University of Michigan’s first undergraduate robotics class to start in fall

U-M first top 10 engineering school to premier robotics department

A Mini-Cheetah robot at The University of Michigan. (Robert Coelius)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan is now enrolling students in its brand-new undergraduate robotics program for fall 2022.

The U-M Department of Robotics is housed in the 134,000-square-foot Ford Motor Company Robotics Building on North Campus. There, students will be able to work with wheeled, legged, underwater, flying and medical robots as part of their studies.

The program received approval on June 2 from the Michigan Association of State Universities and is the first program of its kind at a top ten engineering school.

Demand has grown for qualified robotics professional, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to a U-M release, the service robotics and global industrial markets are slated to reach a total of $310 billion by 2025.

Read: Take a look inside University of Michigan’s new Ford Motor Co. robotics complex

“As our society grows, there’s an unmet demand for people skilled in robotics, and Michigan Engineering is poised to help fill this void as a leader in this space,” Dean of Engineering at U-M, Alec D. Gallimore said in a statement. “The college’s robotics department will produce deeply trained roboticists who put people first, collaborating across disciplines to solve complex issues affecting the state of Michigan, our nation and the world at large.”

The inclusively designed curriculum offers more than 30 courses that provide access to technologies that were largely inaccessible a decade ago for undergraduate students. Topics include electronics, computation, mathematical foundations, mechanisms and human-robot interaction.

The curriculum will also be interdisciplinary.

“The University of Michigan has a remarkable ecosystem of academics, enabling our robotics faculty and students to work collaboratively across disciplines with far reaching societal contributions,” Provost Laurie McCauley said in a statement.

Read: University of Michigan is ‘training’ these robots in disaster response

Dawn Tilbury will serve as the first chair of U-M’s Department of Robotics. A professor of engineering and computer science, she also serves as associate vice president for research-convergence science at the school.

Prior to her appointment at U-M, she led the National Science Foundation Directorate of Engineering and helped establish Michigan’s Robotics Institute.

“Robotics has so much potential because it really brings together so many different engineering disciplines — biomedical, computer science, electrical, industrial, mechanical, aerospace, and naval architecture and marine engineering,” Tilbury said in a statement. “Michigan roboticists will possess the knowledge and skills to develop robotics that help people across a multitude of arenas whether that’s within their workplace, home or community.”

In fall 2020, the U-M Robotics Institute began piloting courses to provide equal opportunity and quality engineering instruction for students.

The institute’s Robotics 101 course enrolls students at historically Black college and universities, such as Spelman and Morehouse, to help them receive an engineering degree from U-M. The Robotics 102 course serves mostly Appalachian students who attend Kentucky’s Berea College.

Read: University of Michigan receives $1.7M in federal funds to develop new powered exoskeleton

The department says it is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion by engaging in outreach to marginalized student populations.

“I know that if we don’t have equitable representation in our research labs and classrooms, we won’t have equitable representation among our development teams, executive suites and policymakers who are thinking about these life-changing technologies,” associate director of undergraduate programs at the Michigan Robotics Institute and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, Chad Jenkins, said in a release.

“We just want to do right by the people who are on our campus and across the country so we can help extend the ladder of opportunity.”

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.