Sallies’ robot inventor goes to Washington


Benjamin Hylak, a freshman at Salesianum School, was honored last week with other students from around the country at the 2012 White House Science Fair.

Hylak was recognized for his invention, an interactive “MAYA Telepresence robot” that allows residents of senior living centers to connect with their families and friends when they are unable to visit in person. He came up with the idea while thinking about the loneliness of seniors at the center where his grandmother lives.

The 14-year-old Hylak, who lives in West Grove, Pa., joined more than 100 other students at the second annual fair, which was more than twice the size of  last year’s. Hylak was singled out by President Obama during the event.

Ben Hylak, a student at Salesianum, is seen at right on the screen, demonstrating MAYA (Me And You Anywhere), his award-winning robot, with his grandmother, Marlene Hylak. (The Dialog/

“Benjamin Hylak was worried that folks at his grandmother’s senior center were getting lonely so he built a robot with a monitor and a video camera, so it’s like a moving Skype, and it moves around the center and allows seniors to talk to their kids and the grandkids, even when they can’t visit in person,” President Obama said.

“MAYA” – which stands for “Me and You Anywhere” – earned Hylak second place in the 2011 Broadcom Masters National Science Fair, which also included a $10,000 prize.

MAYA can be seen in action at