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When This Sixth Grader Couldn’t Go to School, a Robot Took Her Place

March 20, 2014
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When This Sixth Grader Couldn’t Go to School, a Robot Took Her Place
Nigel Treblin/Getty Images
Just because Maddie Rarig can't physically be in class, doesn't mean she's skipping out on her education.

When you were a kid, did you ever hope the future would be like The Jetsons? Well, at a middle school in Danville, Pennsylvania, the future is happening right now.

Thanks to the innovations of a Seattle-based company, Double Robotics, Maddie Rarig, a bedridden sixth grader, is able to attend class in real time, the Associated Press reports. The 11-year-old, who is recovering from a spinal injury, is connected to her classes via a robot that’s basically a iPad connected to a Segway. With a simple smartphone, Maddie can control the robot’s movements right from her bedroom.

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Incredibly, this robotized version of Maddie seamlessly interacts with her teachers and classmates and can even join group discussions. “We call the robot Maddie, because it is very much her in the classroom,” her math teacher, Shayna Heitzelman, told the wire service. “We positioned the face of the robot where she can see everything going on in front of the class. Maddie can move closer or farther away as needed. She can turn the robot around to face the class. The thing is, and this is amazing, she has this huge grin on her face, which you can see on the robot. And the kids, her friends, love it.”

Maddie’s mother, Kristin Rarig, told the AP that the robot is helping her daughter “get better faster.”

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Each of these robots costs about $2,100, not including the cost of the iPad. If this sounds a bit expensive, it’s because the technology is still quite new. But once these robots becomes more accessible, it could open a whole new slew of possibilities in the classroom. Not only would it help kids who are stuck at home due to illness or disability, but it could even be used when children can’t attend school due to inclement weather. Robots in the classroom would certainly would’ve been helpful during this particularly long and bitter winter, as it would have virtually eliminate the days school kids missed due to snow.

A world that’s like The Jetsons doesn’t seem so far off now, does it?

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