Student: Robert Malpass

Industrial engineering technology major Robert Malpass is combining his love for technology and robotics with his passion for helping the environment.

“I started in robotics and gained a passion for the environment at a similar time in my life,” he said. “I remember during one Adopt-A-Street we went out and there was just as much trash as when we had cleaned it the month before. I started thinking about how robots could be used to help combat this problem.”

He is brainstorming an idea on how to build robots to help clean up the roads, and should this idea become a reality, he wants to implement it on a large scale.

Malpass works with robots in East Carolina University's Science and Technology Building.

Malpass works with robots in East Carolina University’s Science and Technology Building.

Malpass, a senior at East Carolina University, first got excited about an engineering career when he attended a trade show in Greenville, South Carolina, with Dr. Sharon Rouse, teaching assistant professor in the Department of Technology Systems.

“She took us to a trade show, and I saw every type of engineering and robotics company, which lit a fire under me,” said Malpass. “You have to see it and you have to go out there to really understand what is going on.”

He credits his College of Engineering and Technology professors with helping him become successful. “The professors know what they are talking about, and they know how to impart that onto you.”

Even though he originally came to ECU undecided on a major, Malpass did not let that slow down his involvement on campus. “I decided to try computer science, but ultimately realized I am supposed to be in engineering,” he said. “It has so many opportunities.”

Opportunity was a factor in his decision to come to ECU in the first place. “I had friends coming to ECU. Since I only live an hour and a half away it was appealing in that way,” he said. “But ultimately I learned about the engineering program and its benefits, and it’s been great.”

Getting involved on campus played a huge role in his passions and interests now. Through joining ECU’s Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) robotics club, Malpass has been able to travel and compete in robotics competitions.

“We are able to gain lots of real-world skills by being hands-on,” he said. “Building on each other’s strengths was the most important part.” While an ATMAE robotics member, Malpass has served as vice president and treasurer, and was a part of the team that won the robotics portion of the competition against seven other schools last year.

He helps other students get hands-on experience as a lab assistant in the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and robotics labs.

“Being a lab assistant has helped prepare me for after graduation because I have learned how to better interact with and teach others,” said Malpass. “While I may not be the best at it in the room, I understand how to talk to students and how to teach them, and developing those skills are crucial.”

While at ECU he has also been involved in student organizations like G.O.L.D. Leaders, ECO Pirates and ReLeaf. He served as president of ReLeaf for two years, conducting events such as Thrash for Trash in collaboration with Backdoor Skate Shop. The individual who cleaned up the most trash at the skatepark won a board.

When not involved with school or clubs, Malpass works and volunteers during his free time. He has been involved in organizing for the Adopt-A-Street program with the city of Greenville, volunteered in the campus orchard across from Clark-LeClair Stadium, and has helped with cleaning drains to assist water runoff in Greenville.

“It is special to see something you plant turn into something a few months later,” he said. “People in the community sometimes turn something they take into something for you, and it is just a really full circle moment.”

He also suggested the idea for a passport system at the Isley Innovation Hub. “If you show you know how to use a piece of equipment like a 3-D printer or sewing machine, you get a stamp on your passport so you can use the equipment. They ended up adopting that idea.”

After graduation, Malpass intends to continue working at BlueBay Automation as an applications engineer in Nashville, Tennessee. “I have already learned so much in three months there,” he said. “I have moved away from all my friends, so it has been an adjustment, but it is going well, and I hope to stay. I see myself staying in Nashville or wherever BlueBay wants me. No day is the same, which is what I love about it.”

When not working or building robots, you can find Malpass listening to music, 3-D printing and playing with his cat, Mac.

This Pirate is helping better his community.


Name: Robert Edward Malpass III

College: College of Engineering and Technology

Major: Industrial engineering technology

Age: 23

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Clinton, North Carolina

Hobbies/interests: Rock climbing, environmental justice causes, robotics, mixed martial arts, 3D printing, virtual reality, my cat Mac, sustainability, longboarding, prison reform

Clubs and Organizations: ReLeaf@ECU (president), ATMAE Robotics (vice president/treasurer), SME (vice president), ECO-Pirates (volunteer coordinator), NAACP, ECU Club Sports rock climbing and mixed martial arts


Favorite hangout: The ECU orchard and rock climbing wall

Favorite place on campus: Flanagan courtyard / Science and Technology robotics lab

Favorite place to eat: Arby’s

Favorite class: Integrated Computer Robotics

Professor who influenced you the most: Sharon Rouse

Favorite TV show: “Mr. Robot”

Favorite bands/musicians: Mac Miller/Tropical Storm

Favorite movie: “End of Evangelion”


Dream job: Retired (robotics engineer, which is the job I currently have!)

Role models: Hideo Kojima

Your words to live by: Happiness comes from the other, and you are the other to everyone around you, so happiness must come from within!

What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? That the Flanagan courtyard is a thing! It is such a nice place to relax away from everyone and is in the middle of the Flanagan Building. Also that any student group can ask for a tree (reach out to my club ReLeaf@ECU) and have one planted on campus in their honor.