Initial work in the field of Robotics at CWRU began as early as 1957 when Dr. Henry Winston Mergler returned to his alma mater CWRU, which at that point was still Case School of Applied Sciences. Already a renowned researcher with the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, Dr. Mergler was the first documented researcher to link a computer to a remote machine tool. During his time at Case, later CWRU, Dr. Mergler continued his focus on numerically controlled machinery, pioneering the industry with inventions like the “Case Arm” which was created to safely build nuclear reactors, remote controlled ship building technology, and a computer controlled exoskeleton (created with Dr. James Reswick) used to help move the arm of a paralyzed patient. Dr. Mergler’s innovations and research set the path that the department would follow as it grew.

The next key hires were Dr. David Orin in 1976 who specialized in robotic kinematics and walking robots. Dr. Orin taught the first formal robotics course offered by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). In the mid-to-late 1980s, the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering brought on Dr. Roger Quinn (who specializes in biorobotics) while EECS added Dr. Wyatt Newman (who specializes in mobile robotics) to the staff. Cross-departmental co-operation became a focus around this time, as Randy Beer (EECS), Hillel Chiel (Biology), and Roger Quinn came together to develop artificial neural networks that mapped the walking behavior of insects which lead to the creation of the first cockroach robot. Around this same time, in 1984, Pr. Yoh-han Pao founded the Center for Automation and Intelligence Systems Research (CAISR), bringing together faculty that were working on manufacturing innovations, robotics, and computer vision. Notable current faculty members who are a part of CAISR include Dr. Frank Merat (computer vision) and Dr. Newman.

Building on the success and ingenious work of the original robotics faculty, the IRI has added faculty in a broad array of areas including Dr. M Cenk Cavusoglu (medical robotics), Dr. Greg Lee (dexterous robotics), Dr. Kiju Lee (sensor-networked systems and sociable robots), Dr. Mike Lewicki (artificial intelligence), and Dr. Soumya Ray (artificial intelligence). As the possibilities for robotics and robotic systems grow, the IRI is leading the way to the future while drawing on the rich history of robotics at CWRU.