Asee peer logo

Robotics as an Undergraduate Major: 10 Years' Experience

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Curricular Design and Assessment

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Michael A. Gennert Worcester Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Michael A. Gennert is Professor of Robotics Engineering, CS, and ECE at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he leads the WPI Humanoid Robotics Laboratory and was Founding Director of the Robotics Engineering Program. He has worked at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, the University of California Riverside, PAR Technology Corporation, and General Electric. He received the S.B. in CS, S.B. in EE, and S.M. in EECS in 1980 and the Sc.D. in EECS in 1987 from MIT. Dr. Gennert's research interests include robotics, computer vision, and image processing, with ongoing projects in humanoid robotics, robot navigation and guidance, biomedical image processing, and stereo and motion vision. He led WPI teams in the DARPA Robotics Challenge and NASA Space Robotics Challenge and is author or co-author of over 100 papers. His research has been supported by DARPA, NASA, NIH, NSF, and industry. He is a member of Sigma Xi, and a senior member of IEEE and ACM.

visit author page

author page

Craig B. Putnam Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Download Paper |


Robotics as an Undergraduate Major: 10 Years' Experience

Abstract: Worcester Polytechnic Institute launched an undergraduate degree program in robotics in 2007. At that time, there were only a handful of universities worldwide offering undergraduate Robotics programs, none in the United States, although many universities included robotics within a discipline such as Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering. WPI took a decidedly different approach. We introduced Robotics as a multi-disciplinary engineering discipline to meet the needs of 21st century engineering. The curriculum, designed top-down, incorporates a number of best practices, including spiral curriculum, a unified set of core courses, multiple pathways, inclusion of social issues and entrepreneurship, an emphasis on projects-based learning, and capstone design projects. This paper provides a brief synopsis, comparison with other approaches, and multi-year retrospective on the program. The curriculum has steadily evolved from the original to its current state, including changes in requirements, courses, hardware, software, labs, and projects. The guiding philosophy remains unchanged, however, providing continuity of purpose to the program. The program has been highly successful in meeting its desired outcomes, including: quantity and quality of enrolled students, ABET EAC accreditation, graduate placement in jobs and graduate school, and overall student learning. The program is assessed using several quantitative measures: enrollment, cohort survival within the program, course and project evaluations, and student placement success. Other, qualitative outcomes are also discussed: results from competitions, interaction with industry, accreditation, and external recognition. The paper concludes with a summary of lessons learned and recommendations for future actions to further robotics education.

Gennert, M. A., & Putnam, C. B. (2018, June), Robotics as an Undergraduate Major: 10 Years' Experience Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30943

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015