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Robot Makes Schooling Possible For Homebound Second Grader

While I freely profess the damnation and death of all humans will come at the bionic hands of robots, I am fairly close to being able to admit that not all robots will be complicit in our downfall. AutoMeeS recently released a smartphone and tablet-cleaning robot, and I don’t think that little guy is going to be taking over anything any time soon. And I rather enjoy the recent upswing of robots standing in for children who are unable to make it into school, though these will obviously be the brains behind the Robot Revolution. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

Seven-year-old Devon Carrow is the latest to use the VGo telepresence robot to remotely attend school, which in this case is Winchester Elementary in West Seneca, NY, a school that accepted young Devon’s robo-student where other schools had balked at the robot’s camera for classroom use. That’s what having George Orwell on the reading list will do to people.

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Devon suffers from both eosinophillic esophagitis, caused by allergic white blood cells growing in his esophagus and stomach, and anaphylactic shock syndrome, where allergic reactions to commons items can easily become life-threatening. A life of homeschooling may have given him all the information an education allows, but nothing of the world in which he could utilize that knowledge. The $6,000 V-Go, plus the $100 monthly service fees, are both being paid out of the school district’s budget, and the smile-cracking Devon now has friends and real school memories that will last him a lifetime.

“We looked at it as a great opportunity,” explains Winchester Principal Kathleen Brachmann. “Where I think some people would have looked at what are the challenges, what are the problems, we never even had those conversations. It was just, how can we make this work?” And it’s working quite well, as Devon’s second-grade classmates have adapted almost easier than teacher Dawn Voelker, who says, “In the classroom, the kids are like, ‘Devon, come over, we’re doing Legos. Show us your Legos.'”

Devon steers the Four-Foot-Tall Freakin’ Robot from his home computer, and it recognizes obstacles and people, with a camera that allows Devon to see almost anything he needs to. Voelker also wears a microphone that allows everyone to hear her better. Instead of raising his hand, Devon lights up the robot, making Heads Up, Seven Up a rather biased game.

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“We don’t treat him any differently,” says Voelker. “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.”

And how does Devon feel about it? “It’s so cool because it’s like playing a game on the computer. It’s like your objective is to just survive.” I’ll point out here that Yahoo’s story split that quote up with a lot of positive words, because that is a fucking depressing-sounding sentence, even though it isn’t intended to be that way.

So, if you think video games cause children to be violent, realize that they can sometimes make school fun for a kid, who also happens to live part of his life as a robot, and robots will no doubt destroy humanity, thus making video games responsible for…DAMMIT!

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