Utah Teens Raise Funds to Provide Children's Medical Center With VGo Robot

Kearns High School students donated a VGo telepresence robot to Primary Childrens Medical CenterOn Thursday, The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that the iCougars at Kearns High School and Salt Lake City-based nonprofit Operation Kids have donated a VGo Robotic Telepresence System to the Primary Children’s Medical Center. The iCougars are a cyber group that have helped the school better use technology since a federal grant placed an iPod Touch in the hands of every student.

The tech-savvy teens at Kearns High students raised $3,500 — half of the VGo's price tag — through selling iCougar and “love bytes” T-shirts and wristbands, along with securing a matching donation from a private foundation. Operation Kids pitched in the other $3,500.

The robot relays real-time video of class to the child’s laptop, allowing the student to ask questions and make comments during class. “We found a technology-based service project. It’s awesome,” said 17-year-old Eric Mijangos, an iCougar. “It was so much fun to play around with. I could see how it would be a real benefit for someone who is bed-bound.”

The project is the first of a new Operation Kids program called Club OK. Operation Kids president Stephen Wunderli hopes to see branches of Club OK at high schools throughout Utah and the nation. There are 20 to 30 more schools planning to join Club OK in the next few months, he said. “We believe that kids, in many ways, are self-educating. If we provide challenges and resources, they will find a way to help their community,” Wunderli said. “That’s where they learn leadership. That’s where they learn how to get along. And it’s where they learn confidence.”

Wunderli expects more VGo robots to be donated to children’s hospitals through Club OK. At Primary Children’s, he said, there may be 20 or 30 kids at any time who would like to go to school remotely. The engagement in school, he noted, can help in their well-being and recovery.

Ashley Gutierrez, student body president of Kearns High, said she was impressed by a demonstration of VGo she saw Thursday morning. “It kind of blew me away because I didn’t think this was possible,” she said. “This is going to make a big difference if more high schools get involved.”