WPI has a long history of research and education in Robotics. The first course in robotics, ME 4815 Industrial Robotics, was offered in 1985. WPI’s research in robotics dates to soon after that. Robotics research received a significant boost with the opening of the HAAS Technical Education Center in 2000.
WPI was one of the original universities to participate in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) competition originated by WPI alumnus Dean Kamen. WPI’s Team 190 was founded in 1992 and has participated in every FIRST competition since then.
In 2005, based in part on the FIRST experience and the emergence of a New England robotics industry, faculty members from the Departments of Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, with the support of the WPI Administration, began discussing the emergence of robotics as a field of growing importance. This led to a decision to increase the visibility for robotics as a focus or concentration in each of the three departments.
In Spring 2006, a concerted effort was started to develop an undergraduate major in Robotics. A team of interested and committed faculty met weekly to plan the program. Many of the components required for a robotics degree already existed: courses in Software Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Embedded Systems, Statics, Kinematics, Machine Design, Introduction to Robotics, and Industrial Robotics; faculty in CS, ECE, and ME willing to work in Robotics; and curriculum and project frameworks from the WPI Plan. By Summer 2006, the program had begun to solidify around 1) curricular goals, objectives, and outcomes, 2) the Unified Robotics course sequence, 3) a 4-year budget, and 4) an Advisory Board and other industry connections.
In Fall 2006, a complete Robotics Engineering Program proposal was prepared. The proposal underwent critical review by the WPI faculty governance system, was revised and refined several times, was approved by the faculty at the November 2006 Faculty Meeting, and was approved by the WPI Trustees Executive Board two weeks later.
The B.S. in Robotics Engineering program was officially launched in Fall 2007, becoming the first undergraduate robotics major in the Unites States. Spring 2009 saw the first four graduates from the program. Fall 2009 marked the launch of the M.S. degree in Robotics Engineering and soon afterwards, the Ph.D. degree in Robotics Engineering was established.
Following the graduation of the first RBE majors in 2009, the Program applied for ABET accreditation under General Engineering, that is, with no program-specific criteria. The Program received accreditation in 2011 and has been re-accredited through September 2021.