Introduction

The worldwide economic impact of advanced robotics is estimated to be up to $4.5 trillion each year by the year 2025 (The McKinsey Global Institute, 2013, http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/disruptive_technologies). Robotics presents huge opportunities for positive impact in a world where robots are moving beyond industry to become integral to daily lives in health, transport, and homes. Robotics advances will be a major driver for global job creation, with an estimated 300,000 people employed in the robotics sector globally and an additional 45,000 people required within five years.

Professor Peter Corke has created a unique and distinctive approach to globally delivering robotics education to the next generation of experts and leaders. Leading a team of four tutors and eight education and media professionals, he has created a unique and distinctive approach to reimagining and delivering robotics education in the undergraduate curriculum at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, and world-wide. His key word is “accessibility”, which drives his innovative teaching approaches, making complex subject matter accessible to a diverse range of learners and inspiring undergraduate and doctoral students and learners from all levels and disciplines to engage with robotics.

Learners directly benefit from his open-source software used worldwide; his textbook Robotics, Vision & Control (2011) (Springer’s number one selling engineering title in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the e-version downloaded more than 150,000 times to date); 25 years of leading edge industrial research and development experience; strong scientific credentials; and global leadership in the robotics field. In maximising digital opportunities afforded through QUT’s first two MOOCs developed by Peter, his MATLAB global user community, Youtube, Facebook, and the general media, formal and informal learners can share his excitement for robotics and its possibilities. Locally and globally, students and peers attest to Peter’s outstanding capabilities in making robotics education engaging, accessible, and available to all.

Synopsis

Objective

"Peter's teaching style nurtured the growth and imagination about the possibilities and applications of Robotics." (2014 student)

Peter's objective is to create learning experiences, curriculum and opportunities that engage, inspire, motivate and educate learners about the ˜next big thing in the world of work and life - robotics. He offers students an interactive program that scaffolds local and global learners'™ grasp of concepts through guided hands-on experiments, early experience in constructing robots, and real world and virtual field trips. He bases his robotics pedagogy on the importance of learning by doing, scaffolded by clear explanations, and delivered with support.

To achieve this, he has developed a cohesive integrated approach comprising leading-edge curricula, aligned resources refined over many years as a leading researcher in Australia's Commonwealth Scientific Research Organisation (CSIRO), dynamic teaching delivery, and a global learning community that makes learning robotics accessible.

The teaching of robotics has traditionally ˜front-loaded rigorous mathematical and theoretical knowledge and only later allowed students to undertake hands-on activities. This is daunting for many of today'™s students who enter the course with weak mathematical knowledge and skills. Therefore, authentic and experiential learning is embedded in all of Peter's teaching approaches, for example on-campus and MOOC students learn by doing by building robots from the outset of their studies. This hands-on experiential learning promotes students'™ sense of self-efficacy, enabling them to see how complex problems can be solved with relatively little software development. On-campus students visit his former laboratory at CSIRO and see robots in a real lab environment, while MOOC students take a virtual field trip. Peter's excellent teaching delivery is further supported by his series of YouTube presentations. Their value for learners worldwide is reflected in over 2,000 subscribers and 142,000 views, with one module alone viewed more than 44,000 times.

Approach

When Peter first came to the university classroom, it seemed to him essential for QUT to become a robotics teaching powerhouse, to educate the next generation of professionals and researchers. Consequently, with a colleague Peter developed a new undergraduate Robotics major in 2011, based on a distinctively different approach to robotics teaching that jointly develops understanding of theory with procedural knowledge.The new major resulted in a 60% increase in enrolments in three years, from 128 to 205. "œThe major is unique in that there are numerous hands-on subjects and the teaching is based in the real research happening at QUT." (2012 student)

Peter'™s global focus is evident in unique open source MATLAB toolboxes, which are integrated with his textbook. Students explore creative solutions to robotics problems by building software using the toolbox with supporting explanations from the text. Widely used for teaching around the world, the toolboxes are downloaded more than 20,000 times each year.

His latest innovation, the development of QUT'™s first two MOOCs in 2015, took Peter's pioneering approaches to 21,000 global learners. Based on his two QUT subjects, they are distinctively the only robotics MOOCs pitched at an undergraduate level. Innovative aspects include use of software as a teaching medium and autograding of students'™ programming tasks. Free access to MATLAB software and sections of his textbook ensures equity and access for all students. Students peer review each other's robots and are mentored by tutors through video demonstrations. Examples of students' final submissions are available on YouTube (https://youtu.be/CpMm0j1zB8o). Feedback indicates that a global learning community finds the MOOCs inspirational: "If there is anything that we can return to you as a symbol of gratitude, it is our promise to make a better future for everyone on the Earth using the things we learn from you."

Engagament

As Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision (ACRV) at QUT, Peter fosters a learning community among students and peers and systematically draws students into his global networks through the MATLAB forum and by connecting them to manufacturers and international researchers. He offers students authentic final year and vacation research projects to further develop their engineering experience. Undergraduate students often progress to PhD studies, and become tutors and apprentice leaders of the community. Peter and his four MOOC tutors form their own reflexive community of practice as tutors are invaluable informants offering feedback. This enhances their self-efficacy and professional identity as they in turn tutor undergraduate and MOOC learners. "Peter'™s expertise and support was instrumental in motivating and inspiring me to pursue a future in robotics." (PhD student)

As a proactive contributor to the global robotics community Peter: co-organises and delivers invited keynotes at international conferences; was editor-in-chief (2009-13) of IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, with more than 10,000 readers; and has publications attracting more than 14,000 citations, an h-index of 52 (Google), and nearly 30 publications, with over 100 citations. However, as an international leader in the education of the next generation of roboticists, Peter brings his extensive knowledge and experience to engage the broader community. Whether in classrooms, conferences, high schools, industry shows, general and industry press, or on radio and TV, his leadership within the robotics profession, robotics education and among the wider public is driven by a perennial commitment to opening the door to robotics to learners across all spectrums. "Peter is a fantastic lecturer, guaranteed to create a generation of Robotics fanatics!!" (2014 student) His global engagement is fundamental to his leadership and knowledge of the field is integral to his teaching delivery and enhanced student learning outcomes.

Impact

"Peter Corke has had a huge influence on my education, inspiring me to always ask questions and better solve problems. His ability to teach advanced concepts in a way us students could understand made him the most influential of all my teachers at QUT." (2012 student)

Feedback such as this is typical and indicative of the impact Peter'™s engaging and accessible approach to teaching robotics has on students, motivating many to advance to postgraduate studies and embrace a range of careers. Peter's impact on learners and teachers has been substantial. Within the robotics profession, Peter's award in 2007 as a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers demonstrates the international reach of his reputation, as it is an honour accorded to less than 0.1% of all members.

Co-leading a successful bid, Peter and a colleague established the ACRV in 2014. Based at QUT, with four Australian and six international partners, the Centre received A$25.6 million over seven years to pursue an ambitious research agenda. However, with a deep passion for students and teaching, Peter developed several objectives that focus on education: to develop the next generation of robotic experts; to increase educational opportunities in robotics at high school, undergraduate and postgraduate level; and to broadly engage with the community about robotics. This remit informs much of Peter'™s leadership and advocacy work and is enacted through his contributions to the curriculum at QUT and the global MOOCs, his integrated set of resources and inspiring teaching.

€"I am humbled and impressed by Peter's prodigious and innovative contributions to teaching robotics. He has done more than anyone I know in robotics to (1) create content to educate and inspire students and (2) to help teacher teach." (Daniela Rus, Director, Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT)

Next Steps

Building on the previous successes, Peter's goal is to accelerate the momentum to enable access to and engagement in robotics. A second edition of the textbook is currently being developed. Both MOOC™s, 'Introduction to Robotics' and 'Robotic Vision' will be offered again in 2015, after evaluation of the first offering. Building on the success of the MOOCs, Peter and the team are planning two more MOOCs, based on his QUT subject Advanced Robotics.

Featuring highly in the next steps is developing a virtual Robot Academy that offers a range of quality online free learning resources. Based on the model of the Khan Academy, the vision for the Robot Academy is to empower learners by providing the resources they require to be participants in the robotics revolution and to exploit the opportunities it will present. The Academy will comprise software, videos, hardware designs, electronic circuits, a curated wiki to compile community knowledge, and serve as a community discussion hub and a marketplace of providers of robotic components. Over time, Peter envisages the Academy would create e-books, new online courses, open source software and support outreach projects like one robot per child, to inspire young people wherever they live in the world.

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