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The robot that goes to school (and does chores).

Like most kids his age, 7-year-old Devon Carrow enjoys school, especially hanging out with his friends during recess and lunch. What's different about Devon, though, is that he doesn't actually attend school--at least, not in person. Instead, he has a robot that goes to school in his place!

Because he has very bad allergies that could be life threatening, Devon can't physically go to his elementary school in West Seneca, New York. Thankfully, in January 2012, a new technology called VGo allowed Devon to start attending school without being there in person.

About 4 feet tall and 20 pounds, VGo is a white plastic robot with a video camera and microphone. From his desk at his house 5 miles away, Devon uses a computer with Wi-Fi to control his robot, which lets him see and hear his teacher and his classmates. And his teacher and classmates can also see and hear Devon.

When "robot Devon" first started coming to class, the other students were excited and curious. "They came right up to the video camera and began talking to me!" Devon says. Always a joker, Devon greeted the other kids with a riddle: "Why did the turkey cross the road? Because it was the chicken'-s day off."

"The robot has wheels," Devon says, "so I can move the robot through the hallways by moving a mouse attached to my laptop. It drives like a little go-kart."

Sensors in the robot help it avoid uneven pavement and falls. When moving, VGo automatically tilts downward to search for obstacles. Stairs are one thing the robot can't do, however. And because VGo doesn't have arms, Devon depends on other students to open doors for him.

Walking down the hallway in an orderly, single-file line with his classmates, Devon's robot attends music class, assemblies, and It also goes out for recess and joins the other students in the cafeteria. The only class VGo doesn't attend is gym.

In the classroom, Devon's robot has an assigned seating area, where it sits with several other students. If Devon knows the answer to one of the teacher's questions, he has a way of raising his hand. "From my computer, I make a red light go off," explains Devon, who then waits to be called on by his teacher.

Even with a robot assistant, life isn't all fun and games! Just like the other kids in his class, Devon and his robot are assigned classroom chores, such as taking the attendance paper to the office or leading the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning.

"I am so happy that I am able to attend school in this way, and I am making lots of friends," Devon says. "I love school, and having the robot help me is really awesome!"

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Author:Hennessey, Gail Skroback
Publication:Jack & Jill
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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