UNT Frisco introduces robots for new classroom interaction experiences

UNT Frisco introduces robots for new classroom interaction experiences

27/09/2016 Denton, Texas Shauna Barbato, Asistant dirtector of UNT Frisco, explaining how the robot works. Through a browser the user is able to control the robot using the arrow keys on the keyboard. The user has the ability to raise or lower the robot’s hight using buttons that are available on the screen. Credit: Jennyfer Rodriguez

UNT Frisco introduces robots for new classroom interaction experiences
September 29
22:02 2016

The UNT Frisco campus has introduced a new method of classroom interaction to its campus — robots. Three robots were introduced to the campus shortly after its opening in January 2016. Now, they’re being put to use.

“The main purpose of these robots is to help the students,” UNT Frisco Assistant Director Shauna Barbato said. “If you have a student that cannot make it out here to Frisco, then we would give them a link to remote in and actually attend class and be able to talk back and forth with the instructor.”

The robots can also be used by students who are members of the Armed Forces that have been deployed during the semester, allowing them the chance to complete classwork even when overseas. They are also available for staff who are unable to attend meetings on campus, or for people out of state who wish to tour the campus.

“The majority of the use right now is when we’ve had some corporate meetings out here or UNT meetings where someone couldn’t make it to the campus,” Barbato said. “They remote in and attend the meeting that way.”

So far, the robots have not been used often. Since the campus wants to make sure the robots run smoothly and are free of any kinks, many students don’t know this technology is even available for them to use.

To promote the robots, Barbato and her department have posted on their Twitter feed and Facebook page about the new addition in order for people to discover what they’re about and what they offer.

201609270004_untrobots-2

Jennyfer Rodriguez

The head of the robot works as an iPad with the body comprised of “double robotics,” which is similar to a miniature Segway. It is controlled using the arrow keys on the keyboard, with click prompts on the screen to do things such as hang up, raise or lower the height of the robot, apply the brake stands to stabilize the robot and conserve battery, control audio and video, and more.

They can be controlled from any computer or laptop with mic and camera capabilities as long as the user has been granted access by Barbato and her department. Control of the robots is held by UNT Frisco, who set the precise time frames of the day when people with appointments can control the robots.

“This way, students can’t log in and drive around campus in the middle of the night when no one is around,” Barbato said.

The robots, however, still have minor issues with internet connection and limited availability. Poor bandwidth or bad weather can cause the signal to disconnect. Due to the small number of available robots, setting appointments can also be difficult.

Professors on the Denton campus are hoping to utilize the robots, as well.

“I received training and wanted to use one while I was recovering from hip surgery, but I was overruled,” Michelle Redmond, a senior lecturer in the journalism department, said. “I wanted to use the robot from home to teach my class in Frisco, but my supervisor insisted on a ‘human’ substitute for me instead. I’m planning to use one sometime this semester for an exercise with my media performance class, but I have not done so yet.”

The robots are constructed from kits purchased from www.doublerobotics.com and were built and configurated on campus. Only three have been built so far, as a standard robot costs between $3,000 to $3,499.

Depending on the success of the robots at UNT Frisco, the Denton campus may see them rolling around campus in the future.

“If we have more use cases, then yes, we could set up more robots,” Tim Christian, Assistant Dean for Information Technology Services, said. “We want to learn how useful and accepted the robots are at Frisco. That should give us some idea of what we could do on this campus if anything, and who would likely use them.”

Featured Image: Shauna Barbato, Asistant dirtector of UNT Frisco, explaining how the robot works. Through a browser the user is able to control the robot using the arrow keys on the keyboard. The user has the ability to raise or lower the robot’s hight using buttons that are available on the screen. Jennyfer Rodriguez

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Steven Payne

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