Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, will fund a $1.2 million scholarship program at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to train the next generation of aspiring Australian roboticists.
The Alberto Elfes Memorial Scholarship Fund will use prize money from CSIRO’s historic podium finish at the 2021 DARPA SubT challenge to sponsor eight scholarships for domestic or international high-performing students belonging to groups under-represented in the robotics industry.
A world-class robotics research and education institution, QUT has a track record of educating some of the best and brightest minds in the robotics industry.
Professor Elanor Huntington, CSIRO Executive Director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections said the scholarship fund was an investment in the future of Australian robotics and would spread the benefit of the win across the entire community.
"In 2021, a group of robotics experts from Queensland took on the world’s best in a competition dubbed ‘the robot Olympics' and came second in a photo finish," Professor Huntington said.
"Using that prize money to educate a diverse cohort of robotics experts – who might be a 2031 DARPA Challenge team - will help Australia seize the AU $22.17 trillion global AI opportunity.
"We know that diversity is the engine room of innovation, and we hope to inspire and support a dynamic new generation of robotics talent," she said.
The scholarship is a testament to the late Professor Alberto Elfes, a revered leader of CSIRO's Robotics program and driving force behind the team's participation in the DARPA SubT Challenge.
"The Alberto Elfes Scholarship acknowledges a globally renowned roboticist and the very strong human links built over many years between QUT and CSIRO," said former colleague and Joint-Director of the QUT Centre for Robotics Distinguished Professor Peter Corke.
"The program will continue Alberto’s work of driving diversity in robotics to ensure the successful design and delivery of next generation technology," he said.
Diversity in the Australian robotics industry is one of the key obstacles to its growth according to Robotics Australia Group's A Robotics Roadmap for Australia 2022 report released late last year. The government's 2021 STEM Equity Monitor reported men accounted for 87 percent of 2020s national STEM-qualified occupations.
CSIRO and QUT will jointly oversee applicant selection, course design, education, and mentorship. Applications will open in September 2022 and close in 2027.
The fund will offer a full three-and-a-half-year scholarship and top-up to students undertaking robotics-related postgraduate PhD study.
Team CSIRO's Data61 was led by CSIRO and included partners Emesent, a CSIRO spinout, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
More details on eligibility and how to apply can be found at Alberto Elfes Memorial Scholarship Fund (PhD Scholarship).