Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science will launch an industrial robotics and automation program this fall in an effort to better meet the growing need for skilled engineers in southeastern Michigan. Additionally, the University of Michigan-Dearborn will offer a bachelor degree in robotics engineering also starting in the fall.
“In talking with the robotic companies around us, (we have found) most companies are looking for specific talent to hit the ground running,” says Louay M. Chamra, dean of Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science in Rochester Hills. “This is our contribution to the economic development of the region.”
The OU program will be offered as a specialty rather than it’s own degree. For example, a student may have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a specialty in robotics, Chamra says. “When a student comes to us, we teach them engineering. They need to understand the fundamentals of engineering first, because (otherwise) they cannot apply it to robotics or any other area,” he says.
At U-M Dearborn, the robotics-engineering program will cover autonomous vehicles, manufacturing, military programs, and human assistance. Freshmen also will have the opportunity to join the Intelligent Systems Club as well as a computer science co-op program.
Chamra says Oakland University has established an industry advisory board for the program so that administrators can receive input from the industry when developing the courses and curriculum. “We want to know what they’d like to see in these classes. That way, when the students graduate, they have the right talent to contribute to these companies,” Chamra says.
The school recently received a $50,000 gift from Auburn Hills-based ABB Robotics North America to support the development of the program. The company will also provide internship opportunities for Oakland University students each year in programs designed to produce work-ready graduates.
“We’re pleased to be able to play a part in advising the SECS on their new robotics curriculum,” said Michael Mahfet, vice president and general manager of ABB Robotics North America. “Ultimately, it’s good for OU and it’s good for companies like ours. The automation industry is changing so fast that it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of what customers want.”
About 2,100 students are enrolled at Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, Chamra says.