As any dog lover will tell you, a four-legged family member is much more than just an eating and pooping machine. They’re caretakers. Dog adoptions skyrocketed during the pandemic, and families that already had one (or more) pooches found plenty of solace in canine cuddles and romps in the woods.
With a school year like no other lurching to its conclusion, students at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester and Amesbury Elementary School were welcomed as they arrived for the morning bell this week by a new four-legged friend. Amesbury’s Code & Circuit, a nonprofit afterschool workshop for children drawn to technology, recently took ownership of Spot, one of Boston Dynamics’robotic dogs.
As the school buses rolled up to Amesbury Elementary on Thursday, Spot was in the parking lot, eager to greet the students. Inside, Spot walked down the hall to visit a few classrooms.
“They loved it when we had him pretend to pee on a tree,” said Ken Aspeslagh, the founder of Code & Circuit.
Code & Circuit recently purchased one of the Boston Dynamics dogs with an educational discount. List price is about $75,000, according to Aspeslagh — “about the cost of a really nice car.”
The idea is to inspire children to engage with technology. Other school visits are likely.
Students at the pilot school in Dorchester, from sixth-graders through high school seniors, had plenty of questions about Spot’s capabilities, said Lori Towle. She is an instructional coach for the Boston Public Schools who was recently named executive director of Code & Circuit’s board of directors. As the founder of Full Circle Classrooms, Towle promotes project-based learning.
The older students wanted to know how much weight Spot can carry, she said. Could he help with access to crime scenes, or in dangerous situations?
Until the Code & Circuit team can master the programming details, their new mascot can perform basic functions. At TechBoston, he rolled over and climbed the stairs.
“Eventually, he’ll be able to dance with the class,” Towle said.
For now, Spot served the primary purpose of any good dog.
“He brought smiles in a year that’s been a struggle for everybody,” said Towle. “He just kind of lit up their day.”
James Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.