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Robotics Engineering: A New Discipline For A New Century

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Curriculum Innovation

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1034.1 - 14.1034.10



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Paper Authors

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Michael Ciaraldi Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Eben Cobb Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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David Cyganski Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Michael Demetriou

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Greg Fischer

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Michael Gennert Worcester Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Fred Looft Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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William Michalson Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Bradley Miller Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Taskin Padir Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Yiming Rong Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Kenneth Stafford Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Gretar Tryggvason Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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James Van de Ven Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Robotics Engineering: A New Discipline for a New Century


In the spring of 2007, Worcester Polytechnic Institute introduced a BS degree program in Robotics Engineering. The motivation for the program was two-fold: it addresses the needs of the rapidly growing robotics industry and provides a professional career path matched to growing student interest as demonstrated by numerous high school robotics competitions. The program is a collaborative effort between the departments of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering and relies in part on already existing courses. The core curriculum, however, consists of five new “unified robotics engineering” courses. Although Robotics Engineering is not recognized as a distinct engineering field by ABET, the program is designed so that it can be accredited under the “General Engineering” ABET criteria. The new major is already very popular.

1.0 Introduction

As technology changes, the occasion sometimes arises when a new engineering field that either addresses a new technology, combines current areas in a new way, or both, is needed. Not all new degree programs have been a success. However, a few, such as Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science, have been exactly what the relevant industry needed at the time they were introduced.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) introduced a BS degree program in Robotics Engineering (RBE) in the spring of 2007. The goals of the program are to educate young engineers for the robotics industry and prepare students for graduate work in robotics. The motivation for establishing the program was two-fold. First, we believe that robotics—meaning the combination of sensing, computation and actuation in the real world—is on the verge of rapid growth due to the dramatic reduction in cost and increasing availability of sensors, computing devices and actuators, and that the rapidly increasing needs in areas such as national defense and security, elder care, automation of household tasks, customized manufacturing, and interactive entertainment, will strongly drive the demand for engineers skilled in robotics. Second, it seems clear that robotics has already “caught on” with the current generation of high school students. Indeed, the strong interest in robotics among high school students is clearly demonstrated by, for example, the large number of successful robotics competitions. For example, in 2007, over 32,000 high school students and their mentors participated in the FIRST Robotic Competition and another 5,500, high school aged students competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge1. Botball robotic soccer competitions have included over 40,000 students to date2. Other robotics events, such as BattleBots IQ3, Robocup and Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Robotics with over 10,000 students yearly4, also illustrate the high level of interest. Robotics also appeals to younger students who in some cases become engaged with robotics before entering high school. The Robotics Competition web page lists over a hundred competitions in 2008 alone5. It seems clear that a degree in robotics engineering will provide an attractive entry for the current generation of high school students into engineering. It could be argued that the term mechatronics has already been used to capture the fusion of mechanical and electrical engineering—with computing presumably implied. Indeed, mecatronics engineering degrees

Ciaraldi, M., & Cobb, E., & Cyganski, D., & Demetriou, M., & Fischer, G., & Gennert, M., & Looft, F., & Michalson, W., & Miller, B., & Padir, T., & Rong, Y., & Stafford, K., & Tryggvason, G., & Van de Ven, J. (2009, June), Robotics Engineering: A New Discipline For A New Century Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5115

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