In a global, competitive marketplace, to sustain the U.S. quest for leadership through the creation of an “innovation economy,” there is an acute need to train tomorrow’s workforce in cooperative, active-learning environments with students from diverse educational backgrounds. Recognizing the challenges and opportunities inherent in interdisciplinary education, in 2015, the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department began offering a new MS Degree in Mechatronics and Robotics. Defined broadly, mechatronics is the synergistic integration of mechanical engineering, control theory, computer science, and electronics to manage complexity, uncertainty, and communication in engineered systems. Moreover, robotics (synergistic integration of mechanical structures, mechanisms, electrical and electronic components, electromechanical sensors and actuators, microcontrollers, and programming) offers an ideal technology platform on which to construct lasting new businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. The exciting fields of mechatronics and robotics can spark intellectual curiosity and engage the interest of students in hands-on engineering education, engineering research, and creative and entrepreneurial explorations. This new MS degree offering modernizes our curricula offerings, makes it relevant to students’ interest, and addresses workforce demands for graduates who have broader inter-disciplinary training and practical experience in the field of mechatronics and robotics with project work.
The MS degree in Mechatronics and Robotics will provide an interdisciplinary education to students through coursework, experiential learning, and project (or thesis) work. Students will learn fundamental theory, modeling methods, hardware components, interfacing requirements, simulation and programming tools, and practical applications of mechatronics and robotics. Specifically, real-world mechatronics and robotics systems will provide an avenue for physics-based system modeling. In addition to mechanical aspects, students will learn about building-blocks of mechatronics and robotics, i.e., sensing, actuation, computing technologies, and algorithms, thus being introduced to real-world tools used by practicing professionals. Having learned the fundamental theory, modeling, hardware, and programming tools through core courses, students can specialize in one of three areas, namely, assistive mechatronic and robotic technologies; mobile robotics; or microrobotics. All students will also acquire fundamentals of entrepreneurship through formal course work. All courses as well as project (or thesis) work will engage students in hands-on learning and explorations that will provide them with a comprehensive experience in systems integration and product development. Finally, the entrepreneurship activities will allow students to envision and gain an appreciation of the pathway from education to careers.