Dan and Nick Koerber: Using Robots to Help Individuals with Autism


Chase Lindgren, Staff Reporter

Twin students from Lakeland University have made headlines with their work towards bettering the lives and education of children with autism. Dan and Nick Koerber are graduating seniors double majoring in computer science and math. When starting the project, they spent a couple of hours a week learning how to work with the current model of Lakeland’s programmable robot. While the robot had humble beginnings, it can now see, predict and even teach with the right coding programs. 

During their first time working with the robot, Nick said, “we had it say the whole Bee Movie script.” They programmed the robot to play Connect Four as well as predict the opponent’s moves. Aside from games, the robot could also read off a PowerPoint and use a variety computer programs, some of which have yet to be explored. Dan and Nick equipped the robots with coding programs that can help children with autism learn at a rate and setting that may feel more comfortable to them. 

“Autistic children tend to be more receptive to looking at objects instead of people,” said Dan. “The robot can help them focus and possibly learn from the robot or both the robot and their teachers.” 

Dan and Nick said that there are still plenty of challenges and kinks to be worked out, including the visual programming. For instance, if a person wearing a red shirt sits behind the Connect Four board, the robot may become confused and require additional programming.  

This is a developing project that has great potential. As new software and devices aimed at aiding disabled individuals advance in the coming years, there is the hope that projects such as these will help to improve education and learning for those with autism.