Safe school advocacy groups have scrambled to find more robust security measures for America’s children, teachers, and school staff in response to the tragic rise in gun violence and mass school shootings. As a result, Santa Fe, New Mexico, school districts are testing an AI-enabled robot that patrols the multi-building campus 24/7.
As expected, mixed feelings about a robot’s effectiveness and safety exist. For example, several responses on YouTube and Twitter suggest teens would destroy the robot, but @JcWelp joked: “The kids are gonna bully it and make it feel bad about itself; the numbers say it will drop out anyway.”
Tragically, one tweet predicted doom; @bsmeche wrote: This is part of the indoctrination process. It normalizes the use of robots with the next generation. If the kids had any sense, they would boycott the school.” Notably, similar warnings were broadcast after telephones and robotics in manufacturing were first introduced.
Nonetheless, New Mexico is not the first state where robots have joined school security teams. A robot equipped with flashing lights, sirens, and bulletproof armor has kept youth at Laurel Junior-Senior High School in Pennsylvania out of harm’s way for the past year and a half.
According to Trac Fabrication, Inc. CEO David Kennedy, “Every round of ammunition that is spent firing at this thing would make it so it’s not going at an individual.” Referring to S3bot, the robot his company created, he added the $40,000 robot looks for threats around the school campus while it captures video through a night-vision-equipped camera. “It has infrared illuminators here. The camera can spin 360 degrees around and 180 degrees backward and forward,” Kennedy added during its demonstration for WTAE News.
Schools and Robots
In August 2021, Campus Safety Magazine reported that since 2015 “robots are increasingly being used in security and surveillance applications.” The robots are used in public areas where privacy is not expected. Since the robot used by the Santa Fe High School does not have facial recognition features and the school owns the robot’s video footage, privacy issues beyond the campus should not be a concern.
Furthermore, if a school chooses to supplement its security methods with an autonomous robot that is capable of monitoring the campus 24/7/365, no matter the weather, security expenses can be reduced.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Wall Street Journal: Your School’s Next Security Guard May Be an AI-Enabled Robot; by Megan Tagami
Campus Safety: Robots to the Rescue: New Solutions for Campus Security; by Stacy Stephens
Campus Safety: How Robots on Campus Can Save Money and Lives; by Dr. Travis Deyle
WTAE ABC News: Safety robot made by Lawrence County company can be used to keep students safe during dangerous situations; by Chandi Chapman
HG Legal Resources: Bounds of Privacy in Public Locations — What Is Legal?