Robot babies help seniors discover parenting woes

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Senior health classes are exploring the struggles of single-parenthood by spending two days and two nights with RealCare robotic babies. Senior “parents” receive bracelets that measure their responsiveness to the babies’ needs. As the babies’ happiness determines the project grades, students are pressured to adapt to their new responsibilities. The RealCare babies were first introduced as an optional assignment last year, but this is the first time the project is being run through the whole senior class. Despite the hardships this program gives seniors, many choose to take care of the babies over an alternate research assignment. We talked to students, faculty and staff about what’s real (or real fake) about RealCare.

 

What RealCare gets right:

– Both real and robotic babies look similar and exhibit extremely similar behaviors.

– Both robotic and real babies are extremely sensitive; you have to be gentle with your baby  (especially the neck) to avoid injury.

– Both interrupt a parent’s daily life.

– Both burp, cry and scream continuously.

– Both wake up in the middle of the night.

– Both need diaper changes very often.

– Both distract from doing homework, studying for tests or finishing assignments.

– Both allow parents to demonstrate responsibility and prepare for the future.

 

What RealCare gets wrong:

– Real babies do not bottle-feed for more than an hour like some RealCare babies do.

– Changing robot babies’ diapers is much easier than real babies because robot diapers do not smell or make a mess for the parent.

– Changing robot baby diapers make them stop crying, but human babies keep crying.

– Robot babies do not blink, smile or move.

– Robot babies are not cute like real babies.

– There are no emotional connections between the parents and the robot babies.

– The only motivation for parents to keep robot babies alive is an A in Genesis.

 

Here are some students’ and teachers’ thoughts about the babies:

“The baby cries so much and takes away from class time.”

—Jimmy Lynch ’19

“This project shows what you need to learn in order to be a teen mom or a teen dad.”

—Hailey Romano ’19

“It shows kids how much responsibility having a kid is.”

—Olivia Giordano ‘19

“Your life is secondary to the child’s. That’s really hard to teach.”

—Ms. Brittany Miller

“Just watching the kids’ reactions when a fake baby cries in class cracks me up.”

—Mr. Bryan McNaught

“It’s a good exposure for teenagers to have to learn how much work it takes.”

—Mr. Jonathan Sibilia

“They only see the bad part. They don’t have the joy.”

—Ms. Taciana Barros