Robots allow homebound students to attend class - - Columbia, South Carolina

Robots allow homebound students to attend class


A pilot program through Verizon Wireless is allowing medically homebound students to attend class using innovative four-and-a-half foot robots.

To most people, seeing a robot dressed up like a girl rolling around elementary school hallways and attending class would be out of the ordinary. Those at Alice Drive Elementary in Sumter have gotten used to it.

Third graders Hazel Grace Kolb and Lexie Kinder are best friends. Their desks sit side by side in their classroom, but lately Lexie's desk has been empty.

"We used to dress all up, and put a crown on her hair, and wiggle a wand, and put on little play high heels," says Hazel. "It made me feel like she wasn't going to be in class anymore, like she wouldn't be there and everything."

Verizon's remote tele-presence system, better known as "VGo" has changed that.

"It's not for every student but at the same time it can provide the school experience for students who can not be involved with that," says Dr. Shawn Hagerty, Director of Specialized Programs.

It was Lexie's decision to personalize VGo, which is now dressed in bandages that once covered her pic line.

"Lexie's is precious, I mean it's just, it's her," says third grade teacher Ivey Smith. "When I look at her, it reminds me of Lexie."

Now from home when it comes on, VGo is not the only one who lights up. Using the internet, Lexie can to drive to her desk.

In fact, it can take Lexie anywhere. She can roll down crowded hallways to lunch, but getting around desks is sometimes a challenge.

"I bump sometimes," says Lexie, "but that's okay. It is a challenge itself."

"In terms of interaction with others, in terms of friendship skills, in terms of feeling a sense of school culture, feeling the sense of remotely interacting academically, socially, it means the world to them," says Hagerty.

Lexie's parents say the experience for their little girl has meant a lot. "She loves the school she's been there since she was three, maybe two," says Christi Kinder.


"We're just grateful the school district has given us this opportunity and given Lexie the opportunity," says Scott Kinder.

Right now Lexie is just participating in math and reading.

Sumter County schools purchased three VGo robots under the pilot program. It is the only district in the state participating in the program and one of just 35 in the country.

Each VGo costs about $5,000, which is about the equivalent of homebound instruction for a student.

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