SEMARANG – The presence of a robot representing the graduates in the 159th Graduation Ceremony of Diponegoro University (Undip) has been the subject of much discussion. Dozens of mass media reported the event that centered on Prof. Soedarto SH Building Semarang.

Some praised, some questioned the series of events that took place over four days from Monday 27 July to Thursday 30 July 2020. It is quite understandable, as there are 2,561 graduates and their families who are unable to find the opportunity to be physically present at the proud event.

Apart from the pros and cons that color each new event, many have not known yet on who the figure behind the creation of Undip graduate robots which photos and videos of it has been plastered everywhere. Also, not much people known how limited the time is to prepare Undip graduate robots.

Who is behind all that?

In the beginning, the Undip Rector, Prof. Dr. Yos Johan Utama SH M.Hum, was very concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic that results all activities involving large numbers of people including on campus were forcefully closed. Lectures were also need to be conducted online, including the tradition of inauguration for graduates that were already entrenched: Graduation.

Yes, graduation was not just the momentum awaited students who graduate from education; Their family members, as well as the academics have always made it an interesting important event to attend. It feels something is missing if the inaugural momentum of graduates is not marked by graduation events. “Let’s think about how the graduation ceremony can continue without violating government regulations,” said Prof. Yos, ahead of Undip’s 158th graduation ceremony which was scheduled to take place for three days from Tuesday (6/16/2020) to Thursday (6/18/2020).

Undip Rector’s anxiety is very understandable. After the 157th graduation on January 28-30, 2020 where Semarang Mayor Hevearita Gunaryanti Rahayu became one of the graduates of the FISIP master program with a cumlaude predicate, the university could not possibly hold the 158th graduation event as usual.

Finally, due to various considerations, since its establishment in 1956 for the first time Undip held a graduation without the physical presence of its graduates. Virtual Graduation, Two-dimensional Graduation or Online Graduation, which is a ceremony that utilizes information technology. Technically there are not much significant issue raised as all Undip students at all levels are given the Microsoft Teams application facility.

Even though almost all higher education institutions have performed online graduation since March 2020, there are still obstacles that are blocking them. As a state-owned higher education institution, there is no dictionary “in violation” of government policy. Online graduation choices must be made. If you have to wait for the corona outbreak to subside, nothing can be certain.

Another thing that becomes a balance is the need to celebrate the momentum of graduation, which if not being done, can feel as if it is hanging up the status of students who have completed their studies. The university actually realized that there would be those who were disappointed with the decision. But what can we say?

Right, the 158th Graduation was held online. As a form of commitment to this change, Undip then sent a subsidy for consumption fee and toga rents to graduates who had to settle for attending the inauguration program from their respective houses or boarding houses.

On internal advice, we also saw the innovation of universities in Japan that use robots in their graduation events. While delivering speech at the 158th Graduation Ceremony, Undip promised that for the 159th Graduation, a robot would be used. The goal: To stay abide by the health protocol, yet making the graduation atmosphere more colorful. That statement was quoted by many mass media.

The promise to use the graduate robot was fulfilled at Undip’s 159th Graduation. Three robots that were designed to represent the graduates’ profile, appeared to enliven the event. The innovation designed by the Center for Higher Education Science and Technology (PUI PT) Health Technology Center for Bio Mechanics, Bio Materials, Bio Mechatronics, and Bio Signal Processing (CBIOM3S) Undip, were completed in less than one month. The robot robe on Undip’s 159th graduation became a scene because almost 100 mass media from printed, online, radio and TV reported them.

Dr Rifky Ismail ST MT, Head of Undip CBIOM3S is indeed known as a robot expert. Some of the works that he has been designed include robots for infectious patients, bionic hands that help their users work optimally and robots to help massage therapies for patients with certain diseases.

When met on the sidelines of the graduation ceremony, Rifky said the initial idea of ​​the graduate robot came from the rector and vice-rector. “It’s just a bit too sudden. The time is less than one month, while the expectations of it is how robots can become interactive media. So that there can be a kind of two-way communication with the graduates,” said this Undip Faculty of Engineering lecturer.

This man who graduated from Undip and earned a doctorate from Twente University in the Netherlands is working hard so that interactions like shaking hands can look natural. “This is a tough challenge, but thank God we can make it happen,” he said.

One thing for sure was that he was grateful to the leadership of the university, especially the rector and vice-rectors who gave confidence to lead this innovation. He also appreciated the patience of Acting Vice Rector 3 for Communication and Business, Dwi Cahyo Utomo SE, MA, PhD, who intensely monitored the progress of each stage in the manufacturing process up to the trials. Although Dwi Cahyo is an economist, he delivered many technical suggestions based on his experience in the field of financial information technology.

With humble attitude Rifky admitted that the robot graduates in the technical arena were actually just simple models. However, the limited time was the challenge itself. He appreciated the team members who were able to realize the desires of the university leadership to manifest themselves with limited time and reasonably cost efficient.

For the manufacture of three robots with motor systems that can be controlled remotely, the estimated cost is between 40 to 50 million rupiah. “I do not know whether it is cheap or expensive, for sure we prepare everything well by putting forward the principle of efficiency,” he said.

When asked for his response, Dwi Cahyo briefly retorted. “I am simply translating the wishes of the rector who cannot possibly monitor the progress intensely. Therefore, I must ensure that the ideas can be realized in terms of either time and other expectations,” said Dwi.