End of the Semester Updates from the MnRI Director (Nikos)

As we approach the end of the academic year, we want to highlight the accomplishments of our faculty and students in the M.S. in Robotics program. The faculty associated with the Minnesota Robotics Institute (MnRI) have achieved great success in research, working on projects that range from autonomous vehicles to robots for medical applications. MnRI has provided more than 25 seed grants to faculty from five colleges, and the results from this seed funding are outstanding. One example is the group of MnRI members Zhi-Li Zhang, Raj Rajamani, Ted Morris, Feng Qian, and Raphael Stern, who were instrumental in the renewal of the “Region:5 Center for Connected and Automated Transportation (CCAT)” project funded by the USDOT Research and led by PI Henry Liu from the University of Michigan.

The recently awarded AI Institute AI-CLIMATE (for Climate-Land Interactions, Mitigation, Adaptation, Tradeoffs, and Economy), funded in the order of $20M, shows the high quality of our faculty. PI Prof. Shashi Shekhar, a Distinguished McKnight University Computer Science and Engineering Professor, will lead the new institute. The institute is jointly funded by NSF and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). MnRI not only supplied some of the team’s critical technical members (Gini, Papanikolopoulos, Sun) but also played a crucial role in coordinating the preparation and submission of the proposal for this AI Institute. It should be noted that MnRI has also coordinated similar proposal submissions and reverse site visits in previous funding cycles.

Our graduate program is getting ready to accept its cohort for Fall 2023. We have more than 75 students in the program and currently have 50 students planning to enroll in the fall. Despite the slow-down in tech, the program’s graduates continue to do well-securing jobs or Ph.D. positions. The M.S. program is vital to our operations and fulfills one of the tenets of our mission—intertwining high-quality research with high-quality education. Students of the graduating class work or are doing internships in various companies, including HistoSonics, AeroVironment, Sentera, Honeywell, Medtronic, Amazon, BASF, and Qualcomm. Some are active participants in local robotics start-ups.

Our program is very proud of the accomplishments of our faculty and students, and we are eager to welcome our Fall 2023 cohort. We are also happy to see our students playing critical roles in several research groups, taking active roles in research and outreach, and participating in upcoming research tech camps for middle schoolers.


Have a great summer,
Nikos Papanikolopoulos
Minnesota Robotics Institute Director