Lake Superior State University Awards Its First Robotics Engineering Undergraduate Degree

STATE-OF-THE-ART ROBOTS – Lake Superior State University engineering students Mike Smutny (left, foreground) and Matt Nelson (right) work on a four-robot FANUC line project. This robot line teams up three others that will train LSSU engineering students for years to come, including those joining a new robotics engineering baccalaureate program this fall. Two more FANUC collaborative robots coming in 2019 will round out more than $2 million worth of automation equipment and software housed in LSSU’s Robotics and Automation Laboratory. (LSSU/John Shibley)

Sault Ste. Marie, MI — Lake Superior State University awarded its first robotics engineering undergraduate degree at spring 2021 commencement on May 1. The inaugural recipient: Connor Reppuhn, of Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Robotics engineering is the perfect mix of what I want to do and what I love. The new, cutting-edge technology is beyond fascinating,” said Reppuhn, who attended Forest Hills Central High School. “The hands-on learning provided by LSSU is without comparison.”

A member of the Engineering Society of Detroit, Reppuhn has accepted a job as a controls engineer at Mission Design and Automation in Holland.

“Three years ago, we reinforced our innovation-driven, transformative education by establishing a four-year robotics engineering program, the second of its kind in Michigan, and I’m proud that Connor Reppuhn is the first graduate in this important new major for us,” said LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley. “He is now equipped with the knowledge and skills to make his mark in this vital industry.”

David Leach, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Technology and Reppuhn’s adviser, said, “Connor embodies the ideal engineering student. He is extremely creative and is professional in character and communication. I am confident that he will be brilliant in his future endeavors in engineering and represent LSSU remarkably well.”

LSSU began accepting students into the robotics engineering program in fall 2018. Interactive instruction occurs in a $2 million state-of-the-art robotics and automation lab.

“Our robotics engineering program was created in response to a growing need in industry for engineers to apply interdisciplinary knowledge in mechanical, computer, electrical, and software engineering,” said Dr. Kimberly Muller, dean of the College of Innovation and Solutions, which includes the School of Engineering and Technology. “After input from our industrial advisory board, we designed a program that built upon our three decades of experience preparing graduates in robotics, systems integration, and automation, while also meeting the emerging needs in collaborative and mobile robotics.”

Reppuhn said that he enrolled at LSSU for several reasons. He received its most prestigious scholarship, the Sen. Philip A. Hart Memorial Scholarship. He liked the small student-to-faculty ratio that, as he put it, “gives students the opportunity to become more than just a number in a crowd.” And he appreciated how the robotics engineering program encourages a deep dive into a rapidly expanding field and trains the next generation of professionals to become trailblazers.

His long-term goals involve bettering humanity. “Whether that be to help lead a Mars exploration or invent the latest autonomous vehicle, I hope that my knowledge and experience can allow others to benefit.”

Professor and Director of LSSU Robotics Jim Devaprasad observed, “Connor will open new doors for future graduates in robotics engineering. He will also be joining several hundred LSSU alumni in industrial robotics. Given Connor’s excellent technical skills, leadership skills, and personality, I am excited about all that he will accomplish.”


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