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A Starship food-delivery robot sits outside the Honors College and Residences North on Aug. 21. The bot has cameras and lights on both ends and a flag that blinks orange when it's in motion.

Starship Technologies' delivery robots kicked off services Monday, and students are now able to receive food from six on-campus dining establishments.

Purdue is the first Big Ten school to launch the food-delivery service, with more than 30 robots on campus, according to a press release. It charges $1.99 as a delivery fee, according to the delivery app.

"Given our focus on innovation here at Purdue," said Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life, "it just seemed like a natural fit for our culture and our campus."

McCuskey said students can also order snacks and other items from one of the convenience stores on campus.

"I have not used it yet," she said. "But I have definitely done tons of selfies. They're too cute."

The robots have several features built in to prevent tampering, and the lid locks to prevent theft, according to Chris Neider, the senior manager of business development for Starship Technologies.

The robot has 10 different cameras, and though it drives on its own 90% of the time, Neider said, "there's always a human in the loop that can log in (and) take control."

Robots can deliver only to a select area of campus. On the app, one can drop a pin "pretty much anywhere on the map," Neider said, and one can even select a door for some buildings.

The sensors and cameras will also allow the robot to traverse busy walkways.

"As we've seen, students want to do stuff, they'll stick their leg in front of it, they'll jump in front, try to test the robot," he said. "It's always going to try to safely navigate around. And frankly, if it's blocked, it's not going to try to go through anything."

As for traveling in the winter, Neider said the robots have six-wheel drive, and will be able to operate in the snow.

"The robots were born in snow. In Estonia, where the company is founded, it's cold and snowy there about six months out of the year," Neider said, "and snowy conditions were some of the early environments we had to learn how to operate in." 

The robot also can say various phrases, according to Neider, such as, "Hello, here's your Starship delivery," and "Have a nice day."

Neider said though students won't be operating the robots, they will have other roles in regards to the mechanics and the service of the robot. There are various operational centers for people to take control of the robots, one of which is in Washington D.C., according to Neider.

The robots are electric, charged at night at a home base and able to operate all day, he said. Service hours are typically 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. 

As to whether more dining establishments or robots will be added, McCuskey said that will be determined after Purdue sees what demand for the robots is like.

Neider indicated it's likely more robots will be added as they serve 43,000 students. He also said they plan to expand to the whole campus. 

"We probably expand a plan to expand the fleet," Neider said, "after some of the early weeks of deliveries."

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