Sultan Middle School principal Nathan Plummer thanks Standever Institute president and executive director Sean Standefer for the Double Robotics Telepresence robot.
Sultan Middle School principal Nathan Plummer thanks Standever Institute president and executive director Sean Standefer for the Double Robotics Telepresence robot.

An intelligent, two-wheeled piece of machinery was added to the Sultan Middle School STEAM program's arsenal.

The Standever Institute donated a Double Robotics Telepresence robot to the Science, Technology, Engineering, Automation and Math program on Friday, March 17. The nonprofit aims to connect people with opportunities in technology.

With assistance from an iPad donated by the city of Sultan, the robot can be controlled remotely, easily moving around and increasing interactions with students.

Standever Institute president and executive director Sean Standefer addressed the school during a Friday morning assembly. The robot was designed to be used at table-level height, has Bluetooth access and speaker systems. The piece can cost around $3,500, he said.

Standefer and his wife live in Sultan. The couple started up the nonprofit last year after working for many years in the robotics field. They hope to provide training, classes and connections for the entire community.

Standefer told students and staff he believes “intelligence is not dependent on your zip code.”

However, technology is often hard to come by, and can be expensive, Standefer said. The institute is taking donations that include drones, robots and digital cameras, to turn around and give out to people seeking more experience in related career fields, he said.

“It opens up a lot of doors for students,” said Janice Cizek, Sultan Middle School assistant principal.

When educators use Skype, for example, the guest addressing the class can usually only do just that, Cizek said. With the new robot, whoever is calling in can move around the room, and even peak over students’ shoulders to see what they are working on, she said.

The new addition was presented during the assembly by principal Nathan Plummer and seventh-grader Mikey Camacho. Plummer said the robot will be able to engage students through more relevant avenues.

He said he is hoping, with the help of the institute, “to build a school in a rural area that gives equal access to students outside heavily populated areas.”

Plummer and Cizek said they expect the experiences students have with the robot to shape future technologies. Cizek said kids could look back and realize how effective the robot was, but build on that and figure out special new features.

Plummer said integrating robotics into the curriculum now could be “creating jobs for kids that we don't know exist.”

Cizek added that exposure can also change perceptions. Much discourse is centered around the creation of destructive, dangerous robots, but this way students can see how productive the technology can be.

Camacho is one middle school student planning to go into the STEAM field. He said he already likes the robot because it could potentially be used to take classes without actually coming to school.

He has taken robotics classes for three years and expects “it's going to be a fun career.”

Standefer said he will be hosting free courses next month at the middle school for the general public.

For more information on the classes, go to standever.com.