Education case study

The client and location

Waratah Special Needs Developmental School, Bellfield, Heidelberg, Victoria. The school provides educational programs for students with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities between the ages of five and 18 years. Many students have associated disabilities including sensory, physical, medical and communication disorders.

The brief

Our previous research and field trials in home-based care have shown social robots are accepted as entertaining learning and engaging companions. These previous trials involved developing technologies (e.g. face, emotion and speech recognition, integration of sound effects, music and gestures) and personalised services (e.g. singing, playing games, quizzes, storytelling) for improving engagement, learning and the wellbeing of people with mental disabilities.

This motivated us to trial our social robot, Matilda, with children with special needs. Many of the young adults in the trial had learning disabilities and mental health problems, lacked self-confidence and had a fear of making mistakes.

We designed the services to create positive social engagement, fun and entertaining learning activities, (with multilingual abilities) for each child. Fun and enjoyment are crucial factors in motivating children – the robot engages learners, helps nurture self-confidence and makes the learning process entertaining.

The robot engaged learners by acting as an effective partner (not teacher) for interactive practice: it was non-judgemental and reminded students, repeated information and offered personalised services.

Our solution

This field trial will:

  • design and deploy an innovative socially assistive robot enabled learning and engagement service model for children with special needs
  • develop an alternative strategy for motivating children with special needs to learn and engage, promoting better outcomes for the children and the school
  • develop knowledge in using cutting-edge assistive technologies for teaching and learning for students with special needs
  • design social robot enabled services which improve the quality of life for students with special needs and time of teaching staff.

Outcomes

End of September 2016.