robots in the classroom: teaching the next generation with baxter

in robots in education by Brian Benoit

Since we launched Baxter for Research & Education about two and a half years ago, people have been using Baxter for a large and diverse set of applications.  We knew that giving researchers an inexpensive and reliable robot would free up time for investigators to focus on what they really cared about, but we have been blown away by the diversity of applications and the creativity of our users.

One area that has been especially surprising has been in robotics education.  We knew that serious robotics researchers would find great value in Baxter, but we’re delighted to see people using the platform to teach the next generation of scientists and engineers.

With the introduction of our new software release, SDK 1.2, we have added functionality to the Gazebo simulator for controlling Baxter.  Along with opening this portion of the software up as open source, more people will be able to use Baxter for education purposes.  Imagine a classroom full of students starting in a simulator to learn ROS and the basics of writing programs for Baxter, then signing up for some lab time to test their ideas on a real robot.

As you’ll see below, a few labs have already made this vision a reality, and the new release will allow even more users to do the same.

UC Berkeley

At UC Berkeley, students engage with Baxter on a wide array of research projects.  From using Baxter’s internal camera to help stack blocks, to an unforgettable drawing of Cartman from South Park, they are showing off their engineering chops and flexing Baxter’s muscles.  The folks at UC Berkeley have been using Baxter as part of their Introduction to Robotics course for a few semesters now, and the projects continue to evolve.

Cornell University

At Cornell, the Robot Manipulation course offered by Professor Ross Knepper is exposing undergraduates to the finer points in robotics research, from kinematics, machine vision, and grasping, to more specific programming using ROS.  Baxter is the center point of the course, and students are encouraged to use the material they learn to control a real robot, and in some cases attempt to solve a real world problem.

NC State University

NC State is using their Baxter to teach students about advanced automation techniques. The folks at NC State are using the Intera software stack, rather than the SDK. Because Intera is designed specifically for manufacturing applications. The students were tasked with using Baxter to integrate with other pieces of industrial automation to solve a product variability puzzle.  The unique features of a collaborative robot like Baxter, along with the ingenuity of a few clever students, led to a very cool approach to a common problem for manufacturers around the world.

To see how others are using Baxter in research and education, visit our applications page. And be sure to connect with us on Twitter for a daily dose of robotics chatter.


(1 comment)

About the Author

Brian Benoit

Brian is new to the world of robotics, but since watching Short Circuit in ‘86 has been obsessed with finding a robot best friend. Baxter is that robot. Working with the brilliant researchers on the Baxter Research Robot has taught him that we are only just scratching the surface on showing off what a compliant and collaborative robot can do.

1 comment on this article

androidrobo May 22, 2017 at 12:09 pm

“In my younger days a robot like this would be in a cage. People were worried it would hit you.”

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