Students Amanda Cyr, Rian Drury and Hylton McFarlane at the Saint John campus successfully developed a fully operational telepresence robot. It’s a mobile robot with a tablet for a head which gives one the ability to extend his or her physical presence remotely where the robot is representing the person.
Working in partnership with colleagues at the Woodstock campus, this group experimented with the practical applications of telepresence and investigated the control of external devices via telepresence - specifically the operation of an elevator. Telepresence robots are currently being used in the medical field when a doctor cannot physically visit a patient. The doctor’s telepresence via the robot allows for a more personal interaction than other communication methods such as telephone. “The fact that you'll be able to be in a different location but be able to wander around in other places that’s really cool,” Drury said.
"The question is does this have any applications in the education field? What can NBCC use it for? Could an instructor teach a course in Saint John and also teach the same course in Woodstock [using a telepresence robot]?" said instructor Joe Marriott. “The real excitement will be when we turn it over to…[other] educators and… students and figure out how we can use it there."
Drury described the enormous challenge the group faced with understanding the documentation and connecting computers to the tablet on the robot, but they made it happen. "It arrived as a box of parts and spools of wire. So [the students] learned how to read documentation that’s been translated from another language and they learned a lot about hardware,” said Marriott. “…[T]hey pulled it off…[and did] it correctly. They took the time and they learned the value of documentation."