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Starship delivery robots roll onto Oregon State campus

A fleet of 20 Starship delivery robots began processing student orders at Oregon State University this week. The popular autonomous delivery robots are now serving OSU students, faculty and staff with contactless delivery across the university’s sprawling 500-acre campus.

According to an official university release, the arrival of Starship to Oregon State’s Corvallis campus marks the first campus in the state to deploy autonomous delivery robots.

The decision to bring Starship to OSU long preceded the arrival of COVID-19, and was a service that Oregon State Housing & Dining Services and Memorial Union Retail Services was excited to add to its portfolio. The coronavirus did delay initial launch, but has also provided an added benefit to the service now as it helps to reduce contact between people during the ordering process.

“This was a long time coming,” says Kerry Paterson, director of residential dining and University Catering with UHDS. “We’d been considering contactless delivery for a while. This service is yet another way we can facilitate COVID protocols regulating restaurants.”

OSU is currently housing roughly 2,200 students in residence halls on the Corvallis campus, and the Starship robots are expected to slot in with OSU’s other COVID guidelines in dining services. Other dining-specific safety measures at OSU include:

  • No sit-down dining service in dining centers.
  • All food is served in single-use, take-out containers.
  • Traffic flow has been adjusted to provide six feet of distance between individuals.

To help navigate new food service protocols as a result of COVID-19, Oregon State has expanded express and pick-up options, but the addition of robot delivery allows for even less density across OSU dining locations while still providing service to the campus community.

Starship robots have quickly become a recognizable presence on college campuses, with the roster of partnering institutions continuing to grow across the country. The robots have mapped the Corvallis campus using GPS and can deliver virtually anywhere on campus. Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds of food and use a combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence and on-board sensors to navigate on sidewalks and around obstacles.

When a customer places an order using the delivery app, they can select a location to meet their delivery robot. The customer will then receive a code in the app to unlock the robot when it arrives.

“You unlock it, get your food and then off it goes to get sanitized and prepare for another delivery,” says Paterson.

There is no cost to the university for the robots. Instead, a nominal delivery fee is added to each order.

“Delivery robots are an innovative way to help students with social distancing and they also make sense for a forward-thinking school like OSU,” says Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development at Starship Technologies. “Our robots deliver day and night to get students what they need. We’re looking forward to becoming a part of campus life and helping to make daily life more convenient for everyone at OSU.”

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