Robots help link home bound students to school

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by JESSICA VESS

KVUE News

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 9:51 AM

AUSTIN -- State education leaders are looking at a new technology to get more home bound kids in a classroom.

A special robot called V-Go is linking campus to home. There are 21 of the robots in the state's Region Six District. This week, two young boys demonstrated the VGo Robots to the Texas Education Agency.

Matthew, 8, and CJ, 6, suffer health problems that keep them out of class. Each boy received a robot from Region Six.

The bots are fixed with a camera and a wireless signal that stretches straight to their school. It helped Matthew keep up with class while he battled leukemia earlier in the school year.

"Now he's back in his class. He's caught up on all of his work. He's taking tests just like his peers are, and he's right where his class is supposed to be," said Kip Robins, technology manager at Region Six.

Robins launched the VGo robot program in Region Six. It's called Morgan's Angels.

"This is what education is all about," said Robins.

Robins wanted to make sure no student fell behind. He named the program after the first Region Six student to use the robot, Morgan LaRue.

"I don't know how many kids there are out there. I want to help as many as we possibly can," said Robins.

CJ was born with an immune problem. He never attended school until last October when VGo walked the halls for him.

"He's developed his social skills. He understands what a classroom is. He understands what goes on in a classroom. Now he's actually ready to go back to school for the first time as a person in May," said Robins.

In the past 18 months, Robins says the program has grown to help 26 students in 17 school districts in Region Six.

"Even though you might want to be at school for real, it still is cool," said student Cristian Beasley.

The four-foot robots give students a sense of normalcy. The students can log on using a computer and tell the robot where to go using a keyboard. The VGo easily glides into classrooms. The screen shows the face of the student on the other end. They can talk to friends, ask questions and watch lessons as if there in person, sitting at the desk with their peers.

Of the 20 service centers in Texas, only a handful offer VGo machines for students including Region 6, 9, 13 and 20. Robins says next year, six more centers are joining them.

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