Going Where Our Patients Can’t: Robots Make the Grade in Class

By , courtesy of Children's Health Blog

What is four feet tall, capable of gliding in and out of area classrooms and allows chronically ill students to attend class without leaving their hospital rooms or homes?

It’s the VGo Robot, the newest technology aid that Children’s HealthSM Children’s Medical Center provides patients who are not able to physically attend school.

The camera- internet-enabled robots are driven by the patients in and out of their classrooms, streaming two-way video between classroom and student.

“The robots allow students to attend class virtually, and they have the added plus of being able to interact with teachers and peers,” explains Michelle Harvey, a teacher with the Children’s Medical Center School Services department. “We find that this technology gives our children who would not be able to attend school because of illness or treatments the opportunity to have some control in their lives.”

A Class of its Own


First-Class Technology: The VGo Robot helps patients at Children's Health Children's Medical Center keep up with their classes remotely when they can't attend in person.The student in the hospital driving the robot can see their classmates in the halls and in class. They can even respond to questions or make comments.

“The student has all the control,” says Harvey. “If they have the answer to a question or want to share a comment with the class, they activate the robot’s blinking lights, and the teacher then knows to call on them.”

The robots are owned by Region 10 Education Service Center in Texas, which provides the robotic tech support, takes the robots to the appropriate school building and instructs the robot’s student driver how to maneuver the machine.

Region 10 also instructs students at the school how to interact with the robot and why it is part of the school day. Harvey works directly with Children’s Medical Center patients who will use the robots, giving them the ongoing support they need to access the navigation portal and use the technology.

“These robots help the students stay current in school, but they also have much to do with healing. When a child is so ill that he or she can’t physically go to school, they become isolated,” says Harvey. “With the robots, these children can maintain social engagement, which has a great psychological advantage.”

There are five robots in Region 10, and Children’s Medical Center currently uses two of them. The goal is to grow the program so more students who are hospitalized or homebound may benefit from this new technology.

Already in Use

High school senior Derek Hall uses the VGo Robot to keep up with his classes while undergoing cancer treatment at Children's Health Children's Medical Center.For high school senior Derek Hall (pictured using VGo right), a Children’s Health patient currently being treated for cancer in the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Medical Center, the robot program has helped him stay current with a very rigorous academic schedule.

“Derek was taking advanced placement courses, dual credit courses with a local college and was involved with a robotics elective before his treatment started,” explains Harvey. “He wants to stay on track for graduation, and with the robot, he is able to manage his academics and feel like he will have a seamless transition when he does return to school.”


See the original blog post from Children's Health here.