Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Education / Robotics

Applications open for yearlong program to train Pittsburgh robotics entrepreneurs

Funded by the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, the InnovatePGH program aims to make the growing industry more inclusive.

Advanced Construction Robotics in Allison Park. (Atiya Irvin-Mitchell/Technical.ly)

A Pittsburgh program to make the future of robotics a little more inclusive is accepting applications for its second-ever cohort.

Called the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute Pathways Fellowship, the free opportunity is open to women and individuals from marginalized communities interested in entering the city’s booming robotics or autonomy industries.

From now through April 13, potential fellows are encouraged to apply to the program run by InnovatePGH, a public-private partnership that promotes the regional ecosystem, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.

“Being able to create more room in this growing field is really exciting,” Lindsay Powell, former director of workforce strategies at InnovatePGH, told Technical.ly when the first cohort launched last September. “We’re excited to bring more folks to the table to make sure that our partnerships are intentional and are reaching the populations we need to.”

Apply to the Pathways Fellowship

The robotics field is not currently very diverse. Women make up less than 20% of the workforce, and nearly two-thirds of robotics engineers are white.

Funding for the program comes via the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, announced by the Biden administration in 2022. The Pittsburgh region secured $62.7 million as the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative, one of 21 awardees across the US. Of that, Oakland-based InnovatePGH received $6.9 million. 

The Pathways Fellowship is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree or professional experience (in any field), as long as you’re a resident of, former resident of, or have some sort of connection to the Southwest Pennsylvania region. You also must show a strong interest in robotics or automation and entrepreneurship.

Fellows will receive instruction at CMU, access to courses at the CMU Robotics Institute and the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business, plus a monthly stipend to help with living expenses throughout the year of academic scholarship.

Along with technical skills, the program will offer support to handle challenges that might come up while working in the field, including mentorship, practical experience, networking opportunities and other programming. 

Ultimately, InnovatePGH wants to provide opportunities to passionate individuals who might not otherwise be able to pursue robotics, according to Mark Conner, the Pittsburgh Innovation District economic opportunity manager at InnovatePGH.

“This program represents a unique opportunity for individuals passionate about robotics to gain hands-on experience,” Conner said, “and contribute to the diversity in Robotics in meaningful ways.”

Apply to the Pathways Fellowship

Correction, March 25: This article has been updated with the new name for the Pathways Fellowship program.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: InnovatePGH / Carnegie Mellon University

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