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Sunday, June 05, 2016

Robotic Telepresence Device Allows Student to Attend School Virtually While Receiving Treatment | THE Journal

Naya Salah kicked off her year at Stratford School’s Santa Clara Middle School as a typical seventh grader. She was a good student, she had a role in the school play, and she was very social. But everything changed Jan. 20, 2016, according to Richard Chang, associate editor of THE Journal.

Naya Salah attends seventh grade from her hospital bed using the teleconferencing device Beam.
Photo: T.H.E. Journal 

A few days prior, she didn’t feel well at school, and her friend told her her eyes looked yellow. On Jan. 20, doctors gave her the diagnosis — leukemia.

“It was a very sudden diagnosis,” Principal Becky Turner said. “We were all very, very surprised by it, her family probably most of all.”

“I looked up leukemia and got upset,” Salah, 13, said. “We went to the hospital that night. It was my longest stay at the hospital. And the chemo really hit me hard.”

Because the leukemia and chemotherapy would render her immune system depressed, Naya was told that she would have to miss the rest of the school year.

“She didn’t cry about the fact that she’d lose her hair,” said Naya’s mother, Tala Khalaf. “She cried about not being able to go to school for seventh grade.”

Her classmates were shocked. But rather than wallow in the sad news, they decided to do something about it. A friend of hers, Eva Sandman, told her parents about Naya’s condition.
Brad Sandman and Tanya Jenkins both work at Suitable Technologies, based in Palo Alto. The company makes Beam, a mobile videoconferencing device that can be operated remotely with a computer or a phone.

The Sandmans spoke with their company and convinced them to let Naya indefinitely lease the Beam+. Within a couple of weeks, Naya was virtually attending classes through Beam, even socializing with her friends, while she was lying in the hospital or at home in San Carlos, getting treatment or recovering.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” she said. “I feel it’s more high tech. I feel really lucky to be in the Bay Area because of stuff like this.”

“The Beam has been a huge transformation in her life, honestly,” mother Khalaf said. “It’s made a huge, huge difference in her recovery and healing on so many levels — emotional, intellectual, even spiritual. She’s so motivated to wake up and attend school. Virtual attendance in school has made a huge difference.”

The portion of the Beam+ that is physically present at Naya’s school in her place consists of a 10-inch LCD flat-panel screen, attached to a base with motorized wheels that allow it to move around through remote controls issued by the “pilot’s” device — a Windows or OS X device — running the Beam+ app. “It’s like an iPad on a stick,” Naya said. 
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Source: T.H.E. Journal


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