‘I’m in school without actually being there:’ Robot helps Orange County student attend class

Shannon Hayes attends Lake Nona High School with help from Vgo

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Instead of looking at a screen and answering questions via chat, Shannon Hayes is attending class at Lake Nona High School with a little help from a robot called Vgo.

Vgo allows the 14-year-old to wheel around the class, listen to her teacher and interact with her classmates.

“They can see me, I can see them, they can also hear me and I can hear them,” Hayes said.

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The teenager has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and is very susceptible to infection, so learning from home makes better sense for her.

“It’s kinda like I’m in school without actually being there,” Hayes said.

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Hayes said it’s different from the virtual school students experienced during the pandemic.

“This robot gives me more freedom, it feels like I’m there. With Zoom it’s kinda more restricted. You can’t really move around, you can’t really look around,” she said. “With the robot, I can look around, if I want to talk to my partner, someone sitting next to me I can do that, or if I want to ask the teacher questions. It just feels so much more interactive.”

She also told Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden during an interview on Florida’s Fourth Estate she has also been able to use it to make friends.

Looking towards the future Hayes said she would like to go to college for “something in the field of technology.”

“I’m already pretty good with technology,” she said.

She added her necessities make it challenging for her to spend a full day on campus, but would like to eventually do a half day in the classroom with other students.

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But, if she’s not feeling well she says Vgo could still be an option.

“I can use the robot as an alternative instead of just saying ‘I’ll be out sick’ and then not go,” she said.

Hayes credits her parents for pairing her up with Vgo.

“My mom was actually the one that kind of brought about the idea of me owning that robot,” Hayes said. “She actually saw someone else use it. She was trying to figure out a way for me to have a school experience.”

“I love my mom she’s so persistent. She knows what she wants and if it benefits me she will fight everyone to get me that and I love that so much. And my Dad has also been really supporting. He finds it really cool as well,” the teen added.

You can learn more on Florida’s Fourth Estate or watch it anytime on News 6+.

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Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.