Robot allows teen to be present in class from home
Robot allows teen to attend class from home
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.”
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.