed. “Essentially, what we’ve created is an innovation for robotics surgery, and I think that’s about as detailed as we can get.”

Grow Dubois County is a nonprofit committee that was formed to work in collaboration with Dubois Strong to foster and engage economic development and entrepreneurship in Dubois County.

Mehringer and Pieper were inspired to create their innovation after a health occupations field trip to a medical conference at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper last September that included talks about robotic surgery. Mehringer and Pieper immediately started bouncing ideas off each other, and then they found the one. They returned to the school’s engineering lab — both are health occupations and engineering students — and started working. 3D printers, machining tools and microprocessors have been important to the development.

Robotic surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery, meaning instead of operating on patients through large incisions, doctors use miniaturized surgical instruments that fit through a series of quarter-inch incisions.

Mehringer added of their creation: “When designing technology for doctors, one of the biggest things is user comfort. So we think this will make it more comfortable for doctors, more user-friendly. We’re hoping it can be applied to robotics surgery everywhere. We think this will be just another advancement in something that’s helping a lot of patients in a lot of places.”

The boys’ engineering teacher, Fred Routson, let them draft and tinker with their idea in his robotics class. The pair also worked on it after school and even during Christmas break. At one point, Noah’s mom, Marianne, had to remind her son his other schoolwork is still important, too.

“It was his priority over homework a lot of times,” she said with a smile after the grant presentation, noting that he’d often be up late working. Routson and health occupations teacher Atalie Schroering said the boys are enrolled in some of the school’s top classes as well as AP courses.

The two teachers agreed they could not recall a Jasper student filing a patent during their time teaching at the school. The teens hope to finalize the filing of the provisional patent soon, and will be able to share more information once that process is completed, which could be in a few business days.

Both students will study biomedical science in college next year. Mehringer plans to attend Purdue University and Pieper plans to study at Vanderbilt University.

“It’s been filled with many moments where we just kind of step back and just say, ‘Wow,’ at how far we’ve come,” Pieper said of the past eight months working on the project. “How much we’ve done, and how different it is from what most high schoolers would be doing.”

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