For teachers and students in the Burlington County Special Services School District, a robot named Milo is providing a new and so far effective supplement to classwork for students with autism.

WESTAMPTON — Milo the Robot talks and moves like a childrens’ toy would, but he is more than just a gadget.

For teachers and students in the Burlington County Special Services School District, Milo provides a new and so far effective supplement to classwork.

The robot, developed by Robokind’s Robots4Autism initiative and distributed by TechXTend, first came to Superintendent Christopher Nagy at an education conference. After seeing the robot’s potential to help students with autism learn, Nagy proposed that his district — which has over 300 students with autism — would be able to provide feedback on how Milo worked in a classroom.

TechXTend agreed, donating one Milo robot to the district last month. Each of the robots can work with 12 students total.

“We’re quite excited about it …” Nagy said. “It just offers a whole different way of communication to (students with autism) and can help them meet their goals, be it socially, academically, or emotionally.”

Milo is equipped with moving facial features and limbs, can speak to students, and displays content on a screen built into his chest. Although Milo is artificially intelligent, data is collected by linked iPad programs. The programs allow students to answer questions, and allow teachers to decide based on a student’s work with Milo whether the robot should repeat a request or lesson, among other things.

After lessons, teachers can analyze the data to determine how well students are applying concepts they learned in class, such as emotional expression or social interaction, said the district’s Supervisor of Education Adell Valasek.

Milo is a supplement for in-class lessons, rather than a replacement, Valasek said. Milo’s demonstrations and follow-the-leader style games are just one tool educators can use to emphasize and analyze lessons.

Nagy believes Milo will make a positive impact.

“First and foremost, its novelty is going to be attractive for students,” he said. “Second, it is a true artificial intelligence opportunity for us to engage in. Third, based on the latest technology and (company software), it’s an opportunity to expand our communication with students.”

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