Over 10,000 young minds have been inspired to consider a career in robotics, thanks to the significant public engagement activities fostered by the National Robotarium that aim to increase the representation of disadvantaged young learners.
The world-leading centre for robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) has successfully hosted over 50 in-person and virtual events at its facility in Edinburgh since opening in September 2022 with a host of industry and educational partners including Glasgow Science Centre and social enterprise group Datakirk.
With the aim of broadening access to revolutionary technology, the facility’s public outreach and engagement programme is building key skills and encouraging more young people from a wider range of backgrounds to consider starting a career in robotics, data analytics, and AI.
This summer  also marks the 5th anniversary of the South-East Scotland City Region Deal. The National Robotarium is part of the £1.3 billion 15-year investment programme jointly funded by the UK Government, the Scottish Government, and regional partners.
Its pioneering £22.4 million facility is the largest and most advanced of its kind in the UK and acts as an innovation hub for the practical application of robotics and autonomous systems in industry and society.
Its objectives include partnering with various organisations including charities with a mission to increase the engagement of disadvantaged learners with the technology sector to tackle digital exclusion. The National Robotarium is also collaborating with groups that aim to encourage greater gender diversity among those applying to STEM subjects at university.
Sabaht Bashir is industry and schools engagement co-lead at the National Robotarium. She said:
“Innovation and collaboration are at the heart of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal which is helping to accelerate knowledge and cutting-edge technologies into Scotland and the UK’s economy.
“At the National Robotarium, we’re showcasing ways robots can help humans do things better, for the benefit of industry and society, and inspiring the next generation of roboticists and AI pioneers.
“The research our world-leading experts are conducting today to make our lives safer, healthier, and more productive will be the world that our young learners inherit tomorrow. It’s an incredible milestone to have engaged with so many young people from a range of diverse backgrounds since opening our doors last year. We look forward to continuing to work with schools and educators from all around the world to bring careers in robotics to life.”
Sabaht Bashir, Industry and Schools Engagement Lead
Libby Robertson, a year 6 pupil at Glasgow’s Knightswood Secondary School, said:
“The activities were fun and insightful about what robotics could do and have already done to the world we live in. The visit was so amazing that I’m now considering doing it as a future career choice.”
Gordon Cooper, Technical Teacher at Glasgow’s Knightswood Secondary School, said:
“The team at the National Robotarium were friendly and informative and our pupils had a great day enjoying the variety of experiences planned for them.
“The fully and semi-immersive reality activities were fascinating and showed our students the potential uses of these types of technology. The robotic dog was definitely the star of the day. All of our students were awakened to the possibilities on display, and many are now seriously looking into careers in this field. ”
Lauren Stalker, Curricular Leader of Computing Science & Digital Literacy at St Thomas of Aquin’s R.C High School in Edinburgh, said:
“I would highly recommend this trip for all students as seeing the robots in real life is a fantastic experience. The information shared inspired pupils to want to get into robotics and see possible career opportunities. All the students thoroughly enjoyed the virtual reality experience and getting to see a programming language they learn in school being used in that way.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland, Malcolm Offord, said:
“The National Robotarium is a prime example of how the City Region Deal is creating exciting opportunities, driving economic growth, and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.
“The UK Government is investing £21 million in the National Robotarium and more than £380m in levelling up across South East Scotland.”
Scottish Government Wellbeing Economy Secretary, Neil Gray, said:
“I congratulate the National Robotarium on its successful first year inspiring technological innovation and sharing those advances with young people to help seed the next generation of entrepreneurs. In 2021 the Scottish Government committed to supporting the development of ethical artificial intelligence as part of Scotland’s AI Strategy, which will be complemented by actions in the recently published National Innovation Strategy.
“Through the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal we are delivering a fair and sustainable wellbeing economy which aims to create even more good quality jobs.”
Jarmo Eskelinen, Executive Director of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative and South-East Scotland City Region Deal, said:
“The National Robotarium is one of six hubs at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University offering a world-leading platform for data-driven innovation across ten industry sectors. As the DDI initiative marks its fifth anniversary, it’s fantastic to see the hubs developing as individual institutes and centres and very exciting to be working with them to explore joint opportunities in tackling societal and industry challenges.”