The Robot Tsar
Dr Rodney Brooks
The quiet boy from Glenelg who was fascinated with electronics and harboured an abiding love for maths has become one of the world’s leading roboticists, but is quick to point out that he was set on his career path during his Bachelor of Science degree at Flinders.
“Flinders had a mainframe computer with 16 kilobytes of memory,” Dr Brooks said. “During the weekend Dr Kautsky let me and another student have that computer to ourselves for 12 hours every Sunday, running it ourselves and learning all sorts of stuff.”
The hands-on experience gave the talented coder an opportunity to build computer functions way ahead of his time, kick starting his technological career.
He established iRobot in 1990, followed by Rethink Robots in 2008. The company has produced the world’s first collaborative robot for industrial settings; a robot that is safe to work with shoulder to shoulder, and one that factory workers can quickly learn how to train, so that it can do new tasks without having an engineering team reprogram it.
Baxter, the company’s first model, has been sold to hundreds of research laboratories globally – including Flinders – and is also being widely used in factories.