Apr 192016
EPET Students use robots to attend, present at SITE 2016 Annual Conference


A number of students and faculty in EPET recently participated at the Society of Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) Annual Conference in Savannah, Georgia. But not everyone had to travel to Savannah to do it. Instead, a couple of students used a Beam Pro robot (provided by Suitable Technologies and managed by the Design Studio) to present and attend from the comfort of East Lansing.

So, what did they think about the experience?

Presenting via Robots
Sarah Keenan (2nd year EPET student, pictured on the robot above) experienced presenting via robot first-hand when she delivered her talk on aesthetics, coding, and computational thinking alongside co-authors Jon Good and Punya Mishra. She found that presenting remotely was “interesting”, but had a few drawbacks. “It was tricky not being able to see what slide we were on and to gauge what my co-presenter was thinking/reacting to.” For future presentation via robot, she recommended that you “make sure you prep with your co-presenter far in advance… small disruptions are much larger when one of you doesn’t really know what’s going on.”

Attending Presentations from Afar


First year EPET student Ming Lei was also able to make the rounds at SITE as both a presentation participant and an attendee. He was on hand to demonstrate how the robots worked but also took time to meet with other conference goers in the halls. Reflecting on the experience, Ming noted that, “It was nice to meet people I would not have met if I had not gone via robot. When the Internet connection was working, I could hear the presenters just fine, and I could make subtle gestures to other attendees, like a small wave or smile, and we would have a brief moment where we’d ‘connect’.” Ming also noted that some people are  “stationary and are not going to ‘approach you’ [when you are on a robot], so you have to approach them instead”. Ming recommended the use of robots at research conferences because “This allows you to move around and meet people… I presume that makes you feel more projected into the space and like a ‘real person’.”

It is sometimes hard to attend research conferences for a variety of reasons, but robots provide an opportunity for someone to remotely participate when they cannot physically be there. We as the Design Studio team are pleased that we could be a part of using robots to make it possible for people to engage in a rich way with this conference and the people there while it was happening. Physical distance does not have to mean that people cannot be a rich part of an event.

Do you need to do something similar or does this spotlight spark an idea for something you’d like to try? Come see us in the Design Studio (401b Erickson Hall) or contact us at dstudio@msu.edu. We’d love to be a part of what you do!