Oregon State University this fall will begin both a master’s and doctoral degree program in robotics, one of only a few universities in the nation to offer such graduate-level programs, and a recognition of the changing face of global industry.

OSU has rapidly expanded its robotics faculty, research programs and course offerings in recent years, making the new degrees possible. But this is also a reflection of the changing nature of traditional job roles in American industry and the enormous new educational opportunities it opens for students.

“With robotics, we’re in the middle of something analogous to the Industrial Revolution,” said Jonathan Hurst, an OSU associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of its Dynamic Robotics Laboratory. “The introduction of robots to our lives and the workplace will continue to present both challenges and opportunities, just like the growth of the Internet did.

“But it also creates a huge demand for people with the education and training to build, create, repair and operate those robots,” he added.

Recent advances in robotics now extend them far beyond the factory floor, and robots are poised to significantly enhance human society, OSU experts say.

“We’re talking about driverless cars, improved care for the elderly and disabled, robotic surgery, and robotics limbs,” said Kagan Tumer, an OSU professor of mechanical engineering. “The impact of robotics is extending beyond factories and labs, into the everyday lives of ordinary citizens, and we envision OSU graduates as becoming leaders of these changes.”

Students with both an interest and ability in this emerging field of engineering should easily find employment, university officials say.

"OSU students with robotics training are already being hired into the jobs of their choice, with a 100 per cent hiring rate,” Hurst said. “We hope and expect that the new graduate program will only enhance and extend that record."

As part of the growth of the program at OSU, the robotics faculty will be moving into and plan a significant renovation of Graf Hall, Hurst said. There are now about 10 “dedicated robotics” faculty at OSU, and more than 30 other faculty from related disciplines who will participate in the new degree offerings.

Robotics provides a new platform for collaboration among successful OSU programs in mechanical engineering, artificial intelligence and oceanography, among others.

More information about the robotics and autonomous systems research program at OSU is available online, at http://bit.ly/1pjeKYI

The new graduate degrees will also facilitate expansion of scientific research in robotics, a field that’s still in its infancy. OSU research programs are already active in autonomous robots, multi-robot coordination, legged locomotion, human-robot interactions, robotic prosthetics, and other fields.

About the OSU College of Engineering: The OSU College of Engineering is among the nation’s largest and most productive engineering programs. Since 1999, the college has more than tripled its research expenditures to $37.2 million by emphasizing highly collaborative research that solves global problems, spins out new companies, and produces opportunity for students through hands-on learning.