May 12, 2020

Telepresence robots make lockdown graduation a reality for students

By Lucy Ingham

For students, the lockdowns the coronavirus has forced have upended normal staples of the education experience, but when it comes to graduation, telepresence robots are providing a solution.

Yesterday the graduating class at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, a part of Arizona State University Enterprise, experienced a digital commencement.

Each student attended their graduation via a mobile telepresence robot, which they were able to control and move around while viewing the graduation from their computers at home.

This meant that instead of the usual line of students stepping onstage, the class members rolled onto the stage via their telepresence robots, with an image of their faces visible at head height on an affixed screen.

For Thunderbird School of Global Management, it enabled the students to still participate in the ceremony without breaking the lockdown or having to challenge social distancing measures.

“Thunderbird transformed spring graduation ceremonies in order to celebrate our students with a ceremony that honored our historic traditions of bringing the world together – like our parade of flags from around the world,” said Dr Sanjeev Khagram, dean and director general of Thunderbird, who attended the ceremony in person.

“We also designed one that reflected our community’s resilience, compassion and creativity.”

telepresence robots students graduationTelepresence robots for students puts innovation in action

Thunderbird places a strong focus on innovation and transformative technologies in its education, so the ceremony also enabled the school to put its principles into action.

“We teach our students how to maximise the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by embracing global ingenuity and innovation, so leveraging transformative technologies like mobile telepresence robots for an unprecedented commencement was a fitting final lesson for the Class of 2020,” said Khagram.

“We plan to celebrate our graduates again together in person when Thunderbird holds the grand opening of its new high-tech state-of-the-art global headquarters in 2021 in Downtown Phoenix.”

Read more: Coronavirus case studies: How Perlego and Barclays are bringing free digital textbooks to students

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