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New Robotics Center to Connect Statewide Training Facilities, Fill Labor Gap

MOSCOW — The University of Idaho College of Engineering has launched the Center for Intelligent Industrial Robotics (CI2R), integrating new robotics research and training labs across the state to prepare students to fill the global manufacturing labor shortage.

The center links recently built statewide robotics training facilities that offer students hands-on experience solving complex robotics problems. CI2R bridges U of I’s growing laboratory network through video teleconferencing and broader course availability, expanding education and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students across Idaho in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and industrial automation.

The effort addresses labor shortages in robotics manufacturing, which industry leaders say must be reversed to satisfy rising demand. By 2030, 2.1 million manufacturing positions are estimated to remain unfilled, according to the Manufacturing Institute. The global robotic manufacturing systems market will double by 2026, Business Wire projects.

“We are leading the way to address workforce challenges that impact our state and nation,” said Suzanna Long, dean of the College of Engineering. “Continuing our more than 60 years of industry partnerships and 30 years of cybersecurity education leadership, the new center prepares U of I to create a strong workforce that can tackle critical industry needs.”

Supported by the Idaho Forest Group, one of America’s largest robotic lumber mills, the U of I College of Engineering built a new lab — the Robotics, Automation, and Mechatronics Laboratory — on its Moscow campus.

Videoconferencing between the new lab and U of I Coeur d’Alene’s Idaho Forest Group Robotics and Automation Laboratory allows center faculty, staff, and doctoral students from multiple disciplines to teach students in both locations. Students have direct access to mobile robots, mechanical arms, and a variety of simulation equipment in both labs. The Coeur d’Alene lab was built in 2020.

“Through unique laboratory access and faculty mentorship, we’re creating a new generation of skilled professionals able to develop complex hardware and software robotics solutions that will strengthen our global industrial manufacturing capabilities within Idaho and nationally,” said CI2R Director John Shovic, associate research faculty at U of I Coeur d’Alene.  

Engineering students in all disciplines can take courses in advanced robotics, real-time operating systems, industrial computer programming, machine vision, artificial intelligence, and data science.

Undergraduate and graduate robotic engineering certificates will be offered in Fall 2023. Robotics course offerings will expand in Moscow and Coeur d’Alene. The labs are expected to be fully usable in all courses by Spring 2023.