USQ Associate Professor Petrea Redmond joins a collaborative research effort into robots.
USQ Associate Professor Petrea Redmond joins a collaborative research effort into robots.

USQ joins mission to help get sick kids back in school

MANY believe robots to be the inevitable stepping stone into a tech-dependent future.

For sick children, however, gadgets could soon provide a crucial lifeline to overcoming the many disadvantages faced amid severe illness.

University of Southern Queensland Associate Professor Petrea Redmond has signed on to take part in a research program on the use of robots for sick youngsters.

Under the program, experts explore whether specialised gadgets could help students from kindergarten to Year 12 overcome educational and social obstacles.

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Professor Redmond is among seven research experts exploring the use of a telepresence robot service, alongside not-for-profit group MissingSchool.

The study has been operating since 2019 under chief investigator Dr Joanna Fardell.

MissingSchool CEO and co-founder Megan Gilmour said the robots were unlike other video conferencing technology on offer.

The research iniative is set to help more Queensland students, similar to students at Canberra’s Marist College.
The research iniative is set to help more Queensland students, similar to students at Canberra’s Marist College.

She said she hoped their efforts would help sick children retain a presence in the classroom.

“[Students] can dial-in to their robot and be seen and heard, take their lessons in real time with their classmates, interact socially, and engage in social activities with their classmates and friends,” Ms Gilmour said.

Robots used for the trial are similar to tablets and can be controlled by an electronic device – from either home or hospital.

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“There’s an abundance of evidence on the educational and social barriers faced by sick children but we need more evidence-driven interventions and solutions.

The gadgets also offer mobile capabilities, allowing it to move through the classroom and playground.

“Sick children missing school is an issue that everybody needs to be involved in. We can’t solve it on our own, but we can together.”

Schools, parents and students interested in getting involved with the telepresence robot program can register their interest via the MissingSchool.org.au.