The Starship Technology robots on campus have become a topic of conversation among NAU students and faculty. The idea behind these robots is to get food delivered anywhere on campus without having to worry about waiting in long lines.
The problem with these robots is they promote laziness and cause students to be antisocial because students will be less likely to walk to the University Union or the du Bois Center to get their meals.
Campus dining gives students a chance to socialize, which is good for freshmen and sophomores who typically live on campus. The underclassmen might not know as many of their peers, especially if they are from out of state. The opportunity to go to the Union or the Dub promotes the idea of interacting with other students and they can also make new friends.
The adjustment to college can be hard for students during their first year. It can be easy to isolate yourself in your room instead of making the effort to socialize. Students will be able to do this more if they can have their food delivered to their residence halls and it can be purchased through their meal plan.
Our generation already has socializing issues due to technology, primarily cell phone use. The robots will become an extension of this. It’s the same as someone staying inside all day to play video games and ordering a pizza for delivery. The robots will make this easier for students to do because they will not make the effort to go outside to get their meals.
It would probably be faster for students to walk to the Dub or the Union than it would be to order from the app and wait for the robot to come to you. I see an issue for students who live on south campus and order from the Union, or vice versa, with a student who lives on the north campus and they order from the Dub.
In my experience, I have driven through campus to run errands and see the robots waiting to cross the street. I will finish my errands and drive back through campus and the robots will still be waiting at the same crosswalk as before. I have also seen the robots crash into curbs or people. This makes me think it would be much simpler and faster for students to get their food themselves.
I understand there are many fans of robots and it is an interesting idea. It can be beneficial for students who are working on a tight deadline for their class and do not have time to take a break to get food. But I think many others will take advantage of the robots when they do not feel like walking.
NAU offers the bus system as well, which makes it simple and fast to get from one side of the campus to another. NAU offers free bikes to students that they can rent out for a week at a time through the Union or the Dub. If students do not want to walk, this is another option they can use to get to on-campus dining options.
Ultimately, while the robots have caused interest at NAU’s campus, I do not see them benefiting students at all. Campus dining isn't the healthiest to begin with, and having technology, which will deliver junk food straight to students, is only going to promote laziness.