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SpecialEffect News

12 Jun 2020

BubbleBuster Luuk: out of school and onto the farm!

Farming-mad Luuk has an immune deficiency due to his cancer treatment. When his dad took on the challenge of a 37-hour charity 'Muckathon' on the family farm, there seemed to be no way Luuk could join him. But then his mum had an idea...

This rather unusual BubbleBuster story had originally started in a similar way to many others. Six-year-old Luuk had been isolated from his friends and school for over a year due to his ongoing cancer treatment, before his parents contacted us to find out more about BubbleBusters. The project sees SpecialEffect helping young people in medical isolation to ‘attend’ school in a virtual way, thanks to a small AV1 robot made by No Isolation. The AV1 sits on their school desk and acts as their eyes, ears and mouth in the classroom, while they control it via a secure connection from home or hospital via a phone or tablet.

We visited Luuk and his family in January. It was a challenge getting him connected with his rural school, but after a lot of hard work and perseverance our experienced technical team were able to successfully reunite him ‘virtually’ with his school friends and teachers again.

Below: Our BubbleBusters team must often overcome complex technical challenges setting up the robots on school due to necessary security protocols. ln Luuk’s case the issues also included limited WiFi and no 4G coverage at the school, but the team used their expertise alongside that of the local council and Norway’s No Isolation in an international effort to help Luuk successfully go ‘back to school’ - just in time for him to join in reading The Gruffalo with his classmates!

Two images: smiling boy holding small robot, and robot on school desk

Sadly, this success was short-lived, as Luuk’s school was then closed in March as a result of COVID-19 and he was once again faced with a long period of isolation. Realising the potential impact of this situation, at the beginning of the lockdown we encouraged all of the children involved in the project to have their robots sent home with them, with the offer of our ongoing support to enable them to be used in whatever ways they chose. In Luuk’s case, this turned out to be a very muddy one!

Luuk’s dad had come up with the idea of a Muckathon, a non-stop 52-acre farming fundraising challenge full of tractor-driving, mud, ploughing, a big list of jobs and a seemingly impossible timeframe to do them in! He wanted to raise as much as possible for the cancer charity CLIC Sargent and really needed a partner by his side to support him in getting it done. The question was, could we figure out a way to allow Luuk to accompany his dad in the cab, using the AV1?

Firstly, we made sure that Luuk had a stable wi-fi connection to his robot, not as easy as it sounds in the middle of a large field! But there was still the problem of keeping the robot protected from the elements - and it was then that his mum came up with the inspired idea of putting it in a transparent protective camera bag.

After the robot was safely attached to the tractor seat, Luuk was able to provide much-needed company and encouragement for his dad from the safety of his home. Not only could he see what his dad was doing in real time using his tablet, he could also look around and chat to his dad, all thanks to his intrepid AV1!

With Luuk’s encouragement, his dad managed to finish the Muckathon after more than 37 hours of non-stop muck-spreading, raising over £5000 for the charity!

All around the country our AV1 robots are keeping our BubbleBusters connected to their families and friends in so many different ways during the current school closures. We were delighted to be able to help Luuk share and support his dad’s challenge in this way and wanted to offer our congratulations to both of them - an incredible effort that yet again proves that where there’s muck, there’s brass!

Below: Luuk's dad (left) with the robot (circled) riding alongside him in its protective bag. Luuk (right) gives encouragement from home.

Man in tractor, smiling boy with computer


 

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