NDSU robotics: new program, new opportunities

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NDSU junior Courtney Hassler is enthusiastic about NDSU’s new minor in robotics, which is being offered for the first time this semester. 

“I’m excited about it. I added the minor as soon as I spoke to my adviser,” said Hassler, a mechanical engineering major who is president of Bison Robotics. The popular 100-member student organization takes part in robotics competitions and service-based projects.

“Robotics has a special place in my heart because it incorporates everything – mechanical engineering, electrical systems and computer programming,” Hassler said. “I like the whole process of what goes into a machine.”

The new minor is available to students majoring in the programs in the NDSU College of Engineering: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, agricultural and biosystems engineering, civil engineering, construction engineering, construction management, environmental engineering or computer science.

Robotic systems will become commonplace in the decades ahead. So, the new minor is expected to open many doors.

“We have a growing need to automate things and make our workforce more efficient. Think about it, we went from manual vehicles to cars that drive themselves. And that’s just one application,” said Hassler, who is from Byron, Minnesota. “I grew up in a rural part of the state, so precision agriculture interests me. With robotics, you could push a button and have unmanned systems help farmers with planting or harvesting.”

NDSU’s new program requires 18 additional credits covering such topics as microprocessor programming, perception sensors, instrumentation, actuations systems and various applications. 

The knowledge gained will give students an advantage in the job market. Potential employers include drone manufacturing companies, civil structure inspection agencies, precision agriculture consulting firms, industrial manufacturers and automotive companies.

“There’s been rapid growth in the need for engineers and computer scientists with the technical skills to work in the field of robotics,” said Michael Kessler, dean of engineering. “Our new minor will offer extensive hands-on learning activities that directly relate to real-life applications.” 

According to Hassler, that helps make the selection of a college easier.

“If you’re a high school student who has a passion for robotics that incorporates all aspects of STEM, try NDSU,” she said. “If I hadn’t come here, I would not be in my position with Bison Robotics or have the opportunities that I have today.”

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