Devon Carrow is a second grader living in West Seneca, NY. Severe allergies keep him indoors, but he's found a way to interact with his schoolmates at Winchester Elementary School every day anyway. Devon remotely operates a 4-foot-tall VGo telepresence robot from home, which lets him stay connected to his class as they learn, walk through the halls, enjoy recess and attend events in the auditorium.
Winchester Elementary School principal Kathleen Brachmann, says, "I wondered how the little kids would take to him, thinking they'd be amazed. But I think kids are so tech-savvy now that they accept it more than we do." Devon's teacher, Dawn Voelker, agrees that his classmates are unfazed: "in the classroom, the kids are like, 'Devon, come over, we're doing Legos. Show us your Legos.' We don't treat him any differently. He still has to turn in his homework. He still has to have his mother sign notebooks. He still has a job in this classroom — he's the greeter. And he still has to pay attention — although there's times I look and he's off, the cat's coming in the room."
The 18-pound robot can sense stairs and other obstacles, like another student who might be bent over to tie a shoelace. The VGo has speakers so Devon can answer questions posed in class or speak to another student and his teacher wears a microphone so he can hear her more clearly. When Devon has a question, he turns on a light on the VGo instead of raising his hand!
Devon's classmate, Daisy Cook, thought the VGo was a bit awkward at first, "but now it's kind of cool, because we can communicate together. It's like he was never on the VGo."
This isn't the first instance of a student using a VGo robot to attend class, and we're sure it's not going to be the last. Telepresence may not be necessary for everyone, but for some, it's already making vast improvements in their lives.