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Double robotics

Double robotics gives fifth-grader chance for virtual classroom experience

By Maria Pericozzi

Hailey Coniber’s favorite subject to study in school is science, which she learns through her robot, Lenny, which attends classes every day at Wolcott Street School in Le Roy for her.

The fifth-grader was one of the first students in the district to use double robotics to attend classes from home for the last three years.

Hailey said it is fun learning through the robot, and she doesn’t feel like she is missing out anymore, not being at school.

“I get to be with my friends,” Hailey said.

Hailey was diagnosed with Stage 4 Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma in 2009 and is currently being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester. Due to weekly clinic appointments and 27 daily doses of medication, Hailey needs to attend school from home.

In Hailey’s treatment, her mother, Missy Coniber, said she doesn’t see a near future where Hailey can attend school in person.

“The doctors would like the scans to be clear for five years, and we haven’t reached anything near that point,” Coniber said.

That's where double robotics comes in.

Double  robotics is  a term -- also the name of the company that makes the devices -- for a robot that is on wheels, has a camera and display screen, allowing it to travel through a remote space from the robot's user to allow that user to virtually be in that location. Hailey is using it for school but double robotics are also used by remote workers to connect with the home office. 

As long as Hailey's robot is turned on, Hailey can control everything from her laptop.

“I control it with the keypad,” Hailey said.

Hailey signs into an app which allows her to control the robot’s movements.  

Not only can she control the movements with the arrow keys, but if Hailey has a question, the robot itself can be raised up, like she would be raising her hand.

Lenny has changed Hailey’s schooling drastically, Coniber said.

“Before the robot, we did two years of tutoring, and we were only getting six hours a week of tutoring and she was falling behind,” Coniber said. “We knew her medical treatments could be a long process.”

The idea came from the WSS principal, Carol Messura, who heard of double robotics and reached out to EduTech to learn more.

The Coniber family offered to pay for a robot because it was a test and they weren’t sure how well it would work, and the school system got it approved through the Board of Education and purchased the robot.

“We’re very fortunate to have the school system that we do,” Coniber said.

The summer before Hailey started using the robot, associates from EduTech tested it to make sure they fully understood how it operated.

“There were some quirks at the beginning that we had to work out, and once we got that worked out, it has become a smooth transition,” Coniber said.

Once the robot was put into the classroom, teachers, students, and the robot adapted well, Coniber said.

“The students don’t see it as a robot anymore,” Coniber said. “They see it as just Hailey.”

Coniber said she would highly recommend the robots for other families in similar situations, as a cost-effective alternative for school systems.

“Now she’s getting a full day of school,” Coniber said. “We can take the laptop or iPad to the hospital and she can attend school from the hospital if she is in-patient, so it has cut down on the number of absences.”

Photo courtesy our news partner, 13WHAM. For 13WHAM's story on Hailey, click here.

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