Rise of the Robots in a Post-Pandemic World

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 1:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)


Rise of the Robots in a Post-Pandemic World

Is this the “it moment” for robots? Has the COVID-19 pandemic opened up societal acceptance of human-robot interaction if they can save lives by reducing risk? We have robot surgeons - are robot nurses or grocery clerks next? In this online session of the Alumni Speaker Series, a panel of experts will explore the various roles robotics may play during and after the pandemic of COVID-19, such as collaborative robotics, automation of work to ensure safety in the workplace and human augmentation. They will also address some of the challenges associated with robotics such as trust and trustworthiness, social norms, economics, human acceptance of robots, bias, legal issues and ethics.

The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions of the panel of experts.

A Zoom link will be sent to those who register for this session. 

Watch the full recording of the session:


william melek

William Melek
Professor, Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, University of Waterloo

William Melek is a University Research Chair and the Director the RoboHub at the University of Waterloo. He is and an expert on robotics, artificial intelligence, sensing, and state estimation. He earned his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto in 2002, and then led the Artificial Intelligence Division of Alpha Laboratories Inc. He founded University of Waterloo Laboratory of Computational Intelligence and Automation in 2004 and was awarded the Young Engineer Medal of Professional Engineers Ontario in 2006. He is the past President of the North American Fuzzy Information Processing Society (NAFIPS), and a senior member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Dr. Melek developed Canada’s first industry-ready modular reconfigurable robot (MMR); the state-of-the-art open architecture system is now used in the automotive sector. He has also led the way in designing practical, intelligent and adaptive control architectures for MMRs based on neural networks. Conceptual prototypes have been developed for the nuclear industry in the United States. He holds twelve Canadian and U.S. patents, and his contributions to the manufacturing industry have been featured in the National Post, Globe and Mail and CBC television.

Panel Speakers:

kerstin dautenhahn

Kerstin Dautenhahn
Professor and Canada 150 Research Chair in Intelligent Robotics, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Since August 2018, Kerstin Dautenhahn has been Canada 150 Research Chair in Intelligent Robotics at University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. She has a joint appointment with the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Systems Design Engineering and is cross-appointed with the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at University of Waterloo. She is director of Social and Intelligent Robotics Research Laboratory (SIRRL). The main areas of her research are Human-Robot Interaction, Social Robotics, Assistive Technology and Artificial Life. She has senior editorial roles in international journals. In 2019 she was elevated to IEEE Fellow. She has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles, including 93 journal articles.

Joe Bilit

Joel Blit (MASc 1999, Computer Engineering)
Professor, Department of Economics

Prior to joining the University of Waterloo, Joel Blit was an assistant professor of Economics and International Affairs at the George Washington University, and a business consultant to financial services firms in Asia, Australia, and North America. His consulting engagements included reorganizing the activities of a major bank and formulating the strategy for a $US 100M startup. Joel regularly advises policymakers on innovation policy. As part of an expert panel, he advised the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Canada’s optimal IP position for NAFTA negotiations. On the topic of automation and the future of work, he has briefed the G7 Sherpas (representatives), led an expert roundtable with the deputy ministers of Employment and Social Development Canada, and of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada, and was an invited speaker at a number of venues including the OECD Global Forum on Productivity.

Pablo Molina

Pablo Molina (BASc 2011, Mechatronics Engineering)
Chairman, CTO, VP of Product & Co-founder, Avidbots

Pablo Molina's vision is to live in a world where robots and humans work together in everyday life. He has been building robots since the early days of his undergraduate program at the University of Waterloo. After graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechatronics Engineering (+Physics option), Pablo received his Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from Carleton University (Space Robotics). He quickly applied his space robotics know-how working as an autonomous navigation designer at NepTec Design Group before co-founding Avidbots with Faizan Sheikh in 2014.

When Pablo isn’t working with robots or thinking about tasks to automate, he enjoys playing keyboards in music bands, working out, and playing soccer.

Other Sessions of the ALUMNI SPEAKER SERIES:

Engineering Our Way Through a Pandemic: How Waterloo Engineers are Finding Solutions

Date: August 13, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm

Moderator: Mary A. Wells, Dean, Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo


  • Marc Aucoin (BASc 2000, Chemical Engineering; MASc 2003, Chemical Engineering), PhD, Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
  • Ryan Denomme (BASc 2010, Nanotechnology; MASc 2012, Mechanical), Founder and CEO, Nicoya Lifesciences
  • Sheldon Fernandez (BASc 2001, Computer Engineering), CEO, DarwinAI


Post-COVID-19 Economy: Economic Outlook for Canada Post-Covid-19

Date: September 26, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm

Speaker: Larry Smith (BA 1968, MA 1975), Professor, Economics 


Converting Crisis to Opportunity

Date: October 29, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm

Moderator: Christopher Holt, Associate Director, Associate Director, Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business, University of Waterloo

  • Andrew D'Souza (BASc 2008, Systems Design Engineering), Co-Founder and CEO, Clearbanc
  • Paul Maiero (MBET 2010, Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology), Business Agility Leader, Deloitte Canada
  • Nina Sodhi (BASc 1999, Electrical Engineering), COO, MediQuire