MANOR, Texas - Milo, the first talking robot for classroom use has made it to Central Texas.
Manor ISD's summer camp brought in the robot designed for those with autism, but his technology has expanded to a number of Texas schools.
Over the last two weeks, a mixed group of non-autistic and autistic students have attended ShadowGlen Elementary School, taking part programming and coding courses. Campers have access to the talking robot by creating a storyboard and commands to operate Milo.
Dallas-based Robokind designed Milo to help autistic children build socialization skills.
Sixth-grader Udonna Onyeake has autism, and feels having Milo makes him more comfortable in the classroom setting.
"Sometimes I don't concentrate when I'm talking to the teacher,” he said.
Milo's full range of facial expressions act as clues to his emotions, the symbols on his chest are visual communicators, making it easier to understand him in a low stress way.
The small bot can also teach students how to be fluent in four different languages and help older adults with dementia. For non-verbal students, Milo can be a their go-to tool and they can manipulate his speech.
"You can make the robot talk for you,” Onyeake said.
"Technology companies across the nation were beginning to see that their highest paid programmers were on the autism spectrum,” Robokind Regional Sales Manager Chad Green said.
Manor ISD Public Relations Director Scott Thomas believes that by implementing these courses early, it can only give students a boost in an economy that is driven by data and programming.
"So, we can actually set up these learners for lifelong success--for these important jobs at Apple--these important jobs at Google--that pay really well here in the Austin area,” Thomas said.
Milo is meant to help engage and deliver curriculum in a unique way. Throughout the lessons, Milo talks to the camper by showing clips and quizzing them on topics.
According to the Robots 4 Autism site, Milo addresses four key areas.
- Emotional, including identifying facial expressions, learning how to respond to others, and labeling feelings.
- Social, including learning what to do and say in common situations and understanding who is a stranger.
- Conversation, including how to begin, maintain and end a conversation with adults and peers.
- Self-Regulation, including techniques to reduce physical responses to stress.
For sixth-grader Jubilee Jimenez, he’s a fun way to learn for both students with and without special needs.
“Like if you touch him, his skin is like latex rubber! It's kind of cool but kind of weird,” she said.
Those involved say it’s his ability to have an unlimited amount of lessons that are 100 percent consistent, and his infinite patience that makes an impact on children on the spectrum.
"They're not afraid of the technology, and that's the type of passion we want to help ignite with kids,” Green said.
Milo is anticipated to be used on a rotation schedule in the district throughout the coming school year.
The district has a few spots left through Thursday, July 20.
Location: ShadowGlen Elementary School
Monday-Thursday July 12-20, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
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