May 18, 2021
COVID-19 is a driver of innovation in university teaching; Francesco Maurelli, Professor of Robotics at Jacobs University, is convinced of that. Students in the Robotics and Intelligent Systems program at Jacobs University Bremen can now use their robots for autonomous driving at a distance – from their rooms, for example. Professor Maurelli recently held a digital talk about adaptations to teaching due to the virus at the 12th International Conference on Robotics in Education in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Despite the great social interest in topics related to robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, there are few undergraduate programs in Germany that focus exclusively on robotics compared to Anglo-American countries. Robotics and Intelligent Systems (RIS) at Jacobs University Bremen is one of them. It emerged from the study program Intelligent Mobile Systems, which was launched in 2015.
The program was further developed in consultation with both faculty and students. RIS includes a large share of laboratory activities in which students work with real robots early in the program. Much emphasis is also given to research-oriented team projects and scientific writing in the interdisciplinary degree program.
The RIS curriculum started in Fall 2019. Only six months later, the coronavirus presented students and faculty with a whole new set of challenges. "Within a week, we switched to distance learning," Maurelli recalled. Short, up to 15-minute explanatory videos were created for some of the courses, and lectures were held via Teams or Zoom, exactly at the times that were also in the curriculum before corona. "It is important to maintain a routine and direct contact with students. We also make the online lectures as interactive as possible," Maurelli said.
And since hands-on practice is essential in studying robotics, students have the opportunity to borrow the hardware and to receive online support from instructors on its use. They can even access robots remotely. "As part of a bachelor's thesis, we developed a system that makes this possible. This allows students to work from their room or from our outdoor benches," Maurelli explained.
The organizational effort is significant, but it is worth it. "Based on our evaluations and student feedback so far, online teaching is well-received," he said. Despite the success, Professor Maurelli wishes for only one thing: to be able to work face-to-face with the students again as soon as possible.
Further information about the study program:
Questions can be addressed to:
Dr. Francesco Maurelli
Professor of Robotics
Tel: +49 421 200-3111
Email: f.maurelli [at] jacobs-university.de