RobotsWe’ve all encountered robots in one form or another.

You may have taken a ride on a driverless airport shuttle or watched a vacuum cleaner chase dust bunnies in your living room. And yet the field of robotics has potential far beyond these day-to-day conveniences. Indeed, the faculty at Penn Engineering believe that robots can help us tackle some of the massive challenges that we face as a human civilization, particularly in the fields of manufacturing, transportation, healthcare and agriculture. For example, drones have the ability to map assets on the ground, helping us to increase the efficiency of food production in ways that we haven’t thought about yet.

“Robots have the capacity to shape the world in ways we can’t even predict,” said Penn Engineering’s Director of Online Education, Ruth Yalom Stone Professor and instructor of Vision Intelligence and Machine Learning, Kostas Daniilidis. “It is important for a broad range of people to have access to the fundamentals of robotics so that they can bring diverse perspectives to problems we will encounter in the future. Our goal is to give learners the tools they need to respond with technical expertise, creativity and agile problem-solving skills.”

The new Robotics MicroMasters program was designed precisely with these principles in mind. Created by world-renowned faculty and experts in the field, Penn Engineering is now partnering with edX to offer four foundational courses in robotics that can be taken online at one’s own pace. Learners who complete the Robotics MicroMasters program may apply for an accelerated Robotics Masters of Science in Engineering degree at the University of Pennsylvania which can be completed more quickly than the traditional MSE degree (7 course units as opposed to 10 course units).

The field of robotics is booming and only projected to get bigger in the coming years; there will be no shortage of need for roboticists. And yet, in light of this, some wonder how robots will impact the workforce, particularly in the manufacturing sector. The Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering and instructor of Dynamics and Control, Vijay Kumar, notes that robots of the future are more likely to work alongside of humans. “There’s a real synergy between what a machine can do and what a human can do. As with any new technology, robotics has the potential to disrupt the social fabric; but it also creates jobs and opportunities.”

Those who enroll in the Robotics MicroMasters take a sequence of four courses that include both foundational concepts and real world applications from Penn Engineering’s GRASP (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception) Laboratory. Learners will acquire the mathematical skills to solve fundamental problems, will learn about the visual intelligence that allows robots to explore complex environments, will discover how to create smarter robots by applying machine-learning concepts, and will investigate how bioinspired robots navigate in unstructured environments.

Course instructors include CJ Taylor, the director of the M.S.E in Robotics, Mark Yim, Jianbo Shi, Dan Lee, UPS Foundation Chair and director of the GRASP lab, and Dan Koditschek, Alfred Fitler Moore Professor.

 The first course, Robotics: Fundamentals, is live. Enroll today!

Written by Olivia Brubaker from Penn Engineering for edX’s blog.