Robot Makers: An Essential Guide to Choosing a Career in Robotics

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Book Description: Improving medicine, being on the cutting edge of technology, creating a healthier planet, and making life easier are all compelling reasons for becoming a roboticist. But even more than that, getting into robotics assures a lifetime of opportunities that are rich and plentiful. Robots are here and are changing the world. Applications to use robots are enormous. The careers that support the industry offer opportunities to be creative and are challenging, prestigious, and satisfying.

From Robot Makers, you will learn:

  • About the abundant opportunities in robotics.
  • About the many types of robots.
  • What robots can do for us.
  • What degree is needed to work as a roboticist.
  • How much money you can make.

Working in the field of robotics is exciting and getting more so every day. Because of technological leaps in the computer industry, many new opportunities are emerging. Engineers, programmers, and technicians design and maintain robots, research new applications for robots, and assist people in doing tasks that are less desirable. Robots have enormous potential for society. Equipped with the proper sensors, robots can inspect the quality of meat, measure the pollution emissions of manufacturing plants, assist in surgery, detect corrosion in sewer pipes, investigate the depths of a volcano, or assess the speed of a tornado. Robots can be used to improve the standard of living and provide more information about the our planet, or even the solar system.

 


Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I–What is a Robot

  • Who works in Robotics?
    • Engineers
    • Engineering Technologists
    • Engineering Technicians
  • How do you get into the field of robotics?

Part II–Types of Robots

  • Fixed Robots - Factory and Industrial manipulators
    • Safety in Industrial Robots
  • Mobile Robots
    • Ground Robots
    • Aerial Robots
    • Marine Robots

Part III–Robotic Applications

  • Robots in the Military
  • Robots in Medicine and Healthcare
    • Robotic Surgery
    • Robotic Intervention
    • Interview with Joe Bogusky, Staff R&D Engineer for Auris Surgical Robotics
    • Medical Assessment Robots
    • Assistive Robots
    • Eradicating Disease Robots
  • Robots in Space
  • Disaster and Rescue Robots
  • Sporting Robots
  • Educational Robots

Part IV–The Many Approaches to Careers in Robotics

  • Common Majors for Robotic Engineering
    • Robotic Engineering
    • Biomedical Engineering
    • Computer Engineering
    • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
    • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Software Engineering
    • Systems Engineering
  • Common Majors for Robotic Engineering Technology
    • Biomedical Engineering Technology
    • Computer Engineering Technology
    • Electronic/Electrical Engineering Technology
    • Electromechanical Engineering Technology
    • Manufacturing Engineering Technology
    • Mechanical Engineering Technology
  • Computer Science

Part V–Getting Started

  • Become Well Rounded
  • Summer Camps
  • National Robotics Week
  • You’ve Decided to Pursue a Robotics Education-What Now?
  • Choosing the Right School
  • The Successful Student
  • Co-ops and Internships
  • Summary

Appendix

  • Glossary of Robotic Terms
  • Robotic Competitions
  • Recommended Reading

 


Exclusive Online Sample - Chapter One

You may know about robots because you watched a deadly cyborg try to take over the world on TV. Or, you are involved in or have seen a robotics competition, played with a Mindstorms LEGO set, or attended a science, engineering or maker event. Although you may not even recognize it as a robot, they have been around you for a long time. Advances in technology have refined what a robot does. New applications are continually expanding a robot’s capabilities.


Although there are many definitions of a robot, in this book a robot is an electromechanical (i.e., mechanical parts that need electricity to operate) device that can react to its environment and perform operations either on a tether by remote control, autonomously by wireless or Bluetooth connections, or a hybrid of the two systems. The word robotics refers to learning and working with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, while the word robots is the application or product of the robotic work. To make a robot function requires a combination of gears, sensors, controllers, hardware and software, creativity, computer programming, and mechanical aptitude. Machines that can be instructed to do a task are considered robots, whereas a machine that cannot be instructed to do a task is considered automata, from the Greek word for automatic.


 Working in the field of robotics is exciting and getting more so every day. Because of technological leaps in the computer industry, many new opportunities are emerging. Engineers, programmers, and technicians design and maintain robots, research new applications for robots, and assist people in doing tasks that are less desirable. Robots have enormous potential for society. Equipped with the proper sensors, robots can inspect the quality of meat, measure the pollution emissions of manufacturing plants, assist in surgery, detect corrosion in sewer pipes, investigate the depths of a volcano, or assess the speed of a tornado. Robots can be used to improve the standard of living and provide more information about the planet as a whole, or even the solar system.


As a Roboticist, you might find yourself at work as a(n):

  • Biomedical engineer designing tiny robots that can go inside the human body to destroy blood clots.
  • Search and rescue engineer helping save lives after a hurricane or tsunami.
  • Fire protection engineer creating a robot that can save people from burning buildings.
  • Civil engineer searching for stress cracks on bridges or buildings.
  • Ocean engineer using an underwater robot to search for buried treasure.
  • Agricultural engineer designing ways to improve a harvest.
  • Manufacturing engineer improving the safety in large manufacturing facilities.
  • Transportation engineer creating robotic vehicles to shuttle people efficiently and safely.
  • Explosive ordnance technician helping users of defense robots to stay out of harms way.
  • Design engineer determining how to use robots to clean and organize our homes, and so much more!

Not all careers are discussed in this book and if of interest to you, should be investigated further.


The word robot was first coined by Czech playwright, Karel Capek, in his play, Rossum’s Universal Robot, about humanlike machines. Robot comes from the Czech word robota, which means hard work or forced labor. The word “robot” entered the English language in 1923 when Rossum’s Universal Robot, opened in London.


Who wouldn’t want a robot to work hard and cook and clean for them? The robot would never complain nor get tired. Having a party for 50 of your closest friends? It is not a problem if you have a robot to clean the house before and after, to greet guests at the door, to serve drinks, and to ensure that the temperature, lighting, and music levels are just right throughout the night.


Engineers, technologists, programmers, and technicians are hard at work developing robots that can help alleviate some of the more time consuming chores around the house so you can do something more enjoyable. Robots in the home are currently being used to clean floors (e.g., vacuuming, scrubbing, and mopping), swimming pools, and windows. In addition, they can mow your lawn and clean your gutters. Advances are being made in the design and development of ironing robots, intelligent refrigerators, and digital wardrobes. Smart homes—homes that are equipped with technology to maintain human comfort, convenience, security, and entertainment—are also on the rise. You can expect a future of more robotic devices helping in everyday life. Because robots have the potential to make home life easier, it’s almost a surprise that the use of robots is not already integrated into all homes.


Robots most likely built the home appliances, such as the washing machine, refrigerator, and dishwasher you use every day. They locate items and package orders at mail order stores, such as Amazon.com. Underwater robots maintain pipelines so you can get gasoline for your car. Robots can do tasks that are highly repetitive, hazardous, dull, dirty, and dangerous.


Robots have been used primarily in the manufacturing industry, which continues to be the largest employer of robotic engineers. Automobiles are often built with the aid of a programmable machine that incorporates great precision, speed, and power. Robotics is also expanding to mining, agriculture, and other fields that are hazardous or undesirable to people. Robotic engineers work closely with computer programmers, electrical, mechanical, and manufacturing engineers, and production managers.


Who works in Robotics?

Robotics is a field that involves the use of many fields of technology. It’s an industry that provides opportunities for endless creativity, innovation, and the pioneering of new ideas. People who work in robotics are engineers, computer programmers, designers, technologists, and technicians. Engineers and technologists will usually design a robot, incorporating sensors, gears, manipulators, cameras, power, and controllers. Computer programmers will write the code that gives the robot intelligence and technicians will build, install, and maintain the robot.


The good news is that if you are interested in robotics, you can study almost any type of engineering or technology. The most common engineering majors in addition to robotic engineering are biomedical, computer, electrical, electromechanical, mechanical, manufacturing, and software engineering. The opportunities in the study of robots and robotics are so broad that almost any field of interest can be combined with robotics, which creates a dream job.
Dr. Chris Jones, the Director of Strategic Development for iRobot says that robotics is an exciting and unique field.


“It requires tight integration of mechanical (e.g., motors, chassis, gears), electrical (e.g., processor, electronics, sensors) and software (e.g., take inputs, send commands, get the robot to do something) engineering concepts. Systems engineering is also a big part of getting the mechanical, electrical, and software to interact and play together. The best candidates for employment have depth in either mechanical, electrical, or software engineering and breadth in all. They understand the trade-offs and how the different parts of the robot might impact each other. They are able to cross boundaries between the fields. The best people may also have some experience with business and even psychology to understand how humans interact with machines. The user experience is critical to designing a robot that is well used by society.”


There are many types of engineers, technologists, and technicians that work together to create a robot for a specific purpose. See more about the different types of engineering and engineering technology in Part Four—The Many Approaches to Careers in Robotics.

The engineers who work in robotics are usually:

  • Biomedical engineers—apply robotics to improve healthcare
  • Computer engineers—create the hardware and computer systems
  • Electrical engineers—design the electronics of a robot
  • Electromechanical engineers—make sure the electronics and hardware work together
  • Industrial design engineers—design the look and form of a robot
  • Manufacturing engineers—apply robotics to manufacturing systems
  • Mechanical engineers—design the moving parts
  • Robotics engineers—do a little of everything and put all the pieces together
  • Software engineers—write the code that controls a robot
  • Systems engineers—ensure a robot works as a system and whole

The technologists and technicians who work in robotics will have associates’ or bachelors’ degrees. They usually have degrees in:

  • Biomedical Engineering Technology
  • Computer Engineering Technology
  • Electrical Engineering Technology
  • Electromechanical Engineering Technology
  • Manufacturing Engineering Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering Technology

In this text:

  • An engineer is defined as a person with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in engineering
  • An engineering technologist is defined as a person who has a bachelor’s or graduate degree in any field of engineering technology
  • An engineering technician is defined as a person who has an associate’s degree or certificate of completion in any field of engineering technology

Engineers usually build a one of a kind or the first of a kind. The Space Shuttle was an engineering marvel and so was the first cell phone. But when cell phone manufacturers wanted to produce millions of phones a year, Engineering Technology (ET) became much more important. In many design scenarios, the engineer develops the “big picture” and the ET graduate fleshes out the details.


Because engineering is a constantly changing process, it is more of a journey than a destination. Engineers and technologists constantly strive to make things better. They may develop new sensors that are used to detect obstacles today, but they don’t stop there. The next week, they may work on improving the onboard camera system, or have a new idea about how to include solar panels so robots can power themselves more efficiently.


Engineers are generally focused on a very specific area. They are using theory to improve or develop products, technologies, and systems. Technologists also design and develop products or technologies, which allow you to use the products and systems. Technologists may also work alongside engineers in research and development (R&D). When technologists work in R&D, they apply their ideas in the development of prototypes or to test existing research. Others work in quality control, inspecting products and processes, conducting tests, or collecting data. In manufacturing, technologists may work in product design, development, quality control, test engineering, sales, or production. They can be supervisors to connect the design professionals with the contractors or hourly workers.


It is important to realize that every machine has a designer, a builder, or fabricator, an installer, a maintainer, and someone who prepares the machine to be ready to do what it was designed to do. Engineers and technologists are usually the designers although the technologists may also build the machine, test it, support the design process led by an engineer, and get it ready to do what it is supposed to do. For example, technologists may develop the process settings in order that quality parts are produced from that machine. The technicians usually install, maintain, and program the machine. Another example is in the development of a new lamp. An engineer has the idea for a new lamp on paper. The technologist applies the engineer’s idea and oversees how other aspects of the lamp relate to its manufacture and implementation. The technician would then review the practical applications of use and maintenance of the lamp.

 

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