Bringing Experts to the Classroom via Telepresence Robots
Friday May 31, 2019
The faculty and staff at The STEM Academy of Lewisville, a private charter school in Lewisville, TX offering Grades 6-12, are committed to offering their students the best science and mathematics education possible. One major component of their program is to provide engineering and robotics opportunities to students using emerging technology and access to real-life experts in relevant career fields. But how do you bring astronauts into the classroom on a regular basis?
Ask Andrea Jones, the Academy’s Dean of Instruction and champion of instructional technology. Charged with how to best facilitate meaningful, ongoing collaboration between teachers, students, and outside experts in her school, Andrea turned to the Ohmni Telepresence robot to nurture her own budding cosmonauts and scientists. Academy high school students who participate in the NASA HUNCH Design Program, where students are tasked with finding solutions to problems pitched by NASA engineers and astronauts, require regular contact with team members. Andrea wanted to find a collaboration tool that felt like the expert was right there in the room and not on the moon, so she selected the Ohmni robots over Facetime and Google Hangouts.
Today, STEM Academy students utilize the Ohmni robot in many aspects of their education. And it’s no surprise since the robots, Andrea says, are more exciting for students than video conferencing. Their independent movement is automatically more engaging for kids since they don’t simply hover in the corner. Plus, classroom visitors can pilot the robot to work with individuals or small groups, which makes collaboration more natural.
The Academy’s two primary criteria in purchasing a solution were ease of use and affordability, and Ohmni easily met both. All a teacher has to do is send a link to her guest to grant immediate access to work alongside students. Unlike many other solutions, there is no application or special software to download so connecting is quick and seamless. “Everyone has been able to use it with ease out of the gate. It has not taken any type of special training or sit down, one-on-one time on our end for them to be able to utilize it.” As a result, the Academy was able to launch use of the robots right away. “We put them into the classrooms and teachers immediately began to get excited about how to bring people in.” And at the same price point as a laptop, the cost is affordable for the public charter school.