MS in Robotics and Autonomy

Anthony Mignano with a Bluegill sunfish model

The graduate program in Robotics and Autonomy will educate professionals who are prepared to lead and conduct research, development, and design in robotic systems and technologies. The program is an interdepartmental program in Drexel’s College of Engineering, in conjunction with the College of Computing and Informatics and the College of Arts and Sciences, that educates and trains students in the theory, integration and practical application of the core engineering and computer science disciplines that comprise robotics and autonomy. To be admitted, students must have a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field or demonstrate that they have acquired sufficient experience in a technical field to be able to satisfactorily complete engineering studies at the graduate level.

Program of Study

The M.S. degree is a 45 credit program that is offered with thesis and non-thesis options. The thesis option combines 39 credits of classroom, online and laboratory coursework with six credits of research conducted in Drexel research laboratories. The research culminates in a public defense of an original thesis. The non-thesis option replaces the research and thesis with six credits of technical coursework and a requirement to conduct a hands-on project or lab-style learning within an approved course or independent study. Graduate co-op is encouraged, but optional, for non-thesis students. Grad co-op is also available to thesis students.

The Robotics and Autonomy program is built upon four foundational concepts in robotics: perception, cognition, control, and action. Roughly, these four capabilities comprise: 1) obtaining data from the robot’s surroundings (perception); 2) reasoning about how that data yields information about the robot’s environment (cognition); 3) mapping environmental information to a decision about how to react to the environment (control); and 4) translating that reaction decision into movement and an interaction with the physical environment (action).

  • Perception deals with science and technology of devices and methods of obtaining data about processes and environment that will be used to guide robotic operations. It involves the study of various sensing and imaging methods and devices, and understanding the uncertainties inherent in their operation. Relevant courses may involve optics and electromagnetics, solid state devices, micro-mechanical systems, ultrasound principles and others.
  • Cognition deals with methods of extracting useful and actionable information from data gathered through perception (sensing, imaging, et cetera). This involves study of computing machines and technologies, detection and estimation, computer vision, statistical and machine learning, artificial intelligence and related subjects.
  • Control deals with methods and technologies used to integrate perception, cognition and action into a system capable of achieving desired goals when subjected to imposed constraints. It involves the study of mathematical descriptions of systems and their dynamics, and real-time computing and control technologies.
  • Action deals with mechanisms for actuation and description of various types of motion. It may involve the study of dynamics and kinematics of systems with multiple degrees of freedom, mechanical behavior of materials, motors, actuators and other mechanisms used to actuate movements, and mathematical description of motion models.