September 2, 2013

Robots in School


Shelby: What if robots ruled your school?

Scott: Sounds like a dance party to me…or the setting of a really scary movie.

Maggie: Okay, guys. I know it sounds like a sci-fi story, but this is actually happening! And it is something that you could be seeing a lot more of this fall.

New technology is not a novelty in schools, but these new robots might still surprise you. They may be among your newest peers.

Shanalin Heath is back in class now, but she didn’t miss a beat when she was out of school for more than a month. This robot, the VGo, went to school for her while she was at home recovering from facial reconstructive surgery.

VGo: Will this be on the next test?

Shanalin Heath: I was able to see all the lesson materials on the board, and I was still able to communicate with the class and the teacher.

Payton Cutting: I also thought it was so cool. Like, I would move the chair for her so she could still sit next to me in class.

Maggie: Meanwhile, over at Virginia Tech, they are experimenting with BEAM technology, a similar robot that is like Skype on wheels. Like the VGo, it gives its users – potentially students and teachers – the feeling of being in the same room with one another even if the person controlling the robot is hundreds of miles away.

Senior Director Jennifer Sparrow: So, I would call it being-able-to-be-there-without-actually-being-there device.

Maggie: These devices are helping students stay involved and avoid missing classes due to sickness or injury.

Stacy Huyck: Well, I think it gives the student that’s at home a sense of belonging.

Maggie: One roadblock to the increased usage of this type of technology is how much these robots cost. BEAM technology costs as much as $16,000 per unit, while the VGo is bit more affordable at just under $6,000 plus an annual subscription that comes out to about a hundred dollars a month. Despite the high cost, the novelty of the robots seems to go a long way.

Christian Cabrera: We’re a small school, so you would never expect that we would get a robot that would, like, roam through the halls with us.

Maggie: These technologies could revolutionize the classroom.

Sparrow: We have a real opportunity to bring in new and interesting technologies and figure out how they fit.

Maggie: Pretty awesome, right?

Scott: I mean, any excuse to do the robot!


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