New robotics degree coming to U of M

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A new Master's degree is coming to the University of Minnesota.

School officials said the unique program is a growing need in the global workforce.

Thanks to state funding and a generous donation, the U of M will combine faculty from nine departments this fall to launch the new Minnesota Robotics Institute.

Cheng Peng said he, like many others, loved gadgets when he was younger. Now, he's set to graduate from the U of M and is well-versed in courses that introduced him to robots. However, he says his timing isn't ideal.

"I wish I could be born a little bit later so that I could join a robotics program," Peng said.

Inside Shepherd Laboratories is the newly renovated Gemini-Huntley Robotics Research Lab.

"Seeing this effort and the enthusiasm and the energy, it makes it all worth it," said Professor Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos.

Papanikolopoulos will be the director. He says from self-driving vehicles to harvesting crops, robots are quickly becoming something the world is relying on.

"Twenty years ago it looked like a dream," Papanikolopoulos said.

"What makes my day is when you see the empowerment of these young students," he added.

While Papanikolopoulos loves watching students in action, he said he always gets the same questions.

"They say 'is AI going to take our job,' I say 'no, absolutely not,'" Papanikolopoulos said.

Papanikolopoulos says people are too important to just eliminate from the workforce, but admitted years from now robotic advancements will be seen greatly in the agriculture and medical fields.

"I always have the human well-being in mind, I think these are the two areas where we're going to see some unbelievable things," he said.

Peng is also confident a robot won't ever take his future job, and he's thrilled for what's to come inside the building.

"I think a robotics program is very exciting and I'm really looking forward to what they are able to offer here," Peng said.