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Professor to mentor QUT alumni in Chief Scientist role

6th February 2019

QUT robotics researcher Distinguished Professor Peter Corke has long been recognised as a guiding influence on people from international researchers to undergraduates in the field.

Now, with his appointment as Chief Scientist to robotics company Dorabot, Professor Corke is continuing to mentor a group of QUT alumni he first taught in their undergraduate days.

Professor Corke, the founding director  of the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision headquartered at QUT, will be advising research efforts at Dorabot’s research and development centre in Brisbane and coordinating with Dorabot engineers in Shenzhen and Atlanta.

The role reconnects him with four of his former QUT undergraduate students - Adam Tow, Dorabot’s tech lead at the company’s recently established research and development centre in Brisbane, and Dorabot engineers James Sergeant, Mirren King-Smith and Graeme Dicks. A fourth QUT alumnus Peter Kujala also recently joined the Dorabot team.

Mr Tow also worked under Professor Corke’s guidance when he co-led the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision team to win the US$80,000 2017 Amazon Robotics Challenge. Mr Tow said Professor Corke’s advice was crucial during that challenge to create a robot that was capable of picking items and stowing them in boxes in an unstructured environment.

Peter Corke at robotics challenge.
Professor Peter Corke guided students in the Amazon Robotics Challenge.

 

“Peter helped remind the team to think big picture and cut down on small things that didn’t matter,” Mr Tow said.

“As both an educator and a leader, Peter is excellent at distilling complicated topics into easy to understand, and engaging presentations,” Mr Tow said.

“This is something not a lot of educators can do.”

Mr King-Smith remembers Professor Corke’s undergraduate lectures as inspiring.

“Peter’s enthusiasm was infectious, as he managed to make course content accessible, relevant, and enjoyable,” Mr King-Smith said.

Mr Tow said it was common in the United States for professors to work with former students to launch startups but it was still unusual in Australia for university lecturers to continue to mentor former students as they developed industry projects.

“Peter has a massive wealth of robotics knowledge that I and the team here can continue to leverage well and truly past what we gained during our undergraduate degrees,” Mr Tow said.

“Peter will also help to keep us in the loop of robotics research, an area that we will continue to contribute to and also build off of.

“I think that this opportunity is not only great for us here right now, but also current and future mechatronics students that will be taught by Peter and potentially work with him after they graduate.

“I think this is a really exciting time to be a roboticist.

“All around the world robotics startups are starting to spring up, tackling as yet unsolved problems across various industries.

“I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to help bolster the robotics industry in Brisbane and more broadly Australia.”

Professor Peter Corke has been recognised for his excellence in teaching.

 

Professor Corke’s outstanding achievements in the field of robotics were recognised in 2017 with QUT awarding him the title of Distinguished Professor and later that same year he was granted the nation’s most prestigious higher education teaching award, being named Australian University Teacher of the Year.

Professor Corke has been hailed as an enthusiastic and innovative teacher, extending beyond the traditional education sector to develop the world’s first massive open online courses (MOOCs) on robotics.

He sees the opportunity to work with his former students at Dorabot as being of mutual benefit.

“The experience of my former students is gold when it comes to understanding what’s important to teach, and this helps keep our courses relevant,” Professor Corke said.

Professor Corke is impressed by Dorabot’s ambition to make a difference in such a rapidly growing industry.

“Logistics is a wonderful application that brings together many diverse areas of robotics, in some ways much richer than self-driving cars which gain an undue amount of media attention,” Professor Corke said.

“For logistics we need robots that are mobile and have arms, robots that can recognise a huge diversity of objects and pick them up. They also need to be very fast and reliable.  This is a rich set of problems for researchers to think about.”

Peter Corke playing connect four with a robot.
Professor Peter Corke playing Connect Four with Baxter.

 

In offering his expertise, Professor Corke hopes to help Dorabot develop a vibrant branch in Brisbane and flourish internationally.

Dorabot CEO Spencer Deng said: “We hope that Peter can help establish Dorabot as a major player in the Australian robotics ecosystem while continuing to promote the global robotics ecosystem as a whole, as he has done for so many years already.”

Media contact:

Rod Chester, QUT Media, 07 3138 9449, rod.chester@qut.edu.au

After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901, media@qut.edu.au

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