I'm Megan Gilmour and my journey to Robots4Good began with a robot and a boy.
I was at the height of my career in global aid and development when, in 2010, my son was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. That’s when everything changed.
Here I was, a respected social change agent with a few career milestones under my belt–rising through the ranks to become the NSW Finance Minister’s youngest staffer, and a decade+ career in international development where I spearheaded multi-million dollar social and economic development initiatives across 24 countries. Nothing, however, prepared me for the journey of being a mother of a seriously sick child.
During two years of hospital treatments, navigating my young son through a bone marrow transplant, I saw the glaring inequalities children face when they are sick: educational and social isolation.
Fueled by my experience as a social innovator, I took on creating lasting change for the 70,000+ children in Australia missing school due to serious illness. This ultimately led us to telepresence robots because presence is the only cure for absence.
Looking for suitable technology, we stumbled upon the VGo robot in 2013 which helped sick kids get back to school. The idea made sense to us: agency, mobility and real-time classroom interactions. The technology was new and expensive.
Telepresence robots were also used in Canada, but they were gigantic! Wanting to bring robots to Australia, in mid-2016 I applied for a Google Impact Grant and had buy-in from the ACT Education department for a two-robot pilot but was unsuccessful.
However, in 2017, my Churchill Fellowship led me to research technology and policy on school connection for sick kids in other countries. And while in the Netherlands, I pitched St.George Bank Foundation for a world-first telepresence robot education innovation and we won the grant!
We road-tested a number of robots (Padbot, Double, etc) but found the Ohmni robot the best value for money. Silicon Valley’s OhmniLabs was also a match for our service values and innovation ambition, and a producer of service robots at scale. With over 3,000 robots deployed worldwide in 48 countries, OhmniLabs made a name for itself by creating a unique, on-demand robot manufacturing model that allows it to design, engineer and manufacture custom robots based on customer needs at unrivalled speed using its proprietary 3D printing processes and modular robotics platform.
MissingSchool achieved national recognition and in 2019, I was a finalist for the ACT Australian of the Year and won the 2019 ACT For Purpose and Social Enterprise Telstra Business Women’s Award. I am also an AFR 100 Woman of Influence and 2020 Deakin Alumnus of the Year. In 2021, I launched a national policy paper on school technology and education support services for seriously sick children in Australia.
It started with a robot and a boy and now Robots4Good continues to provide service and support to MissingSchool as we facilitate social equity and connection across several high-impact sectors. We are committed to optimising the robots for a variety of settings, including those invested in mitigating risk during the Covid19 pandemic. Now we’re working with OhmniLabs to scale Ohmni Pro, the next level in telepresence robots and autonomous mobile robotics in Australia and New Zealand.
Robots4Good will continue to drive human potential with help from our robot friends. Head here to contact us, or book a free demo.