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August 16, 2017

Talking Points

Video-enabled robot allows ailing student to attend middle school with classmates

VGo’s mobile robot lets sick student participate in daily life at school

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This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories, and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.

The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper would be so proud. While the television character once built his own video-enabled robot to protect his body from the perils of the outside world (OK, so he used it in the comfort of his own apartment), a student at Kimpton Middle School in Munroe Falls, Ohio, has an actual need for a similar device.

 

Using the VGo mobile interactive device, a seventh-grade student with a medical condition that prevents her from attending classes in person will have the next best option: being present at school in real time via video, able to navigate the halls, stay connected with her classmates, and interact with her teachers. 



The robot has wheels that allows it to travel through the school and a small video monitor, camera, and microphones for remote control and connection to the student’s house. 

“We’re very excited about it. We’re really proud of it,” Superintendent Tom Bratten told the Stow Sentry newspaper. He said the girl’s parents “would love her to have the experience of being with classmates, attending classes every day, and this robot, if you will, for lack of a better term, attends class on her behalf and sends a live feed of every class to [the girl] on the other end. She can attend class daily and see all the lessons going on. She can speak through the robot.”



The $3,200 device, already in use in a handful of schools across the country, has an adjustable height up to 5 feet tall, can rotate views in multiple directions, lasts a full day between charges, and maneuvers in tight spaces. The device also protects student privacy—it doesn’t record and stays in public areas.



School board member Lisa Johnson-Bowers says the robot will not only help a student confined to her home but also provide an opportunity for growth and understanding for the girl’s entire class. “It changes their life,” she says. “It’s really cool.”