Newsletter and Subscription Sign Up

Plymouth State University Invests in Robotics Degree and Lab

Published Monday Feb 13, 2023

Author Matthew J. Mowry

Robotics LabGraphic rendering of a section of the robotics lab at Plymouth State University. (Courtesy of Plymouth State University)

Plymouth State University received $1 million in federal funding to help build a new robotics lab to support its bachelor’s degree program in robotics launched in fall 2021, making it the first NH institution to offer such a degree.

Donald L. Birx, president of Plymouth State University (PSU), says the university plans to use the lab to help develop the next generation robotics workforce and machine-learning manufacturers. FANUC, the largest manufacturer of industrial robots, forecasts a 1-million-person shortfall in the workforce by 2027 due to a lack of skills.

Robotics, Birx says, brings together and develops many key skills involving computers, microcontrollers, sensors, networking, communications, kinematics, artificial intelligence, mechanics, design and electronics across a variety of critical disciplines. 

Birx points out that over three months earlier this year, there were more than 200 robotics-related job openings in NH alone, and 4,000 across New England.

Construction and outfitting of the new robotics lab, which is housed in the same building as the university’s makerspace, began in October, with some equipment already available to students. The lab is expected to be completed by fall 2023.

The facility will include 3-D printing, laser cutting, milling and Computer Numerical Control (CnC) workstations. Additional workstations will run Robot Operating Systems (ROS) and ROS Visualization (rViz) and Gazebo simulators, with support for working with machine learning, such as TensorFlow. The new facility will also include FANUC collaborative robots.  


After purchasing the rest of the FANUC cobot equipment (Pictured), the Plymouth State University robotics lab will have a complete manufacturing assembly with four robotic arms that work in tandem with one another. (Courtesy of Plymouth State University)

Birx says there is an acute need in the state for people who can work in advanced manufacturing in NH. “We can create the workforce that matches the needs of the 21st century,” he says.

PSU is reaching out to the business community to engage companies in further developing the robotics program, which currently has a dozen students enrolled, Birx says. “We really like businesses to come in and bring their problems to our cluster work and help us to bring industry experience into seminars and classes,” he says. “One of the things we’re trying to do for past couple of years is [create an] I-93 tech corridor extension. We want to create a program that interfaces well with industry and supports the industry in the area. Robotics helps us put together the components needed to really make a reality of the dream of an I-93 tech corridor extension.”

All Stories