University of Minnesota Robotics – home to the smartest minds in robotics

The Robotics Warriors of the North - Notorious and Brave

The state of Minnesota may be located in the north but have no misconceptions...there’s definitely nothing "chill" about the tremendous robotics ideas that come from the land of 10,000 lakes.

In the north, there is The University of Minnesota Twin Cities - an excellent institution with a long and impressive history of producing outstanding research and graduates in the field of engineering and robotics.

Recently, a 13 million dollar state-of-the-art Gemini-Huntley Robotics Research Facility opened at the Shepherd Laboratories at Twin Cities East Bank campus. The 20,000 sq-ft facility includes 2 floors of robotic heaven that include 9 robotics labs and multiple workshops for faculty and students.

Also recently launched is the Minnesota Robotics Institute (MnRI) which encompasses several robotics divisions dedicated to robotics research. Collectively, the students and faculty at University of Minnesota have built many excellent and interesting projects.

Here is small taste of the work coming from the tightly-run operation that is the University of Minnesota robotics program....keep in mind that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Smart Bicycle

The Smart Bike University of Minnesota Robotics

The smart bicycle is a bicycle that monitors trajectories of nearby vehicles on the road and alerts motorist of the presence of the smart bike.

The bicycle operates using a smartly designed system that is cheap and developed under $500 dollars. The system uses a much smaller LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology – a sensor system that are used as eyes in many smart or autonomous vehicles.

The system uses a single laser-beam laser sensor, a sonar unit with a low density LIDAR sensor and uses algorithms to identify vehicles and objects. Once the system detects a vehicle, the bicycle uses an on board speaker to sound a “horn” and alert car drivers to the presence of the bicycle.

It’s a new system and field operational tests will be conducted in October 2019.

UMN Underwater Robot Research

UMN uses an AQUA2 model underwater robot developed by Independent Robotics (IR)a robotics company based in Canada that develops custom hardware and underwater robots.

AQU2 Independent Robotics

A few benefits of AQUA2 underwater robot include:

  1. Deploy robot without support vessels
  2. Collect data from on-board cameras and sensors
  3. Teleoperate AQUA2 from safety of the shore. Can also operate Autonomously
  4. AQUA2 technologies are patented so they have control over custom hardware
  5. Uses 6 independently operated fins which results in a highly maneuverable underwater vehicle
  6. Lightweight and portable

Medical Robotics and Devices Lab - using robots to heal

The goal of the Medical Robotics and Devices Lab is to advance the field of computational surgery: a new field that uses medical robotics, medical imaging and information technology in surgery.

The idea is that surgical tools and medical devices can generate large amounts of data for practitioners. In the age where data is earths most valuable commodity, doctors can use the data to improve their work and find more solutions to the worlds most pressing health issues.

One interesting research project by the Medical Robotics and Devices Lab division is in the area of Bioprinting.

Bioprinting is a technology that combines tissue engineering with 3D printing to be able to “make” organs and use it for organ transplants.

Since we have a limited number of organ donors, this technology could be used to make custom organs, limbs for patients that are unable to find a donor.

It brings very good feelings to see many schools performing research in this field. One example is the Mechatronics and Robotics Research Lab (MRRL) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with their impressive work with robotic prosthesis.

Minnesota and The Mayo Clinic

Also not to forget the Mayo Clinic based in Rochester Minnesota - a leader and top-ranked institution for medical care.

Student Robotics at University of Minnesota - newly named University of Minnesota Robotics

The goal of Student Robotics is to of course, design and build super cool robots; support the FIRST robotics program in Minneapolis and St. Paul areas, host outreach events to raise awareness in robotics in STEM education.

The students are the next generation of robotics heavy lifters and the main driving force behind all the research and super cool robots coming out of University of Minnesota. We tip our hats to the dedicated and passionate students and hope their work continues to benefit the human race for decades to come.

Autonomous Snowplower - Snow Squirrel

Autonomous snowplower

The University of Minnesota Robotics (Team Snow Squirrel) built an autonomous snowplower for (Institute of  Navigation) ION Autonomous snowplow competition.

The ION competition invites students to design, build and demonstrate the capabilities of an autonomous snowplower. 

During the 2019 competition season, Team Snow Squirrel had a very impressive run.

They achieved 3rd place in the Single-I-Field segment, won 1st place for Student Poster Presentation and also 1st place for the Collaborate Operational Challenge.

Congratulations and good luck for the upcoming competitions!

Minnesota robotics team snow squirrel

Lunabotics - Robotics Mining Competition

University of Minnesota Robotics also compete in the Nasa Lunabotics Competition where teams compete to build a robotic miner to mine a simulated Martian environment. Teams are scored on the amount of sand/gravel they collect in a 10 minute run as well as factors like power usage, dust protection and weight and level of machine autonomy.

robotic miner university of minnesota

We also previously wrote an article about the Robotic Mining Kings – Alabama Astrobotics.

Center for Distributed Robotics

This is a very interesting division of the Minnesota Robotics Institute at UMN.

The goal of the Center for Distributed Robotics is to design, build and demonstrate robots systems composed of a large collection of medium and small robots that are connected wirelessly to perform a single task. The idea is to have a large number of small robots work together like ants working together to carry a leaf or push an obstacle.

Like Harvard's swarm of robots...

Some creatures from UMN's Center for Distributed Robotics include:

MegaScout Robot


Adelopod Tumbling Robot

A cute robot..


Its like the cute Tumbling Robot but this one is amphibious and can dive underwater and collect data and water samples..

The Loper Robot

Very interesting robot with special wheels that allows it to climb stairs and move over obstacles easily.

loper robot university of minnesota robotics

Solar UAV - show some love for flight!

Solar UAV university of minnesota robotics

The solar powered UAV capable of flying with just solar power and the ability to transmit and receive information through 4G cellular networks and the internet anywhere in the world.


The scientific talents and extraordinary achievements of University of Minnesota Robotics brings a great deal of confidence in the long term soundness of the development of US robotics technology.

The tasks they are undertaking are not without difficulty and will take time to reap its benefits.

Not to worry! As Henry Ford once said, "the short successes that be gained in a brief time and without difficulty, are not worth much".

We do not own the rights to the images and videos used in this article.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published