A new youth engagement programme has been launched by the National Robotarium to get young people interested in robots and AI.
With support from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, the outreach programme aims to drive engagement and broaden access to the technology, build future skills and encourage more young people from a wider range of backgrounds to consider a career in robotics.
As part of the programme, more than 1,000 primary school pupils from 39 schools entered a competition to name the National Robotarium’s new ‘Spot’ robot dog.
The robot, developed by Boston Dynamics, toured the winning schools along with a team of robot scientists and accompanied by a workshop on hazardous environment research.
The successful students named the dog ‘M.A.R.T.I.N.’, or ‘Mechanical, Artificial, Remote, Technological, Intelligent, Ninja’.
M.A.R.T.I.N. was chosen due to its ability to “inspire discussions” surrounding the fundamentals of robotics. The robot has since been joined at the National Robotarium by a second.
Named MA.R.T.I.N.A. with the final ‘A’ acknowledging its robotic arm, the two robot dogs have been fitted with specially created hardware to carry out research into how the technology can support humans in offshore energy inspection, construction, and disaster recovery.
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Commenting on the programme, Professor Petillot, co-academic lead of the National Robotarium, said: “The National Robotarium is keen to engage as many young people as possible in AI and robotics research to inspire the scientists of the future.
“The enthusiasm the pupils have shown in taking part in this competition is fantastic as it proves how much interest there is in robots. Events of this type are essential to build understanding about how robots will work together with humans going forward. I’m excited to see how the next generation will embrace technology and evolve it with the new ideas they will bring to the field.
“Through this competition we’ve been able to highlight the many ways robots can make life easier for humans both now and in the future, whether supporting the social care sector like the fantastic idea of the ‘Care Taker Bot’, or making it safer to carry out tasks in dangerous environments, like the innovative ‘Fire Bot’.
“We are already working on research in these and many other sectors to make life easier, safer and more supported for people.”
The National Robotarium is part of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative and supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4m from the Scottish Government through the £1.3 billion Edinburgh and Southeast Scotland City Region Deal.
UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart added: “Robotics is an area with tremendous potential to help us all live healthier, safer, more prosperous lives. Our children stand to benefit the most and engaging them early in this cutting-edge sector is essential to ensuring Scotland is at the forefront of this revolution.
“The UK Government is supporting the Robotarium with £21 million as part of our £1.7 billion investment in levelling-up communities right across Scotland.”
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