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Oregon State University rolls out food delivery robots on campus

In partnership with Starship Technologies, OSU has a fleet of 20 robots that provide contactless food delivery to students and staff on campus.

CORVALLIS, Oregon — There’s a new dining option at Oregon State University. The school is rolling out a new way to get food to students and staff on campus.

“This campus has got some energy in it too, which has been lacking for the last six or seven months due to COVID,” said OSU director of residential dining Kerry Paterson. 

He’s excited about the new fleet of 20 delivery robots from Starship Technologies just deployed this week.

“The students will download the Starship app, go into our map, put a pin on the map, and open one of the restaurants that we offer. We are offering about 11-12 restaurants as of this week and we will expand that as we continue to go,” Paterson said.

As you’d expect, once an order is placed the food is made, then packed into an insulated compartment and sent of in one of the six-wheeled, autonomous robots. 

“We are limited in how big they are so we can't do a 16-inch pizza, you’re limited to about a 12-inch,” Paterson said. "You’ve just got to order two or three more,” he smiled.

Credit: Blake Brown

To get ready for the launch, robots have been driving around campus using GPS to learn the map and surroundings. Onboard sensors help them travel on sidewalks and navigate obstacles. There are even little orange flags to help make them more noticeable to avoid collisions.

“Who would have thought that autonomously delivering six-wheeled little boxes around campus, delivering food,” said Paterson. “It's exciting. It's fun, it's giving a service we think that the students enjoy.”

When a robot finds your location with a delivery, you tap a button in the app which opens the small door to your meal. After each trip, the machines are sanitized before they’re sent out again.

“If they were worried about coming into the dining center. They could now have a contactless delivery," Paterson said.

Starship robots are being used on about 10 college campuses across the country. There’s no cost to Oregon State to use them, something Paterson hopes will enhance the college experience.

“This is not just for COVID that we brought this on. We were exploring pre-COVID, looking at this," Paterson said. "So, we're excited to, when campus does get back into normal class and on-campus scenario that our students will be able to order this food, and have food delivered to where they are and get back the gift of time of continuing to do what they're doing.”

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