PSU Awarded $1 Million Federal Grant for New Robotics Lab

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen-secured funding will help University construct and outfit new, state-of-the-industry robotics lab

In fall 2021, Plymouth State University (PSU) introduced a new bachelor’s degree program in robotics to meet the growing demand for graduates who are prepared for careers in robotics, automation and IoT (Internet-of-Things) technology, becoming the first institution in New Hampshire to offer a robotics degree program. Today, PSU announces that it has been awarded a $1 million federal grant to construct a cutting-edge robotics lab, a facility that will offer students a host of opportunities to learn and create within the University’s pioneering Cluster Learning Model.

The grant was secured by Senator Jeanne Shaheen as part of a congressionally directed spending proposal that was approved and signed by President Biden on March 15, 2022.

“Robotics programs require considerable capital investment to provide a relevant, real-world hardware framework for students to learn from and train with,” said Donald L. Birx, president, Plymouth State University. “With this framework in place, graduates of our robotics program will be technically capable and prepared to immediately contribute to New Hampshire’s tech-based businesses. We are very grateful to Senator Shaheen for securing this funding which will enable our students to learn on highly advanced equipment and tools.”

Located on the top floor of the historic Draper & Maynard Building, which also houses the University’s innovative makerspace, the 4,500-square-foot, state-of-the-industry robotics lab will include laboratory, electronic benches, classrooms and other instructional spaces. The facility will feature equipment and tools on par with the nation’s top institutions, including 3-D printing, laser cutting, PCB circuit-board design and milling and Computer Numerical Control (CnC) workstations. Additional workstations for running Robot Operating Systems (ROS), ROS Visualization (rViz) and Gazebo simulators, with CUDA support for working with Machine Learning, such as TensorFlow. The new facility will even include FANUC collaborative robots, which are employed in various industrial settings around the world.  

“Plymouth State University has always been a hub of innovation and technology for students, and I’m thrilled to have helped secure $1 million to continue that excellence. This award will support the construction of a cutting-edge robotics lab to provide hands-on technical learning for students,” said Senator Shaheen. “It’s essential we invest in our students to ensure they’re prepared to lead the rapidly evolving 21st-century economy. This award helps ensure New Hampshire continues to educate the next generation of professionals in science and technology.”

As industries become more automated, PSU’s robotics program will support this highly technical workforce need by training professionals who can design, build, operate and maintain real-world automation systems and use a systems approach to integrating electromechanics, existing microcontrollers and software. This expertise will boost New Hampshire’s economy by helping Granite State firms grow and prosper. 

PSU’s robotics bachelor’s degree program features hands-on, kinesthetic learning with courses in electronics, mechanics, microcontrollers, manufacturing technologies and programming. Students can choose from several electives that allow them to tailor their studies to their career interests. While most robotics programs focus on teaching students how to build or operate machines, through PSU’s Cluster Learning Model, robotics students will have opportunities to work in teams on real-world projects in collaboration with businesses, non-profit organizations and other outside entities.

Planning for a fall 2022 ceremony to mark the lab’s opening is currently underway.

For information about Plymouth State University’s innovative robotics program, visit https://go.plymouth.edu/robotics.