They look, and cry, like real babies
By Bethany Monk, Calaveras Enterprise
Two new “top-notch” mechanical babies, worth $599 each, were delivered to Bret Harte High School in Angels Camp by Gloria Correy and Chyrl Hillis of Soroptimist International of Calaveras County. Over the course of a few years, Soroptimists have donated a total of eight babies to Bret Harte. The babies will be integrated into the home economics curriculum in the child development class this semester, according to Suzi Schneider, who teaches the class.
Students in the child development class can opt to take home one of the new mechanical babies – one is a boy, the other a girl – for three days at a time.
The idea behind the computerized dolls, purchased from Realityworks Inc., creator of the original, award-winning Baby Think It Over® infant simulator, is to help “prevent teenage pregnancy,” according to Gloria Correy. Correy introduced the mechanical babies to the Soroptimist about seven years ago after she learned about the computerized dolls when visiting family in Nevada – she saw her grandson come home from middle school one day with a crying “baby.” After introducing the program to Soroptimist, “The club voted for it,” she said, and then began raising money to buy the dolls.
The mechanical babies, life-like and animated, are programmed by Schneider to be low, medium or high maintenance, and will cry, get hungry, and need their diapers changed throughout the day and night. Students will care for the baby as if it were real by feeding, holding and changing its diapers. “The babies come with 15 different programs,” she said, adding that her students’ parenting actions are recorded and transmitted to her computer. For example, there is a magnetic sensor in the baby’s lips, and the “milk bottle’s” nipple, she said. Schneider will know whether or not students have fed or changed the baby’s diapers at the appropriate times.
“After the baby cries, students have two minutes to respond, and another two minutes to figure out the problem,” she said. “There are even subtle differences in the baby’s cries signaling a different need; the baby will scream if the head is not supported”, she said.
Students who opt to take a baby during the school week must take the baby to class or bring it to Schneider during the day, she said.
Teachers are in compliance with the program, however, if the babies are disruptive or the teacher doesn’t want them in class, students can simply take them to Schneider. The babies can also remain quiet by being placed on “day care mode” during the day, Schneider said.
“The program has a two-fold mission at Bret Harte”, according to Schneider. “First, she hopes that her students will realize that “most kids are not prepared to care for a baby 24 hours a day.” Secondly, Schneider hopes the program will also help students determine whether childcare and child development are fields they may want to consider for the future.
“Some of them are excited. Some are apprehensive,” Schneider said of her students. There are 14 students in her child development class this year; all are female. Normally there are males in her class, she added.
Students who choose not to take a doll home may complete another assignment of equal point value, she said.