It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry is embracing robotics and its focus on automation shows no signs of slowing. This addition to the industry is being followed by increased attention on STEM education across the country. Yet the industry struggles to find a qualified workforce since most college campuses don’t have the luxury of having a fully equipped robotics lab. Even if a college has a lab, time slots are limited and may not have all the right equipment for the required training to provide the skills manufacturers need.
Georgia Tech wants to help solve this issue and aid researchers across the country continue their work no matter where they are located. Their answer is to open the “Robotarium” which is home to almost 100 small flying and rolling robots. The Robotarium is now available to engineering students and researchers across the country to submit and run swarm robotics experiments. These kind of skills can transfer over to manufacturing as new technology constantly makes its way into the industry.
The research center has been in development for over a year and held its grand opening last Tuesday. The ribbon was cut by one of the many robots in the lab, fittingly named ‘Snips’ which was followed immediately by Skyped in live remote tests that showed the purpose of the Robotarium. This initiative was thought up by the executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, Magnus Egerstedt, who wanted to give engineering students a place to test their ideas without restraint.
“It irritated me, and it still does, that robotics research is largely a resource competition and not a ‘who has the best ideas’ competition,” Egerstedt said. “The Robotarium is solving that. If you have a good idea, you should have a platform to try it.” (http://bit.ly/2gIGGtf)
The Robotarium cost $2.5 million and was funded by the National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research. The facility allows researchers and students to upload their code and have the rolling and flying swarm robots run their experiments. After an experiment, the researchers are sent video and data of the results. The facility also has seating areas for in house experiments or for interested parties to watch other’s tests.
This facility is an amazing opportunity for researchers and students who don’t have the means to put their hard work to the test. It will be interesting to see the advancements in robotics that come out as a result of the Robotarium especially ones that pertain to the manufacturing industry. If you have an experiment you would like to submit to the facility visit their website and submit your ideas.