GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — When Grand Island Northwest freshman Kevin Chen undergoes treatment for his brain tumor in Colorado , he will still be able to be in class virtually thanks to a double robot.
The double robot, named “Rob” by Northwest students, looks like a segway with an iPad attached to it. Freshman Academy Coordinator Marty Moser said Chen uses his Chromebook to log into a website called “Double Robot,” which is installed on his computer. From there, a pop-up will show where the robot is and Chen is able to click to activate Rob’s video feed.
“On Kevin’s screen, it shows the image of what the robot is seeing,” Moser said. “Then there is a picture down in the corner of the feet of the robot. I can see if I am running into something. Kevin’s face will be on the screen of the robot and kids can see him going down the hallway on that.”
Chen said that in order to “drive” the robot, he uses the up and down arrows on his Chromebook to make the double robot go forward and in reverse, and the left and right arrows to steer it left or right.
“I had to learn both the controls on the arrow, the parking and the buttons on the screen,” he said. “It was not really hard to learn how to use.”
Chen said when Moser approached him about using Rob, he was excited to use it and likes using it “quite well.”
“I like being in class with everybody and not having to watch a video,” he said. “I can use it to talk to friends every once in a while, too.”
When using the double robot, Chen said he has to drive the robot toward the front of the classroom so he can see the whiteboard. He added its glare makes it hard to see on his Chromebook if Rob is at the back of the classroom. If he has a question about something , Chen said he “just asks it out loud.”
Chen added he uses the double robot for four periods a day, for four hours a day, from typically 11 a.m. to about 3 p.m.
Moser said other challenges Chen faces include making sure someone opens doors for him and watching the feet of the double robot to steer clear of obstacles. He added Chen also has the ability to make Rob’s height shorter or taller based on his needs.
“For Kevin to be able to keep the social piece of it (while he is homebound) is huge,” Moser said. “If he had to watch recorded lessons every day, he misses out on saying hi to his friends.”
Northwest acquired Rob last month from Educational Service Unit 10 in Kearney due to efforts by its technology integrationist Heather Callihan, Moser said.
Moser said Chen is the only Northwest student who is using Rob and that he will use it from March 20 to April 17 when he is in Aurora, Colorado, for chemotherapy.
Chen said he has been undergoing treatment since November and finished his latest round of chemotherapy on Feb. 28. He added it was pure chance that doctors discovered he had a brain tumor .
“My mom got in a car accident, and they did a CAT scan on my face and found an affected tumor. Then, they did an MRI and found it because of the accident,” Chen said. “They did a few tests on it, and said it was not a result of the accident. They found a tumor after the accident. It had been there quite a while.”
Moser said he hopes those who hear about Rob and Chen’s story realize the technology exists and how it can help them or someone they know.
“There are obviously a ton of people out there who have never seen anything like this before and do not even know it exists,” Moser said.