EVANSVILLE, Wis. - The donation of a telepresence robot to JC McKenna Middle School in Evansville will allow students unable to come to school to be there virtually.
The robot, which looks similar to a segway, holds a height adjustable iPad on a motorized wheel, which can be controlled remotely from a tablet or phone. This gives students who are sick the opportunity not to miss out on school, or socialization.
The robot was donated in honor of a former JC McKenna student, Matthew Winter, who lost his life to bone cancer after his second diagnosis. During his battle against Ewing's sarcoma, Winter was forced to miss school for long periods at a time.
"We spent almost every other week at UW Children's hospital in Madison. He missed his friends and he missed his classes," said Winter's mother, Rene Wieloch.
One of Winter's friends noticed a telepresence robot at his dad's work and realized how the tool could have helped Matthew while he was sick.
"He said Matt hadn't been in school for the past year," said Nate Ellsworth. "Had he had this tool, he could have been there."
Ellsworth, who is the CEO of N1 Critical Technologies in Janesville, says he decided at that point it was important to make sure any other student who had the same needs had access to the tool.
On Thursday, he gifted JC McKenna Middle School with its very own robot, which the school named after Matthew.
"To know that something like this is going to be able to be utilized and that it will make such a difference for another child is amazing," said Wieloch. "It means a lot to me that they still talk about him and think about him every day."