Ahumada-Newhart is a National Institute of Health-funded postdoctoral fellow with UCI’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS). Her research interests encompass child health and human development, virtual inclusion, human-computer interaction, human-robot interaction, and emerging technologies that facilitate learning, human development, and social connectedness. She is PI and Project Director of an on-going, national, multi-case study that explores the use of interactive technologies such as telehealth and telerobots for improved health services and outcomes.
For her doctoral work, Ahumada-Newhart specialized in Language, Literacy, and Technology. She was advised by Dr. Eccles and Professor Mark Warschauer.
Eccles's academic research focuses on gender-role socialization, classroom influences on student motivation, and social development in the family and school context. She is internationally recognized for her development of the expectancy-value theory of motivation and her concept of stage-environment.
Eccles is a member of the National Academy of Education, a World Scholar at the University of London, Visiting Professor at the University of Tubingen, Germany, and Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia. At UCI, Eccles also directs the Motivation and Identity Research Lab (MIRL).
Each year, millions of children are homebound due to illness that requires limited exposure to other children and adults due to health risks. What are the consequences of this isolation for their development and well-being, and how might robotic avatars be used to enrich their developmental experiences? These are the questions guiding this paper. Fundamental developmental theories and theories of thriving make clear the importance of exposure to larger social settings for normative healthy human development. This paper draws upon both Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems theory of human development and Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory (SDT) to justify the importance of exposure to the kinds of experiences children normally receive in school settings for normative development. Theories related to virtual reality are also explored to evaluate the role that social presence, through robotic avatars, plays in providing homebound children with developmental experiences. This paper introduces the first systematic, multicase study on the robot-mediated presence of homebound children in traditional schools. Findings include empirical data that inform a theoretically supported framework for evaluating the robot-mediated presence of children in learning environments.