News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 19, 2010

$50,000 grant to support Rose-Hulman’s expanding robotics initiative

Funds to pay for project workstations that replicate industrial robotics

Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has been awarded a $50,000 grant by The Alcoa Foundation to support the college’s expanding robotics initiative. The grant will enable Rose-Hulman to add project workstations that replicate industrial robotics.

“Alcoa Foundation and Rose-Hulman share a common goal of upgrading the skills of tomorrow’s work force and leaders. The new robotics workstations will present students with similar situations encountered in manufacturing operations, allowing further production improvements and better robotics,” said Joseph Haniford, vice president of global manufacturing for Alcoa Power and Propulsion. “It is essential that students have modern tools to explore the challenges we confront in the work environment.”

Rose-Hulman specializes in hands-on education that stresses development of skills in a personal environment allowing students and graduates to make positive contributions to today’s innovative technology-based workplace. Student teams will use the workstations to obtain practical experience on how industrial robotics is used, how robotic systems are selected and how applications are developed that use modern robotics systems.

Applied robotics is a concentration area in Rose-Hulman’s multidisciplinary robotics academic minor and technical certificate programs, which have experienced substantial growth since being added three years ago.

More students are expressing an interest in robotics each school year, and the number of students completing robotics capstone design projects has doubled every year.  The workstations will increase the number of students able to participate in robotics projects, according to David Fisher, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

“Robotics will open new career fields for Rose-Hulman students and further enhance their educational experience,” states Fisher, who has joined faculty colleagues in seeking industrial support for Rose-Hulman’s robotics program. “The workstations being provided by The Alcoa Foundation funding will offer a great learning opportunity for Rose-Hulman students.”

The Alcoa Foundation grant has been added to a $20,000 grant from Beckman Coulter to provide applied robotics equipment to the college’s laboratories.

Robotics is a multidisciplinary field, blending mechanics, electronics, controls, and software, and requiring engineers to have deep enough knowledge where they can contribute within their specialty, but broad enough knowledge to understand other engineers. Rose-Hulman offers a robotics certificate to students completing seven courses, including a senior design project in robotics. Students can concentrate their robotics experience in controls, hardware development, mechanics, computer engineering, programming, sensors and electronics.

“Our students must be able to work in multidisciplinary teams,” added Carlotta Berry, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and another faculty member of Rose-Hulman’s robotics initiative. “The robotics industry has been compared to the personal computer industry in the 1970s. It is a career field with great potential.”

Students are coming to college with more experience and interest than ever before, Berry acknowledged, thanks to FIRST Robotics, BotBall, First Lego League and other competitions.

“Students are ready to learn more about programming, electronics, controls, artificial intelligence, robot vision and kinematics,” she stated.

Other robotics program faculty members are Matt Boutell, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering, and Steve Chenoweth, associate professor of computer science and software engineering.

Learn more about Rose-Hulman’s robotics program at

The Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., with assets of approximately US $420 million. In addition to addressing local needs in communities where Alcoa operates, Alcoa Foundation is focused on promoting environmental stewardship, enabling economic and social sustainability, and preparing tomorrow’s leaders through education and learning. Alcoa Foundation was founded more than 50 years ago and has invested more than US $515 million since 1952. Alcoa employees share their energy, passion and purpose to make a difference in our communities through the Alcoa Volunteers Program, which last year recorded 650,000 hours of service to 9,000 charitable organizations. More information can be found at