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The Global Innovation Exchange Announces New Master’s Degree Track in Robotics

Date: June 05, 2019

New track bridges business, human-centered design, and engineering to be first truly interdisciplinary Robotics degree

The Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a collaboration between major research universities and companies from around the world, is pleased to announce a new track in Robotics for the Master of Science in Technology Innovation (MSTI) degree, beginning in fall 2020. The MSTI is a 60-credit interdisciplinary graduate program offered by GIX, in collaboration with the University of Washington departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, Foster School of Business, and the School of Law.

The new GIX MSTI (Robotics) option will be the first robotics-focused Master’s program in the world to:

  • Combine instruction in business, law, design thinking, and user research with robotics.
  • Feature a major international academic collaboration between UW and Tsinghua University and a global academic network of other top research universities. In addition to the MSTI, students in the robotics specialization can apply to the Dual Degree program and receive degrees from both UW and Tsinghua University, which has significant robotics research, teaching, and startup resources and activity.
  • Feature collaboration with external GIX Consortium partners who sponsor student teams’ launch projects based on real-world social and business challenges.
Blake Hannaford

Leading the development of the MSTI (Robotics) graduate program is Blake Hannaford, technical director at GIX and professor in the UW Electrical & Computer Engineering department. Blake received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC-Berkeley. In 1986-89, he studied remote control of robot manipulators at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech. Since 1989, he has been at the University of Washington in Seattle where he founded the BioRobotics Lab. Hannaford’s current interests include haptic displays on the internet, surgical robotics and biomechanics, and the introduction of Artificial Intelligence into surgical technologies. His lab has spun out four startups in the areas of surgical technologies, with one significant acquisition, CSATS, in 2018. In 2014-2015, he worked at Google-X and its Alphabet company, Verily. He is currently an IEEE Fellow, which is a distinction reserved for select members in IEEE, a professional organization for the advancement of technology.

Projected job placements for MSTI (Robotics) graduates include product management, design, validation, and testing roles in:

  • Product-oriented self-driving car teams (e.g., automotive and self-driving vehicle industries).
  • Human-collaborative warehousing robotics development (e.g., major shipping and fulfillment centers).
  • Medical/rehab robotics design (e.g., remote surgery and other uses that combine robotics with AI and machine learning).

The robotics specialization builds upon GIX’s mission to develop leaders in innovation who are prepared to address local and global challenges using emerging technologies.

“Growth in robotics today is concentrated on collaborative robotic systems which work closely with humans, everywhere from the warehouse to the operating room,” said Blake Hannaford, technical director, GIX. “Our program is the first to add an extensive user research focus and other broad components to more typical robotics topics, such as autonomous manipulation and navigation. Our graduates will be able to implement, test, and tune robotic solutions on real hardware with ROS (the current state-of-the-art robotics middleware), but will also understand the broader business context.”

Early feedback from the robotics community and related industry has been positive. “Intuitive Surgical designs robotic systems that work intimately with people and teams,” said Simon DiMaio, director, applied research at Intuitive Surgical. “There are few graduate robotics programs that seek to equip students with hands-on learning and experience within a comprehensive design and innovation process quite like this one. Regardless of one’s role in an R&D organization such as ours, this kind of foundational multi-disciplinary experience will be invaluable.”

Information on how to apply for the Master of Science in Technology Innovation starting in fall 2020 will be available in July. Applications will open this fall. More details at: