Student experience on the Drone Program at Warren Community College has had a considerable boost with the introduction of SPOT, an agile mobile robot by Boston Dynamics.
Warren Community College is one of just two community colleges in the United States to have SPOT on its “staff”, and has released the following article outlining the benefits to both staff and students with access to the customizable platform.
There’s a new Professor at Warren Community College. Well, not quite a Professor. Maybe Assistant to the Professors is a better description. The name of the “new faculty member” is SPOT. While it doesn’t have a lot to “say” it certainly brings new and important attention and student experience to the Drone Program at Warren.
SPOT is an agile mobile robot that climbs stairs, traverses rough terrain, “walks” hallways, and generally can make its way in almost any environment with unprecedented ease and is small enough to access hazardous or hard-to-get-to locations that humans might not be able to reach.
“SPOT is an amazing addition to our program,” said Dr. Will Austin, President of Warren. “SPOT’s capabilities as a ‘teacher’ for our students, and as a tool to promote our program are tremendous assets. The capabilities of SPOT are pretty much endless.”
Warren, located in rural New Jersey, was able to purchase SPOT through a New Jersey state grant that it received, part of NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act (SOCFBA) that was passed in 2018. Warren is only one of two community colleges in the United States to have SPOT on its “staff.”
Built as a customizable platform, SPOT supports remote operation and autonomous sensing across a range of industries associated with drones. The robot is designed to augment human labor and to conduct repetitive and time-consuming tasks in environments that are often hazardous for people. Using SPOT in such instances reduces human safety risks, improves efficiency, and frees people up to focus on more specialized work.
SPOT is used in a variety of settings, including power generation facilities, nuclear sites, factory floors, construction projects, and research laboratories, as well as college classrooms.
SPOT was designed by Boston Dynamics, a global leader in developing and deploying highly mobile robots capable of tackling the toughest robotics challenges. Its core mission is to lead the creation and delivery of robots with advanced mobility, manipulation and perception that add value in unstructured or hard-to-traverse spaces and positively impact society.
Boston Dynamics creates high-performance robots equipped with perception, navigation and intelligence by combining the principles of dynamic control and balance with sophisticated mechanical designs, cutting-edge electronics and next-generation software.
In a recent demonstration at a Central Jersey high school, students marveled at SPOT’s capabilities as it walked up and down stairs, roamed a stage, and clearly captured the imagination of all in attendance.
“SPOT gets us into the community,” acknowledged Dr. Austin, also the Chief Pilot in the college’s drone program. “It’s a way for us to reach a new audience and get students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). It’s a great recruiting tool for us. There is a tremendous job market out there that needs these types of backgrounds. We want to train and prepare students for those opportunities. We want to help deliver those jobs.”
Currently Warren’s unmanned systems program is maxed out at 40 students, but with the governor, local Commissioner and SPOT’s help, Dr. Austin is hoping that the nationally recognized state-of-the-art program can soon expand to 100 students or more in its new $2-million robotics facility.
This is just the latest boost to Warren’s drone program. Most recently, the college added the Censys Sentaero Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) mobile command center, which allows for mid-to-long range UAV capable of beyond visual line of sight and vertical takeoff and landing. The mobile command center allows individuals to control the flight of drones from a command post on wheels with an eye “on the sky” from as far away as 50 miles.
“Whether we are teaching about air, land, maritime, or space – we want our students to experience the future as it emerges. We are not teaching only the theoretical, we want hands on experiences, and Boston Dynamics developer SDK (Software Development Kit) capabilities provide our faculty and students with systems that go well beyond the norm at this point.” concluded Dr. Austin.