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South Carolina Aquarium receives “Aquabot”, virtual learning upgrade

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.(South Carolina Aquarium)
Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 12:11 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Aquarium says Google has awarded them the funds to support the launch of a state-of-the-art telepresence robot.

The robot has temporarily been dubbed the “Aquabot” and the aquarium says it is intended to bolster the their distance learning offerings.

The Aquabot was donated as part of Google’s Data Center Community Grants Program, and the aquarium says the technology will allow students to participate in field trip experiences and engage in on-site programming from the convenience of their classrooms or elsewhere.

Aquarium officials say the program is in partnership with the Berkeley County School District’s St. Stephen Elementary School. The aquarium says that by working in concert with school district officials, the pilot program at St. Stephen took place in December and reached more than 120 students ranging from PreK through fifth grade.

The students were able to “visit” the Aquarium through an engaging and uniquely customizable learning experience as the aquarium says they navigated the Aquabot through their galleries.

“Google is thrilled to help bring the Aquarium experience into South Carolina students’ classrooms,” Google Head of Southeast Public Affairs Lilyn Hester said. “This innovative technology makes student accessibility a priority. Students thrive during hands-on learning opportunities, and we hope the Aquabot will inspire students to pursue STEM education and careers.”

As technology advances and virtual learning becomes increasingly accessible, the Aquarium says they and Google are leading the charge connecting our scientists of tomorrow with science of today.

Google has a data center in Berkeley County.

“Our students have experienced a lot of changes this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including restrictions on field trips,” St. Stephen Elementary Technology Coach Jennifer Tran said. “This experience was invaluable as it was the first time many of our students have seen the Aquarium. Judging by the looks on their faces, they had the same reaction sitting at St. Stephen as they would have had in person. This was more than a virtual field trip — it was an experience. It was an experience I will never forget, and I am sure our students will not forget either.”

The Aquarium says the Aquabot is a welcome addition to their catalogue of informal educational offerings, many of which are focused on maximizing accessibility to Title 1 and low-income schools. They say its versatility and ability to provide a first-person experience from afar will allow students to simulate an Aquarium visit at their discretion while enjoying a natural learning environment.

“The Aquabot is such a fantastic resource because it puts the control in the hands of the student. They can explore at their own pace and choose their own adventure, creating connection with not only the animals and exhibits but also the Aquarium guests sharing in their wonder. The Aquabot gives students the unique opportunity to go from passive viewers to engaged participants,” South Carolina Aquarium Distance Learning Interpreter Susan McLaughlin said.

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