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The University of South Carolina Spartanburg, its Center for International Studies and Staubli Corp. (Spartanburg) have established a robotics lab on the USCS campus. The collaboration launches the first such effort in the Upstate of South Carolina between a corporation and a higher education institution to establish a robotics lab, which serves both entities in terms of research and development, the university says.

"The Staubli Robotics Lab is a response to a need in the Upstate that has been generated by the types of manufacturing and technology now in the area," says John Stockwell, chancellor of USCS. "This is a wonderful example of a local industry partnering with a local university to provide opportunities for young people to stay in the area and to build their careers."

"The partnership with USCS is a great opportunity with mutual advantages to develop the acceptance and knowledge of industrial robotics in the industry and within the future generation of technicians and engineers," says Gerald Vogt, robotic division manager for Staubli Corp. The demand for robotics programmers has skyrocketed with BMW and numerous automotive suppliers locating in the Upstate, the university says.

"Robotics have become an increasingly integral component in automotive manufacturing," says Robert Hitt, manager for media and public affairs at BMW Manufacturing Corp. "The establishment of the Staubli Robotics Lab at USCS will be an essential tool in preparing the next generation of workers and will aid in continuing the ongoing training of existing employees."

The announcement of the lab was made in conjunction with International Education Week, which is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study in the United States.

Staubli Corp. donated six robots to USCS to establish the robotics laboratory and enhance the school's computer science division. The $275,000 donation of equipment led to the inaugural "Introduction to Robotics" course being offered this past fall, which quickly reached capacity and had a waiting list. Twelve students, all computer science majors, will spend the semester learning how to program robots.

"Our local industry has a strong demand for robotics programmers," says Seyed Roosta, assistant professor of computer science at USCS. "Understanding the programming concepts of robotics is quite difficult and creates many job opportunities."

Roosta is the instructor of the robotics class and played an integral role in negotiating the partnership agreement between USCS and Staubli Corp. His second book, Foundations of Programming Languages: Design and Implementation was published this past August and is being used around the world as the textbook for the programming language course. After arriving on the USCS campus from the University of Iowa in 2000, Roosta searched for ways to improve the computer science curriculum with new courses.

He contacted Regis Robe, director of international studies at USCS, to inquire if Robe had contacts with a company that made robots. Robe and USCS had strong ties with the Staubli Corp., a company with North American headquarters in Spartanburg that manufactures robots at its plant in France. Robe contacted Harald Berhend, vice president of Staubli Corp., who has been a supporter of USCS for years as he served on the USCS School of Business Advisory Board for 13 years and currently serves on the USCS International Advisory Board. Two years ago, Staubli Corp. representatives sat down with university officials to discuss the establishment of the robotics lab that was dedicated this past November. The USCS International Advisory Board is made up of local and international members of the community that serves as a conduit between the university and the international community. The board advises international students at USCS and raises funds for scholarships and travel programs.