Nine new labs will accommodate research on ground, water, and aerial robots
MINNEAPOLIS (06/21/2017) — Robotics research at the University of Minnesota received a big boost, thanks to $10 million in private support to the University’s College of Science and Engineering. The donations will fund a renovation for robotics labs on the first two floors of the Shepherd Laboratories building on the Twin Cities East Bank campus.
Work will begin this winter on a 20,000-square-foot renovation that will include nine flexible robotics labs and various work spaces for robotics faculty and graduate students. One lab is two-stories high to accommodate research on flying robots. Another lab is expected to include a large water tank where researchers can test aquatic robots. The labs will also include new state-of-the-art equipment, such as 3D printers and laser cutters for rapid prototyping.
“These new labs will improve and expand our research for a wide range of robots, including ground, water, and aerial robots,” said Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, a University of Minnesota computer science and engineering professor and world-renowned robotics researcher. “Robotics research is important in so many areas of our lives, including health care, agriculture, the environment, and the automotive industry. We are hoping to make Minnesota a leader in robotics research and bring even more federal and private research funding into the state.”
The total cost of the renovation for the robotics labs will be about $12 million. In addition to the $10 million in donations, the University will use about $2 million in state funding designated for robotics research through the University’s Minnesota Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) initiative. The University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering is contributing funds to renovate space for relocation of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Program (currently located on the first floor of Shepherd Labs) in order to make room for the new robotics labs.
“This project wouldn’t have happened without a combination of both private and public support,” said Mostafa Kaveh, University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering associate dean for research and planning.
“This project shows what great things can happen when both private and public entities come together,” Kaveh added.
In addition to robotics labs, the renovation will include about 1,000 square feet of workshop space for the University’s Solar Vehicle Project Team, including an electronics lab, solar array lab, and assembly room as they build their solar race car.
“In addition to being conveniently located near our classes on the Minneapolis campus, this new space will allow us to have a type of ‘clean room’ for electronics and array assembly,” said Graham Krumpelmann, a mechanical engineering senior and the Solar Vehicle Project team’s director of engineering. “This will really improve our work as we build our next solar car.”
The University chose BWBR as the design firm for the project. Knutson Construction has been chosen as the general contractor. Construction is expected to take about a year.