George Mason University

News at Mason

There are robots on campus—here’s what you need to know

January 22, 2019   /   by Mary Lee Clark

Sodexo, Inc. and Starship Technologies announced the launch of robot food delivery services at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

You’ve probably noticed the white, spaceship-looking robots making their way around the Fairfax Campus. Well, good news: They are here to deliver your food.   ​

The robots are from Starship Technologies, which has teamed up with the hospitality company Sodexo to provide a self-driving robot delivery service to the university. George Mason University will be the first college campus to use these new technologies. ​

Here’s what you need to know.

Starting Jan. 22, anyone on campus will be able to order from Blaze Pizza, Second Stop, Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks through the Starship Deliveries app—which can be downloaded from their website—for delivery by one of 25 robots on campus. ​

The robots will deliver from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and, according to Bridget Bukovich, marketing director at Sodexo, this time range will be adjusted based on demand.​

Mark Kraner, executive director of campus retail operations, said more options will be added to the delivery service over time. ​

There will be a small delivery fee for each order. Orders can be paid for with a credit card or Mason Money, Bonus or Freedom Funds. ​

The robots move at about 4 mph, and customers are expected to get their food within 30 minutes. The robots will not be able to enter buildings, so customers must meet the robots at the door. But don’t forget to bring your phone—the locked robots can only be unlocked through the app. ​

The small robots can hold up to three pizzas, along with a few salads and drinks. They are temperature controlled, so your pizza will stay hot while your salads will stay cold. ​

The fleet of robots even has their own Twitter and Instagram accounts—their handle is @StarshipGMU—so students, faculty and staff can keep up with the latest updates about new restaurants, changes of hours and more. ​

What about the Core Campus Project?

Fences and barriers are constantly changing as part of the Core Campus Project. It can be a challenge to navigate it all, but these robots are smart. If faced with a navigation challenge, a robot will alert Starship Technologies in Washington, D.C., where an employee can remotely navigate the robots. Once one of the robots learns a new path, it will alert the rest of the fleet. ​

The robots look both ways before crossing a street and can detect people walking around them. They are not likely to run into a person standing still, but if something does happen, incidents can be reported to Mason Police