a soft robot made at UCR
May 25, 2021

UC Riverside offers UC system's first master's degree in robotics

Algorithmic bias is one problem the program will tackle

Author: Holly Ober
May 25, 2021

UC Riverside’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering now offers a Master of Science degree in robotics, the first and only one of its kind in the University of California system. Applications for fall 2021 admission are due by July 15 for international students, and by Sept. 1 for domestic students.

The master’s in Robotics provides interdisciplinary training in the design, construction, and deployment of robots and autonomous systems. Students will learn the foundational principles underlying mechanical and electronic aspects of robot design, control and navigation of robots, and artificial intelligence required for robots to perceive their surroundings and make decisions.

“This exciting new program will help meet the growing need in the global workforce for robotics engineers and afford students both the breadth and depth of knowledge to excel in these lucrative science careers,” said Amit Roy Chowdhury, professor of electrical and computer engineering and chair of the robotics degree program starting July 1, 2021. “By learning the latest theories from leading faculty experts in their field, students will be well prepared to address tomorrow’s engineering challenges in artificial intelligence, computing, and more.”   

The program brings under one umbrella popular courses in robotics currently offered in different departments. For example, Mechanical Engineering offers courses in robot design and control, Electrical and Computer Engineering, in control and machine learning, Computer Engineering, in real-time system design, and Computer Science and Engineering, in machine learning and data mining. The new degree allows students access to a curriculum that will provide a holistic understanding of robotics and deeper understanding of specialized aspects that correspond to their interests.

Robotics deals with the design and operation of robots, which includes mechanical, electronic and computer design, as well as software systems that are capable of processing sensory inputs, reasoning about the operational environment, and making decisions about future operations. Advances in artificial intelligence research and technology development have driven rapid interest in robotics. Application areas include manufacturing, logistics, health care, public safety, and the military.

One area of particular focus for the program will be algorithmic bias in artificial intelligence, or AI, and machine learning. The design of AI systems has been primarily the domain of white, male engineers, and UC Riverside will make an effort to recruit more diverse and inclusive robotics students. The program will also work closely with the computer science and electrical and computer engineering departments to address algorithmic bias, including how biased versus unbiased robots may harm society as the technology evolves.

Students will be encouraged to participate with ongoing efforts at UCR to provide mentorship and broaden participation in robotics-related activities, such as UCR’s K-12 Lego Robotics Competition. The robotics program will work with BCOE student organizations to create new opportunities for graduate student leadership and participation surrounding community outreach events.

The program is jointly managed by the computer science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering departments.

To apply for the robotics program, visit https://robotics.engr.ucr.edu

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