Robot Prevents Sick Children from Falling Behind in Class

Mathew Shanley

In the history of schooling, has there ever been a child who hadn’t wished that he or she could send a robot to class in his or her place?
10-year-old Keir Wallace is doing just that.

Wallace, 1 of only 27 people in the world diagnosed with the incurable autoimmune disease familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome-2 (FCAS2), hopes to eventually send his new robot, the AV1, to school on his behalf.

FCAS2 is a rare autosomal dominant systemic inflammatory disease due to a heterozygous mutation in the NLRP12 gene on chromosome 19q13. Common symptoms include recurrent episodes of maculopapular rash related to arthralgias, myalgias, fever and chills, swelling of the limbs, and conjunctivitis after exposure to colder temperatures.

The AV1 robot is currently being tested at home by Wallace and his family, but the anticipation is that, after receiving permission from St. John’s R.C. School in Portobello, Edinburgh, it will allow the child to be an active part of his classroom. The robot comes with a 360-degree camera placed atop its head, and a loudspeaker intended to allow Wallace to speak with his teachers and classmates.

By using an app on a tablet, Wallace would be able to express his willingness to participate in classroom discussions. Certain buttons trigger flashing lights on the front of the machine, which would be synonymous with an actual student raising a hand. A blue light on top of the robot’s head would allow teachers and classmates to know that the student is present, but not feeling well enough to contribute.

"The robot allows Keir to keep in touch with his friends outside of school as well as attend classes," John Wallace, Keir's dad said per a story written by Fox News. "It means that he's able to see and speak to everyone that he normally wouldn't be able to when off from school. And because the robot doesn't have a screen for him to Skype into lessons, his classmates won't see him when he's in severe pain," he said. "With the robot, he would be able to attend and actively take part in more lessons than he currently does which is so important for attaining better grades."

The robot is the product of the Norwegian company No Isolation, which focuses on helping children who spend a lot of time in hospitals or out of class by finding ways for them to avoid falling behind. It was developed in collaboration with the Norwegian Cancer Society, Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hosptial, St. Olavs Hospital, and the University of Oslo.

“Many children experience loneliness when they are absent from school and separated from their friends for extended periods due to illness,” said Bent Hoie, Minister of Health and Care Services in Norway. “Because of this, they may face challenges when returning to their everyday lives. The AV1 robot provides a solution to this problem.”

In addition to helping FCAS2 patient Wallace, No Isolation proudly boasts testimonials of children who use the AV1 on its website, including one with cerebral palsy and another with acute kidney failure.

In September 2016, No Isolation was awarded the Seal of Excellence by the European Commission (EC) for its success in a highly competitive evaluation process as a high-quality project proposal.

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