UM creates the first robotics department among the 10 best engineering schools

The Board of Regents has approved the creation of the College of Engineering’s robotics department, a first among the top 10 engineering schools in the country.

The new department will define robotics as a discipline, teaching students the skills necessary to help lead a growing field.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the annual demand for skilled robotics professionals increased by more than 13% in 2018 alone. Global industrial and service robotics markets are expected to grow more than 20% year-over-year, reaching a total market of $ 310 billion by 2025.

“With this bold step forward, we are poised to lead the field of robotics, meeting the country’s growing demand for roboticists with graduates equipped to design equity-focused solutions to societal challenges,” said said Alec D. Gallimore, the dean of Robert J. Vlasic. engineering, Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner professor of engineering, Arthur F. Thurnau professor and professor of aerospace engineering.

Engineering schools across the country have observed the growth of the field of robotics and questioned whether it can be considered its own discipline, separate from conventional disciplines such as mechanical engineering and computer science. By deciding that it is distinct, the UM formalizes the field and its purposes.

Robots are organized to showcase the Robot Garden near the Robotics Institute building in May. The garden gives robots a number of terrain and texture characteristics to test their locomotion. (Photo by Robert Coelius, College of Engineering)

“This is an inflection point for the field of robotics and Michigan’s role in its future,” said Jessy Grizzle, director of the UM Robotics Institute and distinguished professor of engineering at the University. Elmer G. Gilbert. He is also Jerry W. and Carol L. Levin Professor of Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

“We will leverage the resources of a dedicated department to accelerate our work of building intelligent machines that serve society and respect humanity, from safe industrial robots and bipedal humanoids to inclusive prosthetics and automated vehicles. Our roboticists prioritize people over technology. We respectfully call it robotics.

The new department will take shape from the current UM Robotics Institute, adding more capacity and resources for students and faculty to advance the field of robotics. The institute currently has 30 core faculty members spanning 14 departments and 42 affiliate professors in fields as diverse as architecture and anthropology.

“The New Robotics Department will enable Michigan to recruit exceptional experts at the forefront of robotics research and development, train the next generation of roboticists and have a broad impact in the state of Michigan and beyond.” », Said President Mark Schlissel. “The creation of this department advances UM’s ability to unlock new dimensions of human potential through innovations in robotics. ”

Housed in the recently completed $ 75 million, 134,000 square foot Ford Motor Company robotics building, the institute operates a graduate program, with its first students enrolled in 2014. Over 200 master’s and doctoral degrees. students are now enrolled.

“By leveraging the strength of the university as a whole, the new robotics department will truly transform the field, while serving our students, supporting our faculty and enhancing the cutting-edge research that characterizes our university,” said said Susan M. Collins, Rector and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Alejandro Azocar (left), a mechanical engineering graduate student research assistant, helps Dawn Jordan Musil test an open source robotic leg.
Alejandro Azocar (left), a mechanical engineering graduate student research assistant, helps Dawn Jordan Musil test an open source robotic leg. (Photo by Robert Coelius, College of Engineering)

In addition to allowing the robotics faculty to recruit and hire 15 additional robotics experts over the next three to five years, one of the goals of the new department is to create an undergraduate degree in four years.

This should help ease the bottleneck for Michigan’s robotics talent, including in high-demand areas like computer vision and autonomous control. Currently, a robotics degree from UM requires a four-year bachelor’s degree in a related discipline, followed by a two-year master’s program in robotics.

Pilot undergraduate robotics courses began last year, offering first-year topics such as computational linear algebra, robotic mechanisms, and introduction to programming and artificial intelligence. Using an approach robotics professors call ‘coding is believing’, they teach fundamentals of engineering through robotics projects, addressing core student interests from day one.

Course developers partner with institutions, including Morehouse College, that serve communities historically excluded from tech. Thanks to these partnerships, students participate in a multi-university community through courses developed in collaboration with UM.

“As we design our new undergraduate program, Michigan has the unique opportunity to define the discipline of robotics with a priority on both fairness and excellence,” said Chad Jenkins, associate director of undergraduate program and professor of electrical engineering and computer science.


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