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Meet Pepper the Robot: ‘We recognize that we need to be able to bridge that communication gap’

By Sydney Dawes  X-Logo

Pepper StillwaterPepper arrived at Stillwater Center in Montgomery County in January. Photo courtesy of Stillwater Center.

The newest member of Stillwater Center’s team can speak multiple languages, double-check dosage information for patients and lead story time for children at the facility.

This new addition to Stillwater also stands at four feet tall and is made of metal and plastic.

Pepper, a $44,000 humanoid robot made by the SoftBank Robotics company, arrived at Stillwater Center last month. The robot is being programmed and is expected to be operational early this spring.

Stillwater Center Director Michelle Pierce-Mobley told Montgomery County commissioners at their regular meeting on Tuesday that Pepper is groundbreaking technology.

The Stillwater Center is an intermediate care facility that serves as a home for residents of Montgomery County with severe developmental disabilities, significant medical needs or a combination of the two.

The facility has residents as young as 18 months and as old as 81 years, and children make up 25% of the Stillwater population. A few residents at the facility speak languages like Arabic, Spanish and Swahili. Still others are non-verbal and use sign language.

Stillwater center

“We recognize that we need to be able to bridge that communication gap,” Pierce-Mobley said. “We’ve opened up this whole world to be able to communicate in a very fluid way with the people that we serve.”

Aside from working with nurses to provide care to residents, Pepper can sing songs, dance and even tell jokes. After its unboxing, Pepper told center employees about robots’ favorite kind of music: heavy metal.

“What I really want to see is the impact she’s going to have on the residents because I really think she can be there for them in a way that none of us can fully appreciate,” said Montgomery County commissioner Carolyn Rice.

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities awarded a grant to Stillwater to cover the cost of an information technology expert. Pepper’s purchase was funded through the Montgomery County commission and a $20,000 donation from a nonprofit, the Caring Hearts Foundation.

Founder Leslie Kahn-Snow formed the foundation after retiring from a career in pediatric nursing. She completed her nursing clinical rotation at Stillwater Center nearly three decades ago.

“Stillwater is actually the first recipient of our newly formed foundation so we were very excited to partner with such a great organization, one that’s been near and dear to us for decades so that’s why we’re here and that’s why we chose Stillwater,” Kahn-Snow said.


Sydney Dawes covers news in Montgomery County for Dayton Daily News. She previously worked as a reporter for the Springfield News-Sun, and prior to then, she served as the editor of The Athens NEWS and the Vinton-Jackson Courier. Dawes has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University.

  • Feb 5, 2024 12:13:10 PM

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