Robo-kid: Teen recovering from accident uses robot to attend class

ABOVE: Take a look at the innovate “robot” one Michigan teen uses to attend school

TORONTO – Imagine walking down the halls of your high school and coming across  what looks sort of like a riderless Segway, covered in various cameras. An iPad is fitted at the top of the device, and on the screen is a young man’s face.

The young man is Michigan teen Cole Fritz, and this robot is how he has been getting to class.

“I haven’t actually fallen over or gotten knocked over [yet],” Fritz told WFMJ News in Youngstown, Ohio. “Keepin’ our fingers crossed.”

The 16-year-old was involved in a serious car accident on Jan. 7, and his injuries left him in a wheelchair while he recuperated.

But because he didn’t want to fall behind in his classes at Commodore Perry High School, officials in Michigan’s Mercer Country school district partnered with the Midwestern Intermediate Group to come up with an innovative solution.

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This is how Cole appears to his teachers and classmates now: as a rolling robot which he can control from his laptop at home.

Cameras allow him to see the world around him; microphones let him hear the lessons of his teachers, and the screen of the iPad links directly to his laptop’s webcam, allowing his friends to interact with him as if he were right there.

“It’s really nice to be able to see everybody, and be able to see them and talk to them,” Fritz said.

It’s still a bit of an adjustment for his teachers and classmates, however.

The Sharon Herald reports that Fritz’s math teacher, Marianne Sherwood, joked on his first day back to school that she’d have to email the papers she had just passed out to the rest of the class.

And Tony McKinley, a retired Michigan State Trooper, had to carry the virtual Fritz up the stairs so he could attend his literature class.

But despite the bumps in the road, officials at Commodore Perry feel that Fritz’s example may be pointing the way to the future of education.

“I’ve been very impressed with the reception,” Jeff Keeling, the school’s principal, said. “Overall, students seem to really have adjusted to it – it’s now just part of their routine. And same thing for the teachers. They’ve adapted well with making sure Cole is getting his assignments and materials.”


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