North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T) and its food services provider, Sodexo, have partnered with robot maker Starship Technologies to roll out the university’s food delivery service via autonomous robots.
A&T is the first historically Black college or university to partner with Starship, as well as its first partnership in North Carolina.
Starship’s fleet of 20 autonomous, on-demand robots will deliver from three campus eateries: Qdoba, 1891 Bistro and the new Paavo’s Pizza with the goal to expand additional retail locations by next spring.
A&T’s students, faculty and staff can now use the Starship Food Delivery app (iOS and Android) to order food and drinks to be delivered on campus, within minutes.
Angela Peterson, associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises, says: “As a STEM university, A&T and Sodexo’s partnership with Starship Technologies’ autonomous delivery robots falls right in line with what we are about.
“We are incredibly excited to provide this service to our students to help minimize wait times and do it using a real-world application of technology similar to what some of our students are studying.”
The service will be free of delivery fees, which will be covered for students by the university for two years and works in conjunction with student meal plans.
Joseph Burdi, Sodexo district manager for North Carolina A&T dining services, says: “We are excited to be the first to bring this innovative service to a historically black college and university campus.
“The program will provide added convenience for today’s busy students and meet their increased dining expectations.”
Brandon Daye, A&T’s student food advisory board president, says: “Everyone on campus loves the robots and looks forward to using them.
“They will really come in handy when the weather is bad or if you want to grab food or snacks in between classes.”
Starship Technologies’ zero-emission robots use a combination of sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles.
The computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel day and night and operate in both rain and snow. A team of humans can also monitor their progress remotely and can take control at a moment’s notice.
Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development and sales at Starship Technologies, says: “We’re really looking forward to serving the students, faculty and staff at A&T.
“We look for university partners that embrace innovation and A&T has that in spades. Because of the focus on STEM, we think the campus community will not only appreciate seeing this innovation firsthand, but they’ll also love the convenience that the service provides. We’re also looking forward hiring student workers who will get real-world experience in AI.”
To get started, users open the Starship Deliveries app, choose from a range of their favorite food or drink items, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can then watch as the robot makes its journey to them, via an interactive map.
Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert, and can then meet and unlock it through the app. The delivery usually takes just a matter of minutes, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds.
The robot delivery company is already providing services to other Sodexo-serviced campuses across the country, including George Mason University, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Northern Arizona University.