HINTON, W.Va. – Ellie Rhodes is your typical 4th grader. She loves Duck Dynasty, “Michelle,” her stuffed monkey and laughing with her friends. But there is one thing that sets the 9-year-old apart. She is battling leukemia.
However, that is not stopping Ellie from living a normal life, including attending school.
In fact, Ellie made an appearance at last week’s West Virginia Board of Education meeting in Charleston with the help of Vgo.
“Vgo is a remote controlled robot that works over a secure server. The student has software on their computer at home and they operate the robot remotely from that so they can attend school or any other function,” according to Summers County School Treasurer Jennifer Farley who introduced Ellie and Vgo to the Board.
Ellie is home bound for a year. Because her immune system has been weakened from cancer treatments, it’s too risky to send her school. But Vgo allows her to be exactly where she want to and that is in class with her friends.
Ellie sits at her computer at home which is connected to Vgo. The robot is decked out in a pink tutu designed by Ellie and her mom. The 9-year-old can see what’s going in class and the class can see her on the Vgo monitor.
“Ellie is able to stay connected with her her classmates. She is able to stay connected in the classroom. She is getting real time education and instruction instead of always having to make up or be behind with what the other students are doing,” explained Farley.
Vgo was purchased through a grant from the Hinton Area Foundation. Vgo cost $6,000 initially. There’s also a $1,200 a year service agreement for software updates and the secure server which is picked up by the county.
Farley stressed it’s a more than reasonable price to give a student like Ellie the chance at a normal education experience. “It is the next best thing [to being in class],” said Farley.
Ellie agreed. “I love school and I like to Facetime [with my friends].”
Farley said, when Ellie is able to come back to class this spring, they’ll use Vgo to help other students who are home bound.