The robot features a rolling base with a tablet on top, secured to a middle part that the user can move up or down.

Kelly knew the robot could change learning experiences for AACPS, and she asked to take one of the robots back to the district with her that day. After a few phone calls, the company made it happen.

Kelly and Patrick Malone, an instructional technology online specialist, took the robot to Shady Side Elementary School to pilot it with a fifth-grade student who needed an elevated mathematics program. The student could not physically attend a sixth-grade math class and travel between the middle school and the elementary school for one learning period each day–but the robot made it possible, and the first pilot was a success.

Next, an educator in Kelly’s division had a knee operation and was unable to attend a professional development opportunity in person. Once again, the robot came to the rescue, and the educator attended the all-day meeting using the robot’s platform.

Kelly and Malone reached out to Colleen Childs, who manages home and hospital teaching for AACPS, to ask Childs which students might want to use the robot. Childs pointed them to Old Mill High School, and after sitting down with Principal James Todd to address concerns about logistics and teacher training, the plan was set in motion to connect homebound student Peter Jauschnegg with the robot.

Watch Peter’s story here.

“Peter was at Johns Hopkins Hospital for a three-month stay at that time, and he jumped on this very quickly when we were asked if we would be interested,” said Kathleen Jauschnegg, Peter’s mother.

Marvin’s debut

Malone gathered Patrick’s teachers and school counselors for training to get them comfortable speaking to and teaching in front of the robot. They developed a deployment plan to address concerns such as minute schedule adjustments that would let Peter move the robot through the hallways when they were least crowded, along with elevator access to travel to classes on different floors.

They also wanted the robot to have a bit of personality. “I asked Peter to name the robot–it was going to be his,” Malone said.

“I named it Marvin, after the robot from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Peter said. “It’s a funny character, so I figured it’d be the right choice.”

The name stuck. “Everyone refers to the robot as Marvin,” Malone said.

Next came a dry run through a typical day. Malone went to the Jauschnegg home to help Peter become familiar with the robot’s controls and take the robot on a “driving test” through the district’s staff development center.

“Peter’s a pretty big gamer, and he understood the first-person environment really well,” Malone said. “He picked it up right away.”

(Next page: Supporting students’ social needs)

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura