New Master’s Degree in Autonomous Systems and Robotics Supports Innovative Solutions for Emerging Global Industry



By Mary Ceron-Reyes
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Self-driving cars, unmanned air vehicles, robots, and a range of other autonomous and semi-autonomous systems are becoming an integral part of contemporary life.

Illinois Institute of Technology’s new Master of Science in Autonomous Systems and Robotics creates a stimulating environment for students to obtain in-depth theoretical knowledge and practical experience in a variety of advanced topics, including but not limited to artificial intelligence, computer science, and machine learning. In particular, this new degree program focuses on physical systems and the internal algorithms by which autonomous systems are controlled and monitored for real-time operations, environmental awareness, and decision-making.

“The M.S. in Autonomous Systems and Robotics program was designed by a committee of experts in the MMAE department to meet local and national needs for professionals across broad areas applicable to autonomous systems and robotics,” says Sumanta Acharya, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and chair of the Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering.

Illinois Tech’s new degree program reflects the current and projected job market in autonomous systems, in comparison with relevant programs at other universities, and in consultation with industry representatives. From smart vehicles to medical robots and from mobile devices to connected communities, autonomous systems promise improved safety, reliability, efficiency, adaptability, resiliency, usability, affordability, and previously unattainable capabilities. 

The Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering has several faculty working across a broad spectrum of autonomous systems areas beyond robotics and mechatronics, and in such dynamic areas as unmanned aerial vehicles, driverless cars, cyber-physical systems, remote sensing, robust and optimal control, machine learning, and navigation and guidance systems.

Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Matthew Spenko says that faculty are excited to deliver these cutting-edge materials that will help students prepare for the future of work. “This new program offers new and exciting opportunities for students to become leaders in the modern workforce,” he adds.

The autonomous systems faculty in MMAE have many existing relationships with industry and research labs, and seek to lay the groundwork for students to understand challenges and make innovative contributions within this rapidly emerging field.

“These companies and research labs have been eagerly hiring Illinois Tech graduate and doctoral students that have academic preparation in autonomous systems,” says Acharya. “Students will have the opportunity to work with leading researchers based on their unique research interests to make a real impact on their career.”

Students can also learn more about faculty expertise and research opportunities by visiting the Autonomous Systems Group, which is made up of Illinois Tech faculty and students conducting fundamental and applied research on the dynamics and control of autonomous systems.