Mastering the Business of Robotics

Hagen SchempfA principal systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute (RI), Hagen Schempf knows how to bring an idea to the market.

He led the development of technology that became the world's most durable military robot, Dragon Runner – a low-cost, robotic scout, with state-of-the-art capabilities. And he co-founded Automatika Inc., the start-up company that produces the ’bot, which has since been sold to QinetiQ North America (QNA). (Watch video of Dragon Runner on YouTube.)

Hagen is now directing a new and unique program at the university, the Master’s in Robotic Systems Development (MRSD).

“My goal is not to replicate the academic master’s that we already have here in robotics,” Schempf said. “It is to educate those interested in learning, ‘How do I put my career on turbo-boost?’ I want to educate the future chief technology officers.”

Schempf understands the need for industry leaders who can direct teams of engineering specialists, staying aware of markets, customers, pricing, cost and delivery issues.

He explained, “It takes a systems engineer with a different kind of outlook to run a team – to think at a higher level in terms of guiding all the experts based on what the company is really looking for.”

Accordingly, the program, which is now accepting applications for fall 2011, includes business and management seminars, co-taught broadly-based technical robotics courses, and a required seven-month internship. The required internships will be individually focused.

“I am already facing the issue of not having enough applicants to feed all the companies that have said, ‘We want your interns.’” Schempf noted. “If you learn the technologies and are good at understanding the business and management elements, I can’t think of a company that wouldn’t want to hire you.”

Schempf believes that while the curriculum is centered on robotics, it is applicable to any high-tech industry. Moreover, each participant will be required to construct a ‘Technology Development Plan,’ a key tool for both budding entrepreneurs and employer presentations.

The students will enjoy close interaction with the world-class RI faculty.

“Our faculty members have a great deal of experience and close ties to industry,” commented Schempf. “What we teach is relevant and applicable. We don’t forget that it’s got to have some real value to society, and for robotics, that means industrial application.”

He added, “Everybody is extremely reachable. You just walk through the halls and see all open doors of the faculty, from the very senior to those just starting out. It’s an unwritten open-door policy.”

Schempf is excited to impart what he’s learned along the way.

“I think I’ve learned something that can be bottled and passed on to the next generation in order to make them better than we are,” said Schempf. “Education needs to stay relevant and be a good value to the student, and this is my contribution.”


Related Links: Dragon Runner | MRSD | Robotics Institute