Walking into the biology classroom at Tyngsborough High School in Boston, Massachusetts, you’ll be greeted with the unlikely sight of a freshman girl whose lab partner is a robot.
Upon closer inspection, however, you can see that it isn’t just a robot she’s working with: That robot is helping 14-year-old cancer survivor Connor Flanagan attend class when his medical condition prevents him from doing so.
Flanagan is now waiting for a lung transplant, WCVB Boston reports, and is currently on oxygen. He gets winded after a short time, and doesn’t have the stamina for a full week of school.
So the Tyngsborough school district purchased a VGo robot, a teleconferencing device that allows for students and others attend events remotely with a machine that they can move remotely and use to participate in conversations. The New Hampshire company that creates these devices say they are usable in a variety of healthcare, education and business situations.
“The school system was willing to send a tutor, which academically would be fine, but he’d be missing that whole piece of seeing his classmates and interacting with them,” Jennifer Flanagan, Connor’s mother, told WCVB.
Hiring a tutor would have cost the district about $200-$300 a day, while the robot cost $6,000 outright, and can be used in the future for students in a similar situation.
There are currently about 50 of these machines in operation across the United States.