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As industry demand for engineers in the 21st century grows while national trends show a decline in engineering enrollment, competition for diverse talent is intensifying across the U.S. To help meet this challenge, the Maryland Robotics Center and Microsoft Corporation are announcing a new, mutually beneficial strategic partnership focused on enhancing both diversity and innovation in robotics and autonomy.

The Microsoft Robotics and Diversity Initiative is a one-year, $100K partnership that starts in the Fall 2022 semester and supports two Ph.D. fellowships, a seminar series in robotics and autonomy, an undergraduate course in robotics programming and student-led STEM diversity groups.

“It’s exciting to receive this level of support and generosity from Microsoft to amplify our ongoing diversity initiatives,” said Derek Paley, director of the Maryland Robotics Center. “This gift will especially support activities in robotics and applied autonomy, complementing our other ongoing efforts in AI and machine learning.”

Microsoft Diversity in Robotics and Autonomy Ph.D. Fellowships will support two Ph.D. students for one academic year as they conduct research in robotics and autonomous systems modeling, simulation, and experimentation. The Maryland Robotics Center will leverage Microsoft’s support, funding tuition and benefits for these Microsoft Fellows.

The Microsoft Future Leaders in Robotics and Autonomy Seminar Series will enable Maryland students to learn from future leaders in robotics and autonomy, celebrating diversity and innovation.

The Robotics and Autonomous Systems Minor Course in Robotics Programming is a hands-on undergraduate robotics programming class in the Robotics and Autonomous Systems minor program. Students use Robot Operating System and other tools to design, implement and test a robotic system. Microsoft will contribute towards the cost of providing students with additional robotics programming devices.

The partnership also will provide support for student-led STEM diversity groups, supporting their missions and robotics-related activities for the academic year. The groups include the Black Engineers Society, the Society for Professional Hispanic Engineers, Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Society of Women Engineers.

“With the exciting future of robotics and autonomy in view, Microsoft enthusiastically supports the Maryland Robotics Center’s efforts to foster the next generation of tech leaders,” said Timothy Chung, senior director of robotics at Microsoft. “We celebrate and embrace the positive benefits of diversity and inclusion as part of the broad robotics community.”



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