Robot al­lows teen to be present in class from home

Robot al­lows teen to at­tend class from home

Maryland Independent - - Front Page -

Kayla Kemp gets ready for class dif­fer­ently than most of her class­mates, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from Charles County Pub­lic Schools.

From the couch in her Wal­dorf liv­ing room, she turns on her iPad be­fore her sta­tis­tics class be­gins. It’s quiet, but then after a minute or two, “I can hear peo­ple,” she said, the screen on the iPad light­en­ing as a class­room closet door swings up and her sta­tis­tics teacher Craig Heath greets her.

“Hi, Kayla. Do you want to take your­self or do you want me to carry you?”

With a stack of text­books be­side her, Kemp is wait­ing for Ad­vanced Place­ment sta­tis­tics to start. Cahill, the robot she con­trols via an app on her per­sonal iPad, al­lows her to roll down the school’s hall­way. Stu­dents dodge out of her way, ig­nore her or say “Hi, Kayla” as she mo­tors by, the base of the robot re­sem­bling a minia­ture Seg­way.

Other stu­dents, still giddy by the idea of a peer at­tend­ing class via telep­res­ence, fol­low her to Heath’s room and take photos of the robot — an iPad, with Kemp’s face on the screen, perched on an ad­justable pole.

“They’re not even in this class,” Kemp said, watch­ing the laugh­ing pho­tog­ra­phers turn and leave.

Kemp is pi­lot­ing the robot pro­gram after a bro­ken an­kle landed her at home dur­ing the back end of her se­nior year, ac­cord­ing to the re­lease. While ar­rang­ing her sched­ule, a home and hospi­tal in­struc­tor could be found for her other sub­jects, but lo­cat­ing a sta­tis­tics tu­tor proved tricky.

“When stu­dents are un­able to at­tend school, they of­ten be­come dis­con­nected with what is go­ing on in their classes, even if they are given as­sign­ments to com­plete at home,” Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Kimberly Hill said in the re­lease. “In Charles County Pub­lic Schools we be­lieve in the im­por­tance of re­la­tion­ships.”

About a month ago, Hill was shown a vir­tual demon­stra­tion of a Dou­ble Ro­bot­ics telep­res­ence robot. The de­vices launched in 2012 and were orig­i­nally de­signed to al­low telecom­muters and re­mote work­ers to have a phys­i­cal pres­ence in the of­fice, said Sara Broyles, com­mu­ni­ca­tions lead for Dou­ble Ro­bot­ics.

“But it’s use case has since ex­panded to ed­u­ca­tion and health­care,” she said.

The Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany has sold more than 6,000 Dou­bles world­wide with about 2,000 be­ing used in schools, Broyles said.

See­ing the pos­i­tive im­pli­ca­tions it could have for stu­dents — es­pe­cially those un­der home and hospi­tal in­struc­tion — Hill said she would like Charles County Pub­lic Schools (CCPS) to test a pro­gram. In 2015, a Poolesville ele­men­tary school used a sim­i­lar robot to al­low a fifth grader to at­tend class while un­der­go­ing treat­ment for can­cer. Pete Cevenini, chief of in­struc­tional tech­nol­ogy for CCPS, fore­sees the school sys­tem us­ing the de­vices in a sim­i­lar way.

So far, so good if Kemp’s case proves stan­dard.

“I think it’s go­ing to be more and more com­mon to hear about,” Cevenini said.

He added that al­though Kemp only at­tends one class us­ing Cahill, other stu­dents could po­ten­tially use it to at­tend school all day while en­rolled in home and hospi­tal in­struc­tion.

All stu­dents will need is a way to con­nect to the app through a phone, tablet or com­puter from their home or a hospi­tal.

Cevenini said after the robot ar­rived it took about two hours to get up and rolling. Get­ting other stu­dents used to it took a bit longer.

“It took a cou­ple of days for stu­dents to ad­just to hav­ing the robot here,” Heath said. “But after that, it’s been pretty smooth.”

“At first, it blew my mind,” said se­nior Jalin Thomas. “But you get used to it.” Ben Booker, a class­mate of Kemp’s agreed. “It was kind of sur­pris­ing,” he said. “We weren’t ex­pect­ing it.”

Now class­mates have no prob­lem telling Kemp to fix her screen when they only see the top of her head.

“You look like a potato,” her friend Efeohe Sule­man joked. Later, when Kemp is mov­ing the robot around the ta­ble her friends have taken over among a smat­ter­ing of books, pa­pers and a lone base­ball glove, Sule­man ad­mits that not ever yone has the op­por­tu­nity to share a text­book with a robot.

“I think it’s funny,” she said, watch­ing Kemp com­plete a three-point turn after get­ting stuck in a corner. “It’s cool as well.”

“Tech­nol­ogy will never re­place great teach­ing,” Hill said in the re­lease. “But in this case, in cer­tainly en­hances our abil­ity to meet the needs of our stu­dents.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTOS

After break­ing her an­kle in two places, West­lake High School se­nior Kayla Kemp has been keep­ing up with her classes with the help of home and hospi­tal in­struc­tion staff and a robot nick­named Cahill who al­lows her to at­tend Ad­vanced Place­ment sta­tis­tics re­motely.

Jas­mine An­drade, left, Kayla Kemp and Efeohe Sule­man talk about Ad­vanced Place­ment sta­tis­tics at West­lake High School. Kemp, who broke her an­kle, at­tends the class re­motely with the help of a robot.

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