Fun Friday: On Snow, School and Robots

Posted by Kelli McKinney

My family and I are from the south, so suffice it to say that when a job led us to the cooler climates of Nebraska it wasn’t without a little bit of trepidation. Mostly on my part. I prefer heat to cold unless I’m sleeping. I’d rather sweat through a t-shirt or sundress than through layer upon layer of fleece and down.

I realize it’s not like we moved to the tundra or anything – we don’t need a sled dog or snowshoes in order to function on a daily basis. It’s just different. I love the fluffy freshness of new snow for, oh, about a half day, then all that cold and wet just becomes kind of annoying. We persevere through the gray skies by building snowmen and drinking lots of cocoa (with extra marshmallows) and making the best of it.

This week, though, it’s been beautifully sunny and *gasp* almost sort of warm-ish. I’d never thought of 40 degrees as warm before. But there it was. We’ve had gorgeous blue skies, sunshine, and I could almost feel the neighborhood sigh and stretch with relief.

Then, overnight, Mother Nature dumped a big white powdery pile on us again, and the city’s plows were caught unaware. So that’s how we ended up with today’s surprise snow day. I figure I’ve got another hour or so of time to crank out some work before the choruses of “I’m bored” begin again. That’s about how long it will take him to attempt to clean his room and get distracted by toys before searching out another activity. I’ve always admired home schooling parents, but after today, I have even more admiration and respect. And, I had an ingenious idea (self-described), prompted by this Verizon ad:

So, fortunately, my kiddo is healthy and I don’t take that for granted. I don’t have time to take that for granted because he is so wired up from alternately being cooped up inside and playing outside in the snow that he is now perched on the chair chirping suggestions for this article in my ear.

What if these kinds of telepresence robots could be used for both teachers and students on snow days like the one we’re suffering through enjoying so very thoroughly today? Not only would I be able to carry on my work undisturbed, my child would be able to keep up his academic momentum, so to speak. He and the rest of his class and teachers wouldn’t have to spend the better part of tomorrow trying to remember what they did the day before. They would simply carry on, from the warmth of their own home, reading their social studies or working on their math as usual, using their robot.

Another scenario: contagious disease. If he catches a cold or the flu (which is spreading faster than a rumor in high school), he doesn’t risk sharing it with everyone, he can participate in class from the sterility of his own home. Thanks to his robot.

Or what about robots for kids who live in remote, rural areas? Say there’s no bus service, so mom/dad /sibling have to drive the student into town each day – what happens if there’s horrible weather, or illness, or something else that prohibits them from getting to class? No worries – the student robot can hook him or her up (so to speak) and no school days are missed.

What about the possibilities to use this kind of technology to help underserved populations have access to things many of us take for granted, like a good education? Or to connect military families who are separated during deployment? If the sky were the limit, how would you use this kind of technology? Who’s in charge of this and how can I speak with him?

We already have online degree programs, and military education benefits to apply toward them, which have changed the way people think about college and have made it possible for so many working adults to achieve their goals. What else can we achieve when we explore the boundaries of our imagination and capabilities?

So, this post might not have totally been “Fun” Friday so much as it’s been “Kelli-Gets-Distracted-And-Waxes-Philosophical-About-Robots-And-School” Friday. And with that, I’m going to pull on my boots and shovel the driveway. I wish you a happy, healthy, relaxing weekend full of sunshine, robotics and big dreams.


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