Rice has role in new $250M robotics manufacturing institute

University among 40 academic partners working to create, deploy robotic technology 

Rice University is one of 40 academic partners in a new robotics manufacturing institute in Pittsburgh that will be funded with $80 million from the Department of Defense (DoD) and $173 million in matching funds from more than 200 participating partners, including companies, local governments, academic and nonprofit organizations.

Lydia Kavraki

Lydia Kavraki

The Defense Department today awarded the contract for the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Innovation Hub to a consortium called American Robotics Inc., a nonprofit venture led by Carnegie Mellon University. The institute is the 14th — the eighth led by DoD — in the federal government’s wide-ranging Manufacturing USA program.

DoD said ARM will “organize the current fragmented domestic capabilities in manufacturing robotics technology and better position the United States, relative to global competition.”

ARM said it will promote the use of robotics in small and medium enterprises and in critical manufacturing sectors like aerospace, automotive, electronics and textiles. The institute’s 10-year goals include increasing worker productivity by 30 percent and creating 510,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs.

“We will participate as a core university member,” said Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and a professor of bioengineering, who will lead the institute’s Rice component. “One of the main areas where we will lend expertise is in robot motion planning, which cuts across all the main themes of the proposal, including collaborative robotics and rapid deployment of flexible robotic manufacturing.

“A main advantage for Rice is the opportunity to work together with world-class robotics innovators and industrial partners in projects that tap our strengths in motion planning, artificial intelligence, formal methods, verification and model checking, and also sensing, haptics and controls, and are beyond the scope of a small team,” she said.

She said the Rice participants include senior research scientist Mark Moll and faculty members Moshe Vardi, the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor of Computational Engineering and a professor of computer science; Swarat Chaudhuri, an associate professor of computer science; Ashok Veeraraghavan, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Marcia O’Malley, a professor of mechanical engineering and computer science, and Fathi Ghorbel, a professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering.

She said that as projects develop, the team will recruit more faculty members whose work and interests are relevant to the mission of the Institute.

“This is also an opportunity for us to contribute to the mission of the institute, to provide leadership in advanced manufacturing and empower American workers and small companies,” she said. “The ARM institute will place significant effort in workforce training for the benefit of society.”


About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.