Robot allows chronically ill students to attend class virtually

By Teri Hornstein, Reporter, NBC2

LEE COUNTY – The Lee County School District is proving technology can take you anywhere. The district has a new system that allow students who are chronically ill to be there virtually with a robot.

The VGo device has a small screen that allows students to move around, speak up and even participate in class.

One of those students is 8-year-old Abigail Newbury, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes severe allergic reactions.

When she started spending more time with the school nurse than in the classroom, her parents and the school district started looking for options.

“It’s an amazing feeling not only for me but for the students that she gets to join our classroom,” said her teacher, Stephanie Cash.

They say they found a good one.

“Seeing her back in the classroom setting has been amazing,” said her mom, Michele Newbury.

Abigail is able to ask questions, work on group projects and can even move the robot around the room, all while at home and healthy.

“Her having the robot has definitely built her confidence and allowed her to feel a little more accepted and normal,” she added.

But working from home isn’t always easy for the third grader with the infectious laugh.

Getting to be a part of the class makes her forget her frustration, she says, and that she’s any different at all.

“I’ve made one friend so far. I don’t know her name but she’s very nice,” said Abigail.

“Watching her struggle with the everyday things you and I take for granted. So something as simple as being allowed to participate in class via the robot has allowed her to feel more normal and has built her confidence,” explained her mom.

The school district purchased six VGo robots last year through a grant. About 15 students share them to learn from outside the walls of the Lee County schools.