Robohub opens in University of Waterloo engineering building

The University of Waterloo unveiled its new engineering building on Monday, including its Robohub. The hub is home to a fleet of robots, including a humanoid robot named Talos.

Robohub has a fleet of machines including humanoid robot Talos

Mechatronics professor William Melek is director of the University of Waterloo's Robohub, located in the newly opened Engineering 7 building. He is pictured with the school's humanoid robot, Talos. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A new engineering building complete with a start-of-the-art robotics research hub has opened on the University of Waterloo campus.

Students have been using Engineering 7 since the start of the semester in September, but the school held an official grand opening on Monday to highlight the research that will be done in the new facility.

The seven-storey, 240,000 square foot building is home to classrooms, labs, 3D printing facilities, the Engineering Ideas Clinic and the Robohub.

The ideas clinic gives students a chance to do self-led learning with open-ended activities that involve real-world engineering problems.

"There is a lot of dedicated space for educating engineers of the future," mechatronics professor William Melek told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo in an interview Monday morning.

This is Talos, a humanoid robot owned by the University of Waterloo. It is among the fleet of robots at the Robohub in the newest building on campus, Engineering 7. The engineering faculty specifically asked for Talos to be purple to match its own colours. Talos is made by the Barcelona-based PAL Robotics. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Hub will 'make an impact'

Melek is also director of the Robohub, which has a fleet of robots including drones, magnetically levitated, ground, and one humanoid robot Talos.

The hub about the size a classroom but double the height to allow researchers to fly drones in the space.

"Through this setup, we're able to design very unique experiments where robots can exhibit intelligence, they can be programmed to act intelligently when working with humans, when they're working with other robots, when they're mapping environments or when they try to do something that requires a high-level of automation," Melek said.

The University of Waterloo officially opened its Engineering 7 building on Monday. The building is home to classrooms, lab space, the Engineering Ideas Clinic and a new Robohub. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

He said there are about 20 to 25 professors who research robotics, so the hub will allow them to do even more. He said now the goal will be to reach out to the community, industry partners and other researchers around the world to tackle various problems.

He envisions the work they do could be applied to work in warehouses, rehabilitation, search and rescue, and the military.

"Being able to access this facility for all of us to conduct advanced research on robotics and artificial intelligence is going to basically enable our faculty members and our students to engage in very advanced level research and make an impact in terms of coming up with innovative solutions that industry can benefit from," he said.