Beam Me Up: Testing Robot tours in Schools

The intellectual, social, and emotional benefits of museum learning are well documented; according to numerous studies, museum education has the ability to motivate and excite learners of all ages while also providing them with new insights and experiences. But what about learners who are unable to visit a museum? What about underserved children whose schools are unable to afford the transportation, or students with physical or mental special needs that make museum visits challenging? Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC)'s Museum at Your Fingertips is an experimental, Institute for Museum and Library Services-funded project to test the ability of a telepresence robot to empower all students to "visit" the San Diego Air and Space Museum (SDASM) in real-time. The device, the BeamPro by Suitable Technologies, enables students to engage with exhibits fully through an interactive tool that moves, sees, and speaks on command. As part of virtual "tours" of SDASM, a docent guides the BeamPro through the museum and highlights ten points of interest. BPOC and SDASM developed a companion website, that runs alongside the BeamPro interface and pushes supplemental content to user's screens, to enhance the online educational experience. The docent can trigger archival photos and videos and update the website map to show students where they are in the museum. This pilot program test the effectiveness of the BeamPro as an access-increasing learning tool and asks for feedback from educators and students at every step of the way. This session will provide an overview of the challenges, solutions, and results of this project, and will provide recommendations for museums considering similar programs. Speaker(s) Session Leader : Julia Falkowski, Web & Interactive Media Producer, Balboa Park Online Collaborative MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor: Piction New Orleans, LA