At OC Taylor Elementary, Robots Boost Autism Ed and STEM Learning
STEM students and those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have two new buddies at OC Taylor Elementary School, thanks to a partnership between the PTA, the school, and leading educational robot and curriculum provider RoboKind.
Milo and Robon are humanoid, facially expressive robots that stand about two feet tall. At OC Taylor, Robon will deliver the company’s robots4STEM visual programming curriculum for elementary science, technology, engineering, and math. Milo will interact with students using robots4autism, a social and emotional learning curriculum for students with ASD.
“We are delighted to introduce Robon and Milo to a forward-thinking school in the greater DFW metroplex,” said Dr. Gregory Firn, the Chief Operating Officer of RoboKind and a former Texas Deputy Superintendent. “We salute the unique partnership between the school and PTA that will support teachers and students in two key areas of education.”
Berri O’Neal, president-elect of the OC Taylor PTA, first became aware of the robots when RoboKind founder and CTO Richard Margolin won the Dallas-based Tech Titan award.
“When I started learning how Milo could help teachers and staff prepare students with ASD to be in social settings, like a play date or a group work project in class, I was just absolutely awestruck,” O’Neal said. “The staff works so hard every day to make sure kids of all backgrounds and abilities are included and have access to a quality education, and this will help so much.”
OC Taylor’s Principal Lisa Young Pedevilla said that the robots and the STEM curriculum, which were paid for in part through a PTA fundraiser, will enhance her school’s career readiness program, which currently includes Future Explorations classes that allow students to preview 16 different career paths.
“Our students are digital natives, not digital immigrants like us,” Pedevilla said. “They just speak the language of technology, and we’re always trying to find ways to introduce them to new concepts, particularly in STEM, in ways that speak to them. Right now, the top 10 most in-demand jobs are in STEM fields, and they're projecting that to continue for the next 50 years. These students are going to be entering a STEM world when they graduate, even if they want to be writers or artists.”
Pedevilla said the district will convene a committee of math and science teachers to decide how to blend Robon and her curriculum into existing STEM initiatives in meaningful ways. Those committee members will also receive professional development on using the robot and will then be the first to pilot its use. In the meantime, other teachers will also be trained, and can sign up to have a robot visit their class in an effort to get students excited ahead of their deployment.
Deploying Milo to students with autism will follow a similar path, beginning with a committee of stakeholder teachers, but Pedevilla said she expects it to go much faster, as it’s a smaller group of students. Along the way, she will continue to work closely with her PTA.
“In a recent visit to a Future Explorations class, I had the opportunity to watch some of our students work with some coding tools and it became apparent they needed something more challenging,” said Kristin McElroy, the current PTA president at OC Taylor. “The district has built a solid foundation and our kids are excelling, but Milo and Robon will meet them where they need to go, not where they currently are.”
Part of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District, OC Taylor is located just north of Dallas and Fort Worth. The school’s adoption of Milo and Robon is in line with the district’s strategic vision, adopted in 2018, which has four main goals: to actively identify and remove barriers that limit access to and opportunity for learning, design learning environments that support social and emotional well-being, create a culture that fosters learning environments that reflect student voice and promotor student engagement, and effectively communicate with targeted audiences.
RoboKind is a Dallas-based company whose mission is to create cost-effective and inclusive education for all. Working closely with the ASD community, RoboKind has developed robots4autism and Milo, the most advanced, facially expressive humanoid robot, who has proven effectiveness in engaging learners with ASD more than 80% of the time, as opposed to the 3% for traditional therapy. Milo never gets tired, never get frustrated, and is always consistent, which is important when teaching through repetition. His friendly demeanor and patience encourages learners with ASD to step out of their shell and gives them the courage to interact with their environment.
The team behind robots4autism is constantly refining the curriculum through feedback from families and practitioners. RoboKind is dedicated to opening and creating pathways for all ages and groups so they can thrive in the real world through cost-effective means. To learn more, please visit RoboKind.com and follow Milo on Twitter or Facebook.
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