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Robot Helps Sick Child Go to School


Cloe Gray watches a computer screen most of the day, sitting in her pink bedroom surrounded by stuffed animals, books and photos on the wall.

The 11-year-old is not able to go to school. She is at home in the U.S. state of Maryland, recovering from surgery. The computer is there to control a robot that goes to school in her place.

The robot comes from a company called Double Robotics. It is officially called a “telepresence robot,” but her friends at school like to call it the “Clo-bot.”

The robot is an iPad tablet connected to a long pole on a set of wheels. Cloe can control the robot using her home computer.

The tablet has a camera with a special lens that allows Cloe to see most of the classroom. She can speak to the teacher and her classmates using a microphone. A speaker allows them to hear her.

If she wants to answer a question, she presses a button that makes the robot taller. That allows her teacher, Mary Fucella, to see her.

“It’s just like having the normal Cloe in the classroom,” Fucella said.

Cloe likes it so much better than having a special teacher, called a tutor, come to her home for one-on-one instruction. It allows Cloe to interact with her friends and teachers. It is almost like going to school.

​Cloe’s school district has six of the robots, and each costs about $3,000. Cloe’s robot was donated by a local charity.

Patrick Malone works in the school district’s technology office. He said the six robots make a big difference for kids who cannot come to school.

“Every kid that uses this technology starts to smile again,” he said. “They start to feel like a regular kid again, and I cannot put a price on that.”

David Cann is the head of Double Robotics. He knows these robots are important for students who are sick and cannot regularly go to school. He is happy his company can “provide a way for all students to attend school, no matter their situation.”

There are about 300 Double Robotics robots in schools in the U.S. Schools in China, Japan, Australia and Canada are also using them.

While they seem to be a success, the robots do take some getting used to.

Kyla Jones is Cloe’s friend. They walk to lunch together in the school’s cafeteria.

“At first, it was kind of weird,” Jones said of walking around with a robot.

But now the girls act as if nothing has changed. They have their normal conversations and Cloe has lunch at home while her friends have lunch at school.

It can be hard for the Clo-bot to move in a crowded lunchroom. But once Clo-bot is at her favorite table with her friends, it is almost as good as being there in person.

Cloe said, however, she will be happy when she is able to go back to school, and she will not miss the Clo-bot at all.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Carolyn Presutti wrote this story for VOANews.com. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Do you know someone who could be helped by a robot? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

pink – n. a pale red color : a color that is a mixture of red and white

lens – n. a clear curved piece of glass or plastic that is used in eyeglasses, cameras, telescopes, etc., to make things look clearer, smaller, or bigger

cafeteria – n. a place (such as a restaurant or a room in a school) where people get food at a counter and carry it to a table for eating

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