Ready to take on new challenges and break into exciting, cutting-edge fields?

Transform your career by positioning yourself at the forefront of innovation in robotics, fabrication, and design-computation.

Join our new one-year Master of Science in Design: Robotics and Autonomous Systems (MSD-RAS) program at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design, the most recent addition to the Architecture Department's series of advanced MSD programs.

Program Overview

The MSD-RAS aims to develop novel approaches to the design, manufacture, use, and life-cycle of architecture through creative engagement with robotics, material systems, and design-computation.

Students will gain skills in advanced forms of robotic fabrication, simulation, and artificial intelligence, in order to develop methods for design that harness production or live adaption as a creative opportunity. Robotically manufactured architectural prototypes (part or whole) will be developed by students and presented and exhibited at the completion of the course.

WHO IS MSD-RAS FOR?

  • Students who already hold a first professional degree from an accredited design program in architecture.
  • Post-graduate students or those who have completed equivalent programs of study in related professional fields who can demonstrate their ability to complete the required course of study.
  • Professionals who have worked for several years and are seeking advanced study and credentials in robotic fabrication and design-computation.
“The MSD-RAS will be a unique opportunity to learn and combine the most advanced design techniques with the most innovative robotic manufacturing technologies. As professionals of the architecture industry, I consider that the knowledge acquired in this Masters will be crucial to giving us agency in the professional or academic universe of today and tomorrow.”
Mariana Righi
Current Master of Architecture Student

Program Viewbook

Submit your name and email below to learn more and get application reminders.

Robotics Viewbook Form

Program Goals

The MSD-RAS program will enable graduates to:

  • Gain state of the art robotics, material fabrication, and design-computation qualifications.
  • Develop skills in advanced methods of fabrication, computation, robot programming and multi-modal sensing technologies, and their integration within innovative design methods.
  • Expand career opportunities and options to work in ambitious and diverse fields.
  • Impact the present and future trajectory of architecture through novel forms of production, practice and entrepreneurship.
  • Operate at the forefront of industry research and development

Why Robotics in Architecture?

The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) describes a recent shift towards autonomous systems, and societal reliance on cyber-physical processes that incorporate digital communications and navigation infrastructure, robotic manufacturing, and artificial intelligence. The building industry is currently undergoing transformation through the adoption of robotics technologies such as additive manufacturing systems that enable a reduction in the time, cost and complexity of delivering buildings, and have potential humanitarian and socio-economic benefits. Adoption of these technologies also enables greater automation not only in production but also in design, challenging existing modes of architectural practice. The MSD-RAS program explores avenues for re-situating the role of architectural design within present day autonomous technologies, with the aim of expanding societal and design opportunities by leveraging robotic and material processes within design.

Fostering Innovative
Career Trajectories

The MSD-RAS program aims to empower graduates to operate at the forefront of industry research and development, by gaining state of the art robotics, material fabrication, and design-computation qualifications, and to graduate as highly skilled professionals, capable of impacting the present and future trajectory of architecture and industry through novel forms of production, practice and entrepreneurship.

Whether you're looking to advance your career, transition to new industries, start your own company, or pioneer an emerging field, the MSD-RAS program offers hands-on experience with ground-breaking technology and world-class qualifications to help you achieve your goals.

Curriculum

The MSD-RAS Program includes the following courses:

Summer

  • Introduction to 3D Programming
  • (2 week course prior to start of Fall Semester)

Fall

  • ARCH 801 Material Agencies: Robotics & Design Lab I (2 CU)
  • ARCH 805 Introduction to Micro-controllers, Sensor and Actuator Systems (0.5 CU)
  • ARCH 803 General Overview of Algorithmic Design and Robotic Fabrication (0.5 CU)
  • ARCH 807 RAS Theory (1 CU)
  • Designated Elective (Within Architecture + Engineering)

Spring

  • ARCH 802 Material Agencies: Robotics & Design Lab II (2 CU)
  • ARCH 804 Advanced RAS Programming (1 CU)
  • ARCH 806 Experimental Matter (1 CU)
  • ARCH 808 Scientific Research and Writing (1 CU)

Total Course Units: 10

Course Descriptions

An Innovative New Program — What Makes the Weitzman School MSD-RAS Unique?

The MSD-RAS at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, a global leader in architectural design, offers a unique education in architectural design and robotic fabrication. While other courses might focus on fabrication or computation, the MSD-RAS offers opportunities for hands-on experimentation, design speculation, team-based collaboration, and access to world-leading facilities, with learning supported primarily through project-based work rather than through a written thesis alone.

The program’s emphasis on project-based work provides practical learning opportunities, also supported by technical and theoretical courses that run in parallel and are directly related to design projects, ensuring participants learn how to approach design from multiple creative and technical aspects holistically, while learning how to communicate design-research to industry and academia. As the MSD-RAS operates within the context of a large, Ivy League, research institution, there are also overlapping interests with the departments of mechanical engineering, computation science, material science, biology, and medicine that enable opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, or participation in seminal interdisciplinary research and symposia.

The MSD-RAS operates in state-of-the-art facilities, including the newly launched Weitzman School ARI Robotics Lab, and has close ties to the building industry. The program’s STEM status, renowned faculty, and proximity to prospective employers in Philadelphia and New York City also ensure it offers the best industry and employment opportunities for graduates.

World-leading,
Inter-Disciplinary Faculty

The MSD-RAS program is taught by some of the Weitzman School’s most inter-disciplinary and internationally-experienced architecture faculty, while drawing on expertise from Penn Engineering and Computer Science departments to contribute expert knowledge in robotics, computer vision, electrical engineering, and more.

Penn’s faculty are actively working on research and practice projects related to the core topics of the MSD-RAS, such as a full-scale precast concrete house prototype in collaboration with Cemex that leverages robot hot-wire cutting for the production of formwork molds, a robot curve-folded sheet-metal installation undertaken in collaboration with Robofold, or an advanced environmentally performative cooling-oculus skylight, fabricated using thermo-adaptive robot sheet metal-forming.

Facilities – The Advanced Research and Innovation Robotics Lab

MSD-RAS students will utilize Penn’s new Advanced Research and Innovation Robotics Lab facility that houses state of the art industrial robots and experienced staff. The new facility includes 2 x ABB IRB4600-60 robots that provides a flexible production space for individual and team-based robot production. Considerable investment in auto-tool changing capabilities enables an extensive range of production activities to be undertaken with minimal set-up time such as robotic milling, additive manufacturing, sheet-metal bending or robot hot-wire cutting. ARI facilities also include other industrial robots, 3d printers, pre and post-production work spaces and equipment for supporting fabrication and robot tooling development. Students in the MSD-RAS will be trained to utilize the ARI industrial robots, and it is expected that a considerable amount of their design-research is developed through robotically fabricated prototypes and the development of robot programs and/or end-effector tools.

Admissions + Next Steps

Read specific information regarding admissions. Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, official transcripts from each US college or university attended for credit and/or a BASIC course-by-course evaluation from World Education Services or Educational Perspectives from institutions outside of the United States, GRE scores, a résumé, a digital portfolio of design work, one writing sample, a description of computing skills and software proficiency, and a personal statement describing his/her educational goals in taking the program. International applicants must submit official IELTS Academic, PTE Academic, or TOEFL scores if English is not their first language.

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Applications Due:
January 2, 2020

Program Director:
Robert Stuart-Smith, rssmith@design.upenn.edu

Program Faculty:
Andrew Saunders, Dorit Aviv, Ezio Blazetti, Robert Stuart-Smith, among others.

Department of Architecture Chair:
Winka Dubbeldam, Assoc. AIA

Key Dates:

  • Applications Due: January 2, 2020
  • Program Orientation begins on August 14 — 31, 2020;
    Classes begin on September 1, 2020
  • Fall Open House Day: Monday, October 28, 2019
  • Spring Open House Day: Monday, April 6, 2020
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“A Robotics program would be amazing in that it could offer students a chance to participate in projects that have a larger scale in both material and in the final product.

In my experience, working in the ARI Robotics Lab gave me insight into the way that geometry, material and process can be synchronized by designing the methods of production, then testing them with the robot.

In terms of opportunity, I think it brings the possibility of designing and building projects at a scale of 1:1 for Philadelphia communities, for the school, or for research purposes. By far the most interesting to me would be its potential to seed real-world projects for others outside of the school”.

—Ian Pangburn

FAQs

How much of the Program involves groupwork versus individual work?

Material Agencies: Robotics & Design Lab I & II involve group projects while the majority of the other courses involve individual submissions. There is ample opportunity to demonstrate individual knowledge whilst benefiting from the empowering capabilities of collaborative group work!

How Long is the MSD-RAS Program?

The MSD-RAS involves a 2-Week introductory course and two semesters. The program is full-time and can be completed in approximately 9 months.

Can I do the MSD-RAS part-time while working?

The MSD-RAS is a full-time program due to the fact that all course-work is inter-related to project-based assignments.

Is Financial Aid Available for the MSD-RAS?

Yes, the Weitzman School of Design awards scholarships to master’s degree students based on merit and/or need. Need is determined for consideration for these awards, as well as for Federal loans and work-study, from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for US citizens and permanent residents. Need is determined for international students from our International Student Application.

Are there elective studios in the MSD-RAS?

All MSD-RAS students undertake the same courses with the same professors with the exception of an elective course in the Fall Semester.

What qualifications will I have when I complete the course?

The course is a Master of Science in Design in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. It is offered in the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design’s Department of Architecture and is a STEM certified course.

Is this an architectural design Masters degree?

The MSD-RAS is both a design and science degree. The MSD-RAS is open to anyone with a degree in architecture, the coursework is focused on design operating through material experimentation and robotically manufactured prototypes, with parallel support and training in computer programming and generative design methods. The Program is both speculative and hands-on! The department also offers Post-Professional degrees in Advanced Architectural Design (MSD-AAD) and in Environmental Building Design (MSD-EBD)

I don’t have a degree in Architecture. Am I eligible to apply?

The MSD-RAS is primarily geared towards architectural graduates however, candidates from other fields whose prior experience and future career interests align with the course and who can fulfill the application requirements will be considered. If you believe this applies to you, we strongly encourage you to contact us so that we can help you determine whether your application would be considered.

What skills can I expect to learn during the Program?

Participants will gain state of the art knowledge and experience in industrial robot fabrication and programming, design and computer programming skills, material research and application methods, academic writing skills and more.

Does Penn also offer a certificate similar to MSD-RAS?

No, if you are interested, you would need to undertake the MSD-RAS!

I don’t have prior experience in robots or computer programming, can I apply?

The MSD-RAS program has been structured in such a way as to not require applicants to have prior knowledge or experience in computer programming or robotics however, prior knowledge and experience is helpful.

What software will be utilized and do I need to know these before starting the MSD-RAS?

Use of software programs varies with continual updates to the curricula. Where use of a specific software is required, training in the software will be provided. Commonly used software in the fields of design and robotic fabrication include: Rhino3D, Grasshopper, ABB RobotStudio, HAL, Visose Robots, ROS, Arduino, Processing, and others, in addition to Adobe Creative Suite and MS Office. Prior experience in these is helpful but not required.

What programming languages will classes utilize, and will I be taught these?

Programming languages vary with continual updates to the curricula. A MSD-RAS student can expect to be taught and to utilize at least two programming languages from the most common languages in use (python, java, C++, C#). Python is perhaps the most versatile language for daily use at present due to its easy adoption and broad support across many OS and software frameworks. Note that programming is taught for the purposes of the MSD-RAS applications in design and robot programming, and does not provide a comprehensive education into these languages suitable for other purposes such as web or software development. For those not accustomed to writing software, code can be learned by anyone in a short amount of time, and is far simpler than learning a second language.

Am I required to bring my own computer?

Yes. While the School has lab facilities, the MSD-RAS requires all students to have their own computer. If you are accepted into the program, we can provide you with minimum computer performance recommendations.

What Operating Systems am I able to use in the Program?

All students will be required to have Microsoft Windows 10 installed on their computer. Some courses may utilize Linux for specific tasks, but no pre-installation is required.