Building the machine man

By Kaustov Kashyap

Robotics is a rapidly growing field that has applications in diverse industries. Robotics is a field of engineering concerned with the development and application of robots and computer systems for their control, sensory feedback and information processing. In other words, Robotics is all about designing robots, maintaining them, developing new applications and conducting research.
Robotics is an exciting area of computer-controlled technology. It is one of the most inter-disciplinary of engineering endeavors. In an elaborate form, Robotics Engineering is a sub-field of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science. This is a rapidly developing field with advances in computing constantly opening up new possibilities for robotics applications.
The term ‘robotics’ includes research and engineering activities involving design and development of robotic systems.
Experts working in the area of robotics are called robotic engineers. Robotics engineers are concerned with the science of robotics that is the science of flexible automation. Robotics engineers design robots, maintain them, develop new applications for them, and conduct research to expand the potential of robots. These engineers use computer-aided design and drafting and computer-aided manufacturing (CADD/CAM) systems to perform their tasks. Their duties include analysing designs, debugging programs, standardising and servicing the robots and combining the robots with new mechanical devices. They also supervise other technicians and engineers.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field which is of four years duration is required for most entry-level positions in robotics engineering. Robotics being an inter-disciplinary course invites students who have completed their graduation in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, instrumentation engineering or computer engineering with an interest in robotics and artificial intelligence. Most colleges or universities offer robotics engineering as specialisation of other engineering degrees rather than as a stand-alone program. However, now there are universities that offer robotics engineering degrees.
For advancement in positions you need a master’s degree or PhD. A PhD is required to teach in this field as well as for most high-level research positions. A master’s degree requires two years while a PhD takes three to five years to complete.
A course in robotics trains and educates a student in the field of artificial intelligence, computer-aided manufacturing, computer integrated manufacturing system, computational geometry, robot motion planning, digital electronics and micro processing.

Personal attributes

Like engineers in other disciplines, robotics engineers must be able to work well as team members. They must be able to communicate their ideas effectively. Those entering this field should have an aptitude for mathematics, physics, chemistry, and electronics. They should also be skilled in using computers. Robotics engineers must be familiar with logic, microprocessors and computer programming so that they can design the right robot for each application. Along with the technical know-how, interest in research is essential in this field. For this, robotics engineers must continually upgrade their technical knowledge to keep abreast of new developments in this rapidly changing field.

Job Prospects & Career Options

With the advancement of computer science and related research technologies, robotics jobs are gaining more popularity. Use of robots is expected to increase in the near future, from production line robots to experimental robotics for the medical, military, and automotive industries, the future of robotics engineering will certainly offer a range of opportunities for professionals entering the field.
There are various specialisations even in robotics. Specialising in design and control in robotics is close to mechanical engineering. If you want to specialise in control and hardware design of robots, a BTech. degree in Electrical or Electronics or Electronics and Communication Engineering is the best-suited qualification. B.Tech. Computer Engineers can look at hardware design in robotics. The control part of the robot is all about certain aspects electrical engineering.

Remuneration

Salary for robotics engineers is concerned at par with most of the other demanding engineering professions as supply is less compared to demand. Earnings vary depending on the experience of the robotics engineer, the location, and the kind of job. In India, one can expect a starting salary of Rs 5-6 lakhs per annum for a fresher.

Institutes
Lord Jegannath College of Engineering and Technology, Kanyakumari
Chandigarh College of Engineering and Technology, Chandigarh
Central Institute of Tool Design (CITD), Hyderabad (Diploma)
University College of Engineering (UCE), Osmania University
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Madras), Chennai
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Kanpur), Kanpur
SRM University, Kancheepuram
University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Knowledge Acres, Dehradun

(The author is a career counsellor)

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