Student, paralyzed in farm accident, uses robot to attend school
By DARCY GRAY
The Hutchinson News
HAVEN, Kan. (AP) — Tuesday was the first time 16-year-old Kolton Kincaid, who was paralyzed in a farm accident last month, was able to roam the halls of Haven High School again — even though he’s still undergoing rehabilitation in Denver.
Yep, the Haven High School student was in two places at once.
Students at Haven High School gasped Tuesday when they received a surprise visit from Kolton, who talked to them from a Segway-style robot he was controlling from Denver.
In Denver, he was using an iPad application to move the robot into Haven High School’s cafeteria during lunch and down the halls of the school, where he talked to friends and teachers. The robot’s iPad, attached to a long pole and wheels, gave a live view of Kolton.
Kolton was trying out one of the three “Double” robots from Double Robotics that belong to the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas, based in Hutchinson, The Hutchinson News reported (http://bit.ly/19chcuh ).
“Hey, Kolton!” Haven High School students called out to him in the noisy cafeteria as he moved among the aisles of tables, quickly finding friends to talk to.
Then, he was off down the hallway toward Drew Thalmann’s physical science class.
“He definitely knows the school quite well,” said Steve Wyckoff, ESSDACK chief innovation officer, as the robot whizzed toward Thalmann’s classroom.
Freshman Alex Rosiere spotted the robot coming toward Thalmann’s open classroom door. His eyes widened when he recognized Kolton’s face, and he immediately threw his hands up in the air to form the shape of a heart. After a brief lapse in the wireless Internet connection, the robot was back online, with Kolton ribbing Thalmann about his budding beard.
“No-shave November turned into don’t-shave December,” Thalmann explained.
Kolton wished the basketball players luck in their home game Tuesday night against Kingman, and they reminded him how everyone would be wearing blue at the game to support him.
Rolling down the hall, he surprised junior Keeley Taylor at her locker, and he also chatted with junior Taylor Nelson about the weather — a balmy 60 degrees in Denver.
“Is he controlling it?” asked freshman Leslie Hingeley, who was wearing a blue “Team K” T-shirt and matching blue-and-white bow. “That is so cool!”
“This is pretty cool because I can go around and see everyone again,” Kolton said. “Everyone” included his dad, Kory, who stopped by to see the interaction.
Kory Kincaid said his son is “getting better every day” and is planning to return home in January. On Tuesday, Kolton was also in talks with AgrAbility about using the company’s innovative equipment, which allows people with spinal cord injuries to drive a combine, Kory said.
“That’s what he wants to do when he gets back is get back to work,” Kory said, noting that the family farms milo, corn and soybeans.
Kolton was left paralyzed from the waist down after a farm accident Nov. 10 near Langdon. He was riding on the front of a skid steer when his shoulder got caught on the roof of the machine, and it compressed him.
Since the accident, the Haven community and Kolton’s network of family and friends across the nation have rallied to support him, even raising more than $70,000 in just one fundraiser earlier this month.
“It’s been amazing — and overwhelming,” Kory said of the outpouring of support.
Cody Heitschmidt, a marketing specialist for ESSDACK, said ESSDACK might set up some sort of resale or leasing program in the future to make the “Double” robots available to school districts.
“There are a lot of homebound kids in the world, and they can always get the work sent home to them, but this offers them the social aspect of being in school,” Heitschmidt explained.