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School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Robotics and Autonomous Systems Initiative

Swensen and Students in lab.


WSU’S SCHOOL OF MECHANICAL AND MATERIALS ENGINEERING (MME) has a strong tradition of industry-focused, hand-on education. This focus of producing industry- ready engineers is accomplished through a series of teaching laboratory courses where the students are immersed in real-world problems, as well through cutting-edge research. MME’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems initiative will build on this tradition to train undergraduate and graduate students in these fast-expanding fields, which are critical to employers in the Pacific Northwest.

“Leading companies are recognizing that these technologies are most effective when they complement humans, not replace them.”
Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte, 2018

Robotic arm picking fruit.
Drone flying over trees.

Since the creation of the National Robotics Initiative in 2011, the field of robotics has been steadily moving towards collaborative robots (or co-robots), which are designed to work cooperatively with humans. As advances in robotics and machine learning make robots autonomous, intelligent and adaptive, they will usher in advancements in technologies such as autonomous vehicles, robot- run factories and remote surgery, and enable innovations across all domains of human society.

The presence of several of the world’s largest technology companies in and around the state of Washington, coupled with WSU’s close partnership with them, puts us in a unique position to contribute robustly to the regional workforce in this field, as well as develop technology through research that is translatable to the industry.

This initiative will augment our laboratory facilities, increase the faculty size, and strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs in autonomous systems including robotics, control systems and machine learning, to make the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at WSU a key contributor to the economy of the state of Washington, the Pacific Northwest, and the nation.

“Next-generation robots, including collaborative and service robots, are projected to account for two-thirds of unit robot sales by 2025, up from 22 percent in 2015.
Robots uncaged: How a new generation of sophisticated robots is changing business. Deloitte, 2017



A KEY OBJECTIVE is to hire several additional faculty  members to augment our current expertise and research efforts in robotics, automation, and machine learning. We expect to add two or three faculty members in 2020 and one to two more in 2021.

By 2021, our goal is to introduce a sequence of undergraduate and graduate courses in robotics and machine learning, and offer our undergraduate students the option to specialize in an ‘autonomous controls’ track. Modernizing undergraduate laboratory facilities and building new research facilities in these areas is a critical component of our plan.


  • $100k to set up an undergraduate and graduate teaching lab with mobile and industrial robotics. This would include a modern industrial robotic arm, mobile ground robots, and aerial drones.
  • $500k to set up a complete robotic process- automation teaching assembly-line. This would be used by both Advanced Manufacturing and  Robotics/Autonomous Control courses.
  • $1.5M Faculty Chair for senior hire.
  • Partnerships with industry to provide students with the real-world problems and data.


We are seeking industry leaders and supporters who want to help shape our next-generation robotics engineering program, and ensure that WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering graduates are among the best prepared in the nation.

Support MME

For more information, please contact:

Ron RamosRon Ramos
School of Mechanical and Materials
Engineering Philanthropy