TU’s Beautification, Roomba Style

The University of Tulsa’s new campus initiatives leave students with mixed feelings.

You’ve heard of the cat condos, now get ready for the TU Roomba. As students returned this year, they quickly noticed some new characters on campus. Over the summer, TU, through RoarkLandscaping, enlisted the service of some Turf-Mower 2000’s from ECHO Robotics. These silent, autonomous lawn-mowers, nicknamed the TU Roombas by students, are part of the initiative the University is taking to beautify and improve the campus.

According to ECHO Robotics, the Turf-Mower 2000 is a lawn mower that is eco-friendly, energy efficient and, most importantly, quiet. This is an improvement to other mowing services that are a noisy disturbance and an ideal solution for a college campus, especially when students are deep in the throes of studying and classes. The Turf-Mower 2000 is able to mow six acres on a single charge and is kept within the boundaries of its turf by a system of wires that stretch the perimeter of the grass under the Turf-Mower’s charge. Otherwise, the Turf-Mowers have free range over the New and Old U. As one is walking to classes, one can spot the blue machines with the red Tulsa flag roving slowly in randomized patterns.

This new technological addition to TU has been met with a mixture of enjoyment and displeasure. Some students find the Turf-Mowers quirky and charming, with one student creating an instagram account dedicated to the Turf-Mowers where students can joke about the newest TU members, going so far as to debate what name they should receive. Other students are less happy, with some now being wary of picnicking on the Old and New U. Students report that they are concerned about whether the Turf-Mowers can sense people or not, and wonder what would happen if someone were resting on a picnic blanket and one of the mowers came upon them. Other students argue that the Turf-Mowers do a bad job of mowing, as there are uneven tufts of grass and one can clearly see the paths the Turf-Mowers take.

Current students aren’t the only ones humming about the Turf-Mowers too. Alumni have expressed their interest, but also their concern. Similarly to some current students, they are worried about the efficiency and safety of the Turf-Mowers. One TU alum, Anna Cheshire, who returned to TU over the Labor Day weekend, expressed about the Turf-Mowers:

“As an alumni it was very shocking to come back to campus and see huge, ugly lawn mowers on both lawns. They ruin the beauty of campus and feel like a hazard to students lounging on the lawns or playing sports. They seem to mow in no logical path and leave marks on the grass that look like a toddler was scribbling on them…. I can’t imagine that they are saving us enough money to be worth the hassle.”

As with many of TU’s initiatives in recent years, there have been a lot of unexpected reactions from students and alumni with the integration of the Turf-Mowers, or the TU Roombas. As TU continues the initiative to beautify campus through automated means, time will tell how the other, non-robotic members of campus welcome and adapt to it.

Post Author: Mary Lickona