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U Michigan Begins Construction on Dedicated Robotics Facility

The University of Michigan has begun construction of a new robotics building that will house classrooms, offices, purpose-built labs and an open collaboration space.

"This amazing facility will be home to robots that improve the quality of life by addressing a wide range of societal needs," said Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, in a prepared statement. "In tandem with M-Air across the street, Mcity down the road and the Friedman Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory across campus, this university is the only academic institution that can boast test facilities for robots on land, in air, in water and in space."

Dubbed the Ford Motor Company Robotics Building, the 140,000-square-foot, four-story facility is slated for completion in early 2020 and will also feature a three-story area for flying aerial robots and drones, garage space for self-driving cars, an outdoor obstacle course for walking robots, and space dedicated to rehabilitation and recovery robots such as prosthetics and exoskeletons. In addition, the entire fourth floor will be dedicated to collaborative research and engineering projects between U-M and Ford.

Ford provided $15 million of the total $75 million for the project, according to information released by U-M.

"At Michigan, our research and education are strengthened by collaborations with industry that help us drive forward in our mission while powering the economic prosperity of our state," said U-M President Mark Schlissel in a prepared statement. "I want to express my appreciation to our great partner, Ford Motor Company, not just for today, but for its legacy of supporting students and faculty across the breadth of U-M. I'm proud that this facility will lead to even greater accomplishments in education, research and societal impact from Michigan Engineering."

More than 50 faculty members on the U-M campus are involved in some aspect of robotics research, from field as varied as engineering, kinesiology and healthcare, pursuing projects related to prosthetic limbs controlled by the human brain, self-driving and networked cars, space exploration, autonomous submarines, walking machines and more.

"Today, our students and faculty members are scattered in 12 different departments and six different schools and colleges," said Jessy Grizzle, U-M's inaugural director of robotics, in a prepared statement. "This building will bring them together. It will a facilitate the exchange of ideas. It will inspire bold ideas. And its advanced labs will provide the space to make those dreams real."

"This 'groundbreaking' is not actually about moving dirt. It is really about breaking ground on new norms of work, play, transit and daily living," added Gallimore.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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