Pforzheim. “Spot” weighs 35 kilograms, can walk, climb stairs, sit and is at home in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Faculty of Technology: Pforzheim University has had a new autonomous walking robot from the American manufacturer Boston since the current winter semester of 2021/2022 Dynamics, which is considered to be the most advanced robotics company in the world.

“Spots” are used for teaching and research as part of the joint project “Shared Excellence – Laboratory Learning Spaces 4.0” (SHELLS). The SHELLS partners – in addition to the University of Pforzheim, the universities of Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Offenburg are also involved – will receive around 1.9 million euros for three years from the federal state program “Strengthening university teaching through digitization”. The common goal: the implementation of a cross-university pool of hybrid laboratory events for digital transformation, from which not only their own, but also the students of the partner universities should benefit.

Access to AI topics

At the Faculty of Technology at the Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences, Professor Dr.-Ing Mike Barth, head of the master’s course “Mechatronic System Development”, and Professor Dr.-Ing. Norbert Schmitz responsible for the project: In the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics as well as in the Laboratory for Mechatronics, you will bring events on the subject. A particular focus here is on automation and industrial robotics. Evaluating data and generating higher-quality information from it is the core task of teaching artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics at Pforzheim University, says AI professor Norbert Schmitz. The Pforzheim students – and soon also their fellow students from Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Offenburg – are now offering practical access to autonomous systems and AI topics such as pattern analysis and recognition, machine learning and multimodal people -Machine interaction.

“Being able to work with the robot dog cannot be taken for granted. To be able to further optimize our innovative infrastructure within the framework of SHELLS is a great opportunity for us, ”says Norbert Schmitz. At the beginning of the new semester, the first student work was already awarded, which will deal professionally with the technical four-legged friend. The SHELLS project at the Faculty of Technology also receives personal support from the new project employee Michael Jilg, a graduate of the Pforzheim master’s course “Mechatronic System Development” (MMS). A position for another project employee is currently still open: “Interested parties are welcome to contact us,” says Norbert Schmitz. “The MMS is one of the courses where we will use Spot in teaching,” says course director Mike Barth. “As part of the strategic further development from mechatronic to systemic development, we offer MMS students specialization opportunities in the areas of robotics and AI – and strengthen this topic cluster in both teaching and research,” says Mike Barth.

Laboratory events are essential

“Laboratory events are ideal for imparting skills for the world of work 4.0. Students also benefit if digital teaching and learning methods are also used in this context. It takes a lot of effort to implement them – I am pleased that we are now meeting this challenge together and will create added value for the students, “says Professor Hanno Weber, Vice-Rector for Studies and Teaching at Pforzheim University – and co-initiator of Pforzheim’s SHELLS participation .

In the first round of funding from the newly established Foundation for Innovation in University Teaching, a total of 330 million euros were awarded nationwide. Around 55.5 million euros of this go to Baden-Württemberg, which is the front runner in terms of the amount of funding raised. As reported by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, Minister of Science Theresia Bauer assesses the result of the selection process as a “huge success for the universities in Baden-Württemberg”, which once again proves the high quality of teaching and innovative strength in the state.

The SHELLS project is supported by the Foundation for Innovation in University Teaching.

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