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Robots Helping Next Generation Prepare for Innovation

Sept. 10, 2014
The next generation of the U.S. workforce will be the first to grow up entirely in the digital age - with robotics engrained in every step of their education, just as it will be in the workplace, said Scott Eckert, CEO of Rethink Robotics.

Rethink Robotics is working with educators and students at every education level – K-12, vocational schools, community colleges, undergraduate and graduate programs.  

"At the same time students are learning to read, they are also learning how to train robots," said Scott Eckert, CEO of Rethink Robotics. "The next generation of the U.S. workforce will be the first to grow up entirely in the digital age – with robotics engrained in every step of their education, just as it will be in the workplace."

Traditional robots are too expensive, dangerous and complicated to bring into the classroom, but Rethink Robotics' Baxter gives educators a safe, affordable and flexible way to introduce students to robotics. Today, users in more than 18 countries across five continents have deployed Baxter.

Here are just a few examples of how Baxter is used to educate and innovate.

Early Education in K-12:

  • At the first K-12 school district to ever purchase a Baxter, students are willingly staying after school to train and interact with robot. As a part of the Virgina Beach City School (VBCS STEM Initiative, Baxter is used to educate high school students about robotics and promote career interest in the field. Younger students also interact with Baxter, including fifth graders from the coding club, who within a few hours, were training Baxter to do new tasks. VBCS is also hosting its 2015 STEM Robotics Challenge, with Baxter at the center. This year's challenge: Build a robot that moves Baxter into manufacturing and service robot-designated spaces while chronicling the engineering design process.

Certification and Adult Education Programs at Community Colleges:

  • In North Carolina, Southwestern Community College, is training adult students – many of whom are local manufacturing employees – about new automation systems, testing and manufacturing maintenance procedures. Students leave the program with the experience needed for manufacturing and industrial maintenance jobs, which are often the next step forward in their careers.
  • Jacksonville CommunityCollege has created a similar, 30-hour, college credit certificate program, giving students an affordable, fast way to gain on-the-job skills and move into more advanced positions.

Undergraduate Programs:

  • The Robotics Accelerator at Purdue University is the new hub for robotics pioneers and researchers, where they are creating real-world robotic applications from the manufacturing plant floor to the operating room. Recently, a group of undergraduate students trained Baxter to act as a surgical assistant through human demonstration.  
  • At the University of Sydney, Baxter is the centerpiece for a new robotics teaching lab, providing the platform for mechatronics engineering students to learn how to program robots for industrial and human-interactive tasks. 

Graduate Research and Advanced Degree Programs:

  • Based in the UK, Glyndwr University has launched new postgraduate degrees in robotics, with Baxter at the center of the program. Degree candidates will focus on specific application development goals, including human-robot interactions, collaborative robotics, planning, manipulation, control and perception.
  • The Rehabilitation Robotics Lab at University of Pennsylvania is one of many U.S. universities using Baxter to develop new use cases for human assistive robots. Students use Baxter as a 'therapist' for robot-assisted stroke rehabilitation.

"Robotics is in the national spotlight as one of the most successful way to pique students in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Richard Voyles, the Assistant Director of Robotics and Cyber-Physical Systems at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Rethink Robotics is giving students and educators easier, safer and more affordable access to robotics for the first time – preparing the workforce of tomorrow and spurring today's most exciting innovations