Have you ever used a Roomba vacuum cleaner? Watched footage transmitted by NASA’s Opportunity rover? Bought a car that had been built by machines? Had an order fulfilled by Amazon? Your life has already been affected by robotic innovations and engineering disciplines.
If you’re intrigued by how technology can be used to improve human life or expand our knowledge of how the universe works, you might consider earning your robotics degree and becoming a robotics engineer. This article will seek to answer the fundamental questions about this topic, like, “What is robotics engineering?” and, “What’s the process for how to become a robotics engineer?”
What Is Robotics Engineering?
Robotics is a burgeoning profession that touches many different areas including surgical procedures, industrial automation, and the locating, diffusing and detonation of explosive ordnance. Now, it’s a burgeoning profession with a hand in surgical procedures, manufacturing machines that harvest crops on farms, building cars in factories and even safely detonating land mines in war zones.
All engineering professions are dedicated to solving the complex problems that trouble society. Those problems can be major (e.g. figuring out how to provide clean water to millions of people living in desert regions) or relatively minor (e.g. building a machine that vacuums carpets freeing up the user to pursue other leisure activities).
Robotics engineers design, build and improve upon machines that can be programmed to do certain tasks. Advanced robots may look humanoid, some are simply computer-controlled “arms” that can perform a few basic tasks, and other robotic systems (like the Roomba) are designed with their task in mind. Further, there are robotic systems that buck the humanoid trend completely, deciding to design for function over form.
This leads to a dichotomy in the robotics community regarding whether humanoid design is always the best option. The main draw of robotic systems, much like computer systems, is their ability to perform repetitive tasks at high speeds with high accuracy. Further, they can perform tasks in environments that humans may find extreme, thus limiting the danger to the human operator. Finally, they may allow for higher degrees of precision when compared to humans.
Where Do Robotics Engineers Work?
Many robotics engineers work in an office or laboratory settings, where they conduct research, plan experiments and test their creations. Robotics engineers can also serve as field technicians, ensuring that their creations are working and that those using them are sufficiently trained in doing so. Others may work in manufacturing plants or factories overseeing fleets of robots that are used in industrial automation processes. In short, there is a wide range of possibilities for what a robotics engineer may be asked to do.
How to Become a Robotics Engineer: An Overview
The process to become a robotics engineer can begin prior to setting foot on a university campus. Robotics engineers draw on a wealth of mathematical, mechanical and electrical engineering knowledge. Thus, it is important to have a passion for math and science and a love for working with your hands.
In terms of high school classes, it is recommended to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes and a calculus or pre-calculus class by at least your senior year of high school. In addition, some high schools offer an introductory engineering or engineering technology course, which would be a valuable addition to your transcript.
As engineers solve problems regarding the world-at-large, it is often important to give yourself as many perspectives as possible when approaching a problem. This means taking courses that you find interesting outside of the realm of math, science and engineering.
Relevant extracurricular activities can also help you on your path to becoming a robotic engineer. For instance, you could participate in the annual science fair or join the robotics club. If your school doesn’t currently offer a robotics or engineering club, consider taking the initiative to talk to your principal about starting one. The steps you take in high school can set the stage for earning a robotics degree in college.
Earning Your Undergraduate Robotics Degree
After high school, the first step in the process of how to become a robotics engineer is to earn a relevant undergraduate degree. You could earn a general engineering degree. However, it’s definitely preferable to choose an engineering degree with a robotics emphasis or other relevant specialization.
On average, it takes students four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor’s degree. Expect to take classes on campus to earn this degree, as you will need to complete hands-on laboratory work for this program.
Your degree program will include some general core requirements, as well as general engineering classes and courses specifically pertaining to robotics engineering. The curriculum will vary from one school to the next, but some topics that are commonly included are as follows:
- The basics of engineering design methodology and the product development process
- Design of engineering experiments and techniques used for the analysis of the results
- Fundamentals of robotics design with a look at computer, electrical and mechanical engineering perspectives
- The control of dynamic systems, including feedback-control methods
In addition, you can expect to take various introductory classes in physics, chemistry, linear algebra, calculus and differential equations. When you have the opportunity to take electives, you might consider taking additional programming classes. Robotics engineers are often responsible for programming their devices. As such, having an understanding of computer coding is helpful for this profession.
Important Characteristics and Skills for Aspiring Robotics Engineers
As you work through your degree programs, you can also work on developing the important characteristics and skills you’ll need for your future job. There are a number of helpful attributes, including the following:
- A sense of curiosity about how things work and a willingness to ask, “What if…?”
- Teamwork, collaboration and communication skills
- Critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
- Eagerness to continually learn new things
- Math and computer science competencies
You can combine your passion for robotics engineering with purpose when you enroll at Grand Canyon University in the Bachelor of Science in Engineering with an Emphasis in Robotics degree program within a Christian learning community. To learn more about our science, mathematics and engineering degree programs, click on Request Info at the top of your screen.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.