Meet Dr. Gerald Steinbauer…
I am an assistant professor at the institute for software technology at Graz University of Technology. The major research question of my research group is how we can make robot systems more dependable. This question is in particular related to Baxter because robots will increasingly cooperate with humans, therefore a reliable interaction between the robot and its environment is important.
…and find out why Baxter stood out among the many educational robotic platforms available on the market.
Three reasons were important for us to choose Baxter:
- It is a fully integrated system with a user friendly interface, and is ROS-compatible, which was very important for us
- It is a compliant robot and can directly work nearby humans
- It has two arms allowing for very nice experimental setups
Being used to work on other robotics systems, the main differences with Baxter are:
- The capabilities of a two-arm compliant robot and the nice appearance motivate students a lot to work with Baxter.
- The closed internal computer system of Baxter is much more reliable than other systems we used in the past.
Talk about the first steps with Baxter for the teacher, but also for the students:
If a student has a basic knowledge in robot arms, kinematics, ROS and MoveIt! a quick start is possible. The system and provided software is well designed and stable. The learning curve for such a complex robot can be steep for some students.
Do you consider Baxter to be suitable for multiple degrees (Bachelor/Master/PhD)?
Baxter is definitely suitable for students at the Master and PhD levels. The Research version might be a bit too complex at the Bachelor level.
Does the usage of Baxter prepare students better for their future professional career?
Students are definitely more prepared. As collaborative robotics is becoming more and more important for all kinds of industries, students need to be properly trained.
To your fellow teachers reading this, what would you say about your experience with Baxter?
I couldn’t stress enough how the capabilities and the appearance of Baxter increased the students motivation. Given its price and capabilities, I would definitely recommend Baxter as an educational tool.
For their final assessment, the students had to program Baxter to autonomously prepare a soft boiled egg and also make coffee for a breakfast. We also used Baxter for “pick and placing” tasks in manufacturing logistics. And we trained Baxter to pour wine glasses at the University Ball. This task is related to providing robotics support to disabled people.
One more thing about working with Baxter…
The best part of working with Baxter is continuously asking ourselves which next fun project can we come up with.
For more examples of how Baxter is being used in labs and classrooms, visit our research applications page.
About the Author
I'm Jeff Green, senior content and social media strategist at Rethink Robotics. When I'm not socializing Sawyer and Baxter, our smart, collaborative robots, I'm usually caught up in the home tornado, also known as my three kids. Love them, my wife, old-school Chinese food, movies, and of course game-changing technology.