Robot helps student battling cancer attend class

Posted at 6:33 PM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 14:36:08-04

OVERLAND PARK, KS (WDAF/CNN) – There’s a classroom in a Kansas High School with a high-tech visitor.

That’s because a student battling cancer is using a robot to help her take classes in real time.

When 15-year-old Ari Burris was diagnosed with ovarian cancer during the summer months, she never dreamed a robot would come to her rescue.

Burris, a sophomore at Blue Valley High School, takes her education very seriously.

Ari’s dad, Brian, learned about Beam robots, which can be used for telepresence in the corporate world. Now, “Ari-bot” is Ari’s live look into classes at her school.

Every morning, Ari’s twin sister Belle brings Ari-bot to life.

The robot is about 4 feet tall, with a tablet-like screen as a head and rollers on its bottom, which allow Ari-bot, as the family has nicknamed it, to roam the school under supervision.

Ari controls the robot from home, which is a few miles away from her school.

Cancer remains a big concern for the Burris family. Ari missed a lot of school while having treatment for 29 ovarian tumors oncologists discovered.

The Burrisses said Ari can’t attend school while her immunity levels are low, because she could miss chemotherapy visits if she gets sick.

"It has helped me be able to stay in public school and give me a chance to not be home-schooled,” Ari said. “This allows me to kind of see some people.”

Ari’s classmates are glad the robot lets them stay in touch with her.

"It's not like a robot to me. It's just Ari. So, I just have normal conversations with her," said Emily Cummings, Ari’s classmate.

Ari’s teachers are grateful she can stay involved in school.

"We think about little things that kids have missed and how hard it is for them to catch up,” said Manal Weidel, Ari’s science teacher. “For this student to be so committed and so invested in making sure that she doesn't miss out on being at school, I think is phenomenal."

A robot like the one Ari is using costs more than $2,000, but Beam Robotics is letting the Burris family use it for free.

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