SOUTH BERWICK (NEWS CENTER Maine) - Technology is allowing a middle school student undergoing chemotherapy to attend classes, interact with her teachers and hang out with her classmates, even though she can’t physically make it to school.
12-year-old Shea Feeley uses something she calls her Pandabot. It’s kind of like a Segway with an interactive Ipad.
Feeley says it gives her the experience of going to school without leaving her home.
“It really is about as close to the real thing as you can get,” said her dad Ryan Feeley.
After doctors discovered a tumor in Shea’s brain last summer, she underwent surgery and is now going through chemotherapy. Her dad says not being able to attend classes at Berwick Academy Middle School has been especially hard on her.
“She’s the type of kid who loves being with her friends, loves going to school and getting involved in activities,” he said.
All that changed a couple of months ago when she was able to return to school thanks to the Pandabot. Shea named the robot after her favorite animal.
Shea uses an iPad to control the Pandabot a few miles away from school. She can move it forward, backward, left and right. She can even listen to a teacher’s lesson and chat with friends.
“I think the best thing is that I get to be a part of the class and see my friends and everyone,” Shea said from her home.
At first, she says it was a little tough getting used to.
“It was kind of like wow, just kind of shocking and a little weird, but then I got used to it," she said.
Her classmates like the Pandabot as much as she does. They missed having her around.
“It’s just like old times, and it’s really fun for her to be here,” said classmate Rekha Mahadevan.
While Shea has her ups and downs fighting to recover, her dad says he notices how much happier she seems when she’s able to take part in school.
“It’s pretty amazing to see a group of her friends standing around at this robot and having a conversation as if she were right there with them,” said her dad.
Shea received the Pandabot from a child who was headed back to school and no longer needed it. Shea plans to pass her Pandabot on as soon be able to attend classes in person.
The robot was initially provided by Grahamtastic Connection.