New robots at Spartanburg District 2 helping students with autism

BOILING SPRINGS, SC (WSPA) – Spartanburg District 2 is starting off the school year with a new staff member and he’s only two feet tall.

Milo is a pint-sized robot being used in classrooms across the country.

There’s more to him than meets the eye.

Milo is used to teach social skills to children with autism — helping students develop empathy and recognize their own emotions.

“That’s essential for them to communicate with other students,” said Fran Metta with Spartanburg District 2.

Milo has been on the market for three years.  The impressive technology on the inside has largely stayed the same but on the outside, Milo underwent a big makeover before heading into the classroom.

7News spoke with the creators who say he originally looked too lifelike to kids.

“The kids did not engage so they had to make him a little more like a cartoon character,” said Robokind marketing manager, Mark Child.

Teachers control the curriculum from an iPad.  Along with being able to mimic human expression, Milo has a display on his chest.

Students listen and look to him for direction before watching additional material on a second, nearby iPad.

Patience and repetitiveness are key components.

“That’s the beauty of Milo.  He can teach the same lesson over and over.  He never gets tired.  He never gets frustrated.  He uses the same tone of voice,” said Child.

Metta says there are more than 60 students with autism in the district.  One of the robots will be used at Shoally Creek Elementary in Boiling Springs.  The other is starting at Rainbow Lake Middle School in Chesney.

According to Child, Milo costs approximately $9,000 with the installed curriculum.

Spartanburg District 2 was able to receive both robots with federal funding.