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Kelly Mill Elementary robot takes students on a virtual tour through Truist Park
Kelly Mill Robot
Four fifth graders controlled Zip the robot through Truist Park from a classroom at Kelly Mill Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Laura Fedorchuk.

Students across the county have missed out on opportunities throughout the pandemic — school dances, graduation ceremonies and other important events. For elementary students, the absence of field trips has been especially difficult.

But just as the fifth graders at Kelly Mill Elementary were sure they were going to end their last year at the school without going on a single trip, Zip the robot crash landed right into their school, promising to go out on adventures outside the school walls.

Kelly Mill Robot
Zip the robot follows a tour guide through Truist Park, using a camera to let fifth graders at Kelly Mill Elementary join in on the live adventure.
The little robot came through on that promise on Wednesday, Feb. 10, when gifted teacher Stephanie Sumner took Zip out to Truist Park where she toured the robot through the stadium, press box and park.

Every fifth grade student at the school, whether they were attending class in-person or virtually, was able to watch a livestream of the tour through a camera on the robot while four students  were picked to control the robot while socially distanced inside one of the classrooms at the school.

“In a way, it’s just something special to do for these kids even though they can’t actually physically go there,” said Laura Fedorchuk, a gifted teacher at Kelly Mill. “I just thought it was kind of neat that they’re actually driving him around.”

While steering the robot along with the tour guide, students were also able to interact online. They could ask questions during the tour and about specific sites within the park.

Kelly Mill Elementary leaders partnered with Konica Minolta to bring the Double telepresence robot to the school for the students. Usually robots like Zip are used for students who are unable to physically come to the school for any reason, but Fedorchuk said they decided to use the robot in a more creative way.

They plan to continue to send Zip off on even more adventures throughout the year while students are unable to go themselves, giving them an opportunity to go on field trips even if it is only virtually.

“We just plan to do a bunch of little adventures with him because really he can’t get COVID, right?” Fedorchuk said, laughing.