In 2007, WPI announced the creation of a new major, Robotics Engineering (or RBE), which is the first of its kind in the United States. The discipline combines aspects of Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. Based in Atwater Kent and Higgins Laboratories, the program is headed primarily by Professors Ken Stafford, Brad Miller and Mike Gennert. Many 2011 freshman are RBE majors, and some cite the new major as explanation for the significant growth of AY2008.
The program centers on five core classes, starting with RBE 1001 (Intro to RBE) and continuing through the unified robotics curriculum (RBE 2001, 2002, 3001 and 3002). For each class, students are assigned to build a robot that can complete set tasks, applying what they have learned over the term. Students start out with Vex robot and progress to more complex hardware and software as they climb through the curriculum.