Inspiring the Youth: From Jugend Forscht to Automatica 2022

This year, the Franka Emika Special Prize offered on the occasion of the regional edition of Jugend forscht - Munich West sees the 14-year-old Raik Baur, a young participant in the Schüler Experimentier section, as the winner of the best project in the field of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Raik was selected from the students participating in the 2021-2022 regional edition of the well-known youth science and tech competition in Germany, where Franka Emika is for the third time in a row both sponsor and main organizer. His dedication and passion for the subject of soft robotics caught immediately the attention of the selected jury. This is why we decided to praise him with a fantastic experience: the opportunity to visit the exclusive event of Automatica 2022 for a whole day!

Automatica, as known in this field, is the trade fair dedicated par excellence to automation and the world of cutting-edge robotics. This year it has been organized at the Messe München from the 21st to the 24th of June, attracting thousands of visitors and well-known companies from all over the world.

Raik also had the chance to meet Dr. Patrick Pfaff, Franka Emika’s CTO, in our booth!

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As known, Automatica is the worldwide leading trade fair for intelligent automation in the world of robotics, assembly and handling technology. It hosts the entire production chain, from components to systems, from services to applications, attracting – therefore - the interest of all the manufacturing sectors embracing autonomous production.

Over the years, Automatica has thus been able to bring together key technologies that define both the well-known international technology hub of Munich and the attractive ecosystem of service providers and partners that are not only European but international. It is perhaps also this characteristic that makes it a meeting point for constructive and cutting-edge cross-sectoral exchange between representatives from industry, research and politics. The official visit to the fair by the Minister of Bayern, Markus Söder, chief representant of the CSU party made the day even more worthy!

With Raik we breathe from all of these fundamental information sources, getting the chance to have an overview of what are the developments, topics and innovations defining solutions to problems that affect us globally, going from the areas of collaborative robotics, medicine and care in hospitals.

We know that in the latest years, the fear of unemployment as a result of robots replacing human workers released a sort of general prejudice that the use of 'complex machines' would undermine man’s working space. On the other hand, today, collaborative robotics is gathering momentum and the eyes of the community of researchers and industry. Thanks to interesting interdisciplinary intersections and developments, this technology is going to be used in different types of industrial chains and, even in medicine, to perform even highly complex precision and healthcare operations.

There is a tendency to think that robotics represents a danger to the human workforce and jobs. Today, fortunately, times have changed and together with Raik, we saw how lightweight robots and collaborative technologies, become a source of inspiration making our life easier and safer and being able to become part of factories and labs, generating new and more inclusive workspaces.

The Talk of Prof. Sami Haddadin, Director of the Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MIRMI) part of the Technic University of München (TUM) and Chair of Robotics and System Intelligence, generated a deep interest in the history of robotics and the future of research. His lecture, as a key figure of the fair, was able to generate interest in the ideological, technological and historical change that has taken place over the last decades in the world of robotics and in the way artificial intelligence is interpreted by society. Thanks to him, we took a real journey through topics of great interest, such as industrial robotics, collaborative and tactile robotics, as well as artificial intelligence used for the operation of serial systems. We were also able to grasp the innovative concept of collective learning, through which the serial communication between robots lets them benefit together from an exchange of information and data between systems, generating in them new skills that can be even reproduced.

In addition to having a look at cutting-edge robotics technology within the world of manufacturing and automation, both European and international, Raik understood the use of nowadays collaborative robotics for ethically and socially sustainable purposes.

He was astonished in seeing how applications in the medical field and digital check-ups are nowadays enriching the field of geriatric care and telerobotics, focused on robots controlled from distance.

In addition to what Franka Emika presented this year with the new Franka Production3 software and hardware products line, we were also very impressed by what the research teams at TUM and the Research Campus Garching did in this regard, as well as the work of the DLR (Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahr). There, researchers of the SMiLE2gether project, are now studying how a control center, capable of providing remote assistance, can expand the application possibilities of robots, using various remotely controlled prototypes, even via haptic teleoperation.

This type of technology is now a real possibility, capable of becoming part of our lives during and after the pandemic, where this type of solution has also managed to make a difference in many lives. «Examples are robots that help surgeons operate with greater precision or robot arms that help physicians in the diagnostics and to treat patients over long distances recurring on the so-called telehealth. With the help of collaborative robotics, it is also possible to equip hospital beds in a way that promotes a patient's muscle development» infers Raik, who gathered a genuine interest in the subject, thanks to enriching conversation with the researcher involved.

Together, we also saw how the opportunity to use collaborative robotics for routine monitoring and physiotherapy activities for patients suffering from all of the diverse art of symptoms related to the so-called 'Long Covid Syndrome’ and muscle inactivity. Important discussions and evidence-based data let us understand how healthcare personnel might benefit from that, having more energy and time to take care of other equally urgent and essential tasks.

Raik's feedback on this topic is inspiring: «I found it particularly fascinating how robots can now collaborate with humans. Of course, this opens up many possibilities in the production and treatment of patients with diseases that require the use of exoskeletons to mobilize their muscles and prevent the negative effects of immobilization for long periods. In addition, this opens up new possibilities to think creatively about other areas of application, as well as great opportunities for an upcoming Jugend Forscht project! »

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The photo shows, from right to left, Henner Brandes, Internal Communication Specialist involved in the organization, Lisa Halfon, Jury Member in Physics for Jugend forscht and Project Manager for the regional edition of Munich West, Raik Baur, winner of the 2022 Franka Emika Special Prize in ‘Robotics and AI’ and Dr. Patrick Pfaff, Franka Emika’s CTO.

«This is very exciting! Robots will play an increasingly important role in the future and I am very fascinated by the tasks they take on to relieve people. I can therefore very well imagine studying so that I can find my way into the field of automation and thus also robotics

 Thanks to this experience, Raik was able to nurture his interest in the subject chosen for his Jugend forscht adventure, taking a closer look at cutting-edge projects and technologies, which were a source of new ideas all along the way.

He hopes that robotics will become part of the official curriculum of many boys and girls who, like him, wish to have a well-rounded education throughout their basic school years. This is the time when subjects in the areas of science and technology make a decisive contribution to the cultural education of young people and, by implication, of their communities. With the right tools, one can correctly interpret and link together the artefacts, phenomena and concepts learned at a theoretical level, developing a better critical capacity and judgement for the challenges and questions that the futuristic world now poses to us. «This is very exciting! Robots will play an increasingly important role in the future and I am very fascinated by the tasks they take on to relieve people. I can therefore very well imagine studying so that I can find my way into the field of automation and thus also robotics» tells Raik, grateful for this experience that anticipates the contents of a subsequent in-depth study.

Our wish for him, and for the young talents passionate about science and technology that we are promoting thanks to events like Jugend forscht - as one of the official sponsors, in collaboration with MIRMI TUM and the Robokind foundation - is that by providing this kind of quality experience, our students will be able to combine knowledge with their passions in the field of robotics, artificial intelligence, physics, computer science and technology. We aim to make our part to help and support them in being able to belong, pursuing valuable education and work choices that appear to be increasingly exciting and challenging, especially for people interested to embrace the interdisciplinary field of robotics and AI. This is also a reason why we engage so much in encouraging kids and youth to maintain their passions, stay positive and see/ make the best in their school and research projects.

To round it up, the message between the lines is: if you do the best you can at everything you do, others will take notice and experiences will gain greater meaning. Raik can just confirm this truth.

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