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Robotics Program in Demand, Awards First Minor Degrees

June 6, 2011


Pinning robotics

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's robotics program took another step forward this spring as 13 graduates were awarded the college's first robotics minor academic specialty.

The program started three years ago as a certificate program.  It is now a minor degree area available to students of any course of study.

"This program has far exceeded our expectations," states Carlotta Berry, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.  She is one of five faculty members teaching courses in Rose-Hulman's first multidisciplinary minor degree program.


Twelve percent of the 2010-11 freshman class reported interest in the robotics minor and/or chose to attend Rose-Hulman because of the robotics program.  While 13 graduates earned the robotics minor this year, that number could increase to as many as 24 students next year.

Rose-Hulman will highlight each graduate's status in the robotics program by awarding specially designed robotics pins each year, and students were encouraged to wear the pin on their commencement gown.

Nearly all of this year's inaugural robotics minor class had a career path planned after graduation, through employment or graduate school.  The list of companies hiring these graduates included Alcoa, Texas Instruments, Northrop Grumman, Proctor & Gamble, National Instruments and Cummins.  One graduate is spending the summer in NASA's robotics program before attending graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University's prestigious robotics program.

Rose-Hulman's robotics program is being supported by Alcoa Foundation, Beckman Coulter Foundation and Rockwell Collins.

"The multidisciplinary teamwork skills students have learned are highly valued by employers," stated Matt Boutell, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering.  "The robotics minor makes our high-achieving students even more attractive to employers.  It is a valuable asset for our students.

"This was a very strong group of students," Boutell added.  "They did a great job working together in teams -- with students from many different majors -- on their final projects in an exercise that replicates a 'real-world' working experience."

In a mobile robotics course, students learned to use control architectures to give robots an increasing level of autonomy and intelligence.  In the final project, teams created robots that competed to rescue a robot that was lost in a maze. Students were challenged to use a localization algorithm to help their robots navigate the maze and find the lost robot.

pinning robogroup Other senior-year projects featured mechanical engineering graduates Nathan Jackson and Matthew Behling joining computer engineering graduate Richard Chelminski to create a linear actuator that could be implemented in humanoid robotics, imitating a muscle.  Meanwhile, mechanical engineering graduates Jasmine Browne, Dominic Gates and Alexander Gumz teamed with Timothy Wentz, a software engineering graduate, to create a graphical user interface that works with Beckman Coulter's PA 300 Electrophoresis Machine to decrease the time required to perform functions.  Finally, mechanical engineering graduates Zachary Hawkins and Derik Sikes worked with computer engineering student Jonathon Nibert to create an automated flight and travel system for stage productions at Rose-Hulman's Hatfield Hall Theater.

Recipients of the first Robotics Pin, 2011


Other 2010 graduates of the robotics program included Jinwoo Baek, a mechanical engineering and electrical engineering double major; Megan Chann, a mechanical engineering major; and Dane Bennington, an electrical engineering major.

Additional funding is being sought to support more courses in the curriculum, additional hardware and the possibility of establishing an integrated robotics research laboratory.  The program is also expanding its community outreach through service learning projects, with a team of students from the 2009-10 school year designing a robotic arm display for the Terre Haute Children's Museum.

Joining Berry and Boutell as faculty in the robotics minor program are David Fisher, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Stephen Chenoweth, associate professor of computer science and software engineering; and David Mutchler, professor of computer science and software engineering.

Learn more about Rose-Hulman's minor program in robotics at