A robotics engineer could...
|Invent the next generation of robotic toys, like this table-tennis-playing humanoid.||Build cool animatronic equipment and special effects for amusement parks and the entertainment industry.|
|Increase manufacturing capacity by creating specialized robots for each automatable task.||Design robots to explore where humans cannot, like the depths of the ocean or faraway planets.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Have you watched "The Transformers" cartoon series or seen the "Transformers" movies? Both shows are about how good and evil robots fight each other and the humans who get in the middle. Many TV shows and movies show robots and humans interacting with each other. While this is, at present, fantasy, in real life robots play a helpful role. Robots do jobs that can be dangerous for humans. For example, some robots defuse landmines in war-stricken countries; others work in harsh environments like the bottom of the ocean and on the planet Mars. At the heart of every robot is a robotics engineer who thinks about what a robot needs to do and works with several engineering disciplines to design and put together the perfect piece of equipment.|
|Key Requirements||Excellent problem-solving skills, creativity, mechanical aptitude, attention to detail, good teamwork skills, excellent oral and written skills|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, chemistry, geometry, algebra II, calculus; if available, computer science, applied technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%) In Demand!|
Training, Other Qualifications
The robotics-engineering industry is a broad and changing field of study. To keep their knowledge and skills up to date, robotics engineers will need to read research and trade journals, attend professional seminars and conferences, and work with colleagues on cutting-edge research.
New robotics engineers often begin their careers as assistants or junior engineers at a robotics firm, under the supervision of an established colleague.
Education and Training
A bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field is required for most entry-level positions in robotics engineering. Because robotics technology draws on the expertise of many different engineering disciplines, engineers who specialize in robotics often have degrees in mechanical, manufacturing, electrical, electronic, or industrial engineering. Some colleges and universities now offer robotics engineering degrees. Robotics courses typically include training in hydraulics and pneumatics, CADD/CAM systems, numerically controlled systems, microprocessors, integrated systems, and logic. It usually takes four to five years to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering. Some colleges offer work-study programs in which students receive on-the-job training while still in school. Most universities that offer robotics courses have well-equipped labs with lasers and CADD/CAM equipment.
For some positions, and to advance in the field, 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 one to two years of additional schooling, while a PhD takes three to five additional years in school.
Nature of the Work
Robotics is a rapidly growing field that has applications in diverse industries. A robotics engineer designs robots, maintains robots, develops new applications for robots, and conducts research to expand the potential for robots. Robots can be used in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, aerospace, mining, and medicine. Robots are used to perform tasks too dangerous or dirty for humans to perform. Robotics engineers use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) systems to perform their tasks. Robotics research engineers design robotic systems and research methods to manufacture them economically. Robotics engineers who work for robot manufacturers are sometimes called robotics test engineers or automation system engineers. These engineers apply the robotic system to a particular use on a manufacturing assembly line. They also create an integrated environment between people and machinery. Leaders in this field work on creating experimental mobile robots for space research (like the Mars rovers) and medical uses.
Robotics engineers must be familiar with logic, microprocessors, and computer programming so that they can design the right robot for each application. They must also prepare specifications for the robot's capabilities as they relate to the work environment. In addition, robotics engineers are responsible for developing cost proposals, efficiency studies, and quality-control reports.
Most robotics engineers are employed by private robot manufacturers or robot users. Some engineers work in military and space programs. Others work for colleges and universities or vocational and trade schools.
Most robotics engineers go to work in offices, manufacturing plants, or laboratories. Manufacturing plants maybe noisy, depending on the industry. They may also work on a factory floor where they monitor or solve on-site problems. Many robotics engineers work a standard 40-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring engineers to work longer hours.
On the Job
- Build, configure, and test robots.
- Design robotic systems such as automatic vehicle control, autonomous vehicles, advanced displays, advanced sensing, robotic platforms, computer vision, and telematics systems.
- Design software to control robotic systems for applications such as military defense and manufacturing.
- Design automated robotic systems to increase production volume and precision in high-throughput operations, such as automated ribonucleic acid (RNA) analysis; or sorting, moving, and stacking production materials.
- Analyze and evaluate robotic systems or prototypes.
- Automate assays on laboratory robotics.
- Conduct research into the feasibility, design, operation, or performance of robotic mechanisms, components, or systems such as planetary rovers, multiple mobile robots, reconfigurable robots, and man-machine interactions.
- Conduct research on robotic technology to create new robotic systems or system capabilities.
- Debug robotics programs.
- Design end-of-arm tooling.
- Install, calibrate, operate, or maintain robots.
- Investigate mechanical failures or unexpected maintenance problems.
- Plan mobile robot paths and teach path plans to robots.
- Process and interpret signals or sensor data.
- Write algorithms and programming code for ad-hoc robotic applications.
- Create backups of robotic programs or parameters.
- Document robotic application development, maintenance, or changes.
- Make system device lists and event timing charts.
- Provide technical support for robotic systems.
- Review or approve designs, calculations, or cost estimates.
- Supervise technicians, technologists, or other engineers.
- Integrate robotics with peripherals such as welders, controllers, or other equipment.
Companies That Hire Robotics Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Art Bot: Build a Wobbly Robot Friend That Creates Art
- Build a Light-Tracking Robot Critter
- Butterfly Wings: Using Nature to Learn About Flight
- Climb Every Mountain with Your Own LEGO® Cable Car
- Design and 3D-Print Your Own Robot!
- Drawing Dalibot: Designing an Art Robot That Switches Colors
- Eco-Friendly Robots: Design the Most Energy-Efficient Racing Robot Using VoxCAD
- Electric Play Dough Project 1: Make Your Play Dough Light Up, Buzz, & Move!
- Go, Gadget, Go! Building Robots with LEGO® Mindstorms®
- Grasping with Straws: Make a Robot Hand Using Drinking Straws
- Hard, Soft, or in Between? Changing Material Properties in Robot Design with VoxCAD
- I Like to Move It: Motorizing a Robot Hand
- LED Dance Glove: Get the Party Started with Your Own Interactive Light Show
- Line Follower: A Zippy Robot That Senses Where to Go
- Motorized Michelangelo: Building an Art Robot with Servo Motors
- Racing Bristlebots: On Your Mark. Get Set. Go!
- Roaming Robots: Build Your Own Underwater Robot
- Robot Picasso: Building a Robot That Creates Art
- Robot Race! Use a Computer to Design, Simulate, & Race Robots with VoxCAD
- Robots to the Rescue! Build & Test a Search-and-Rescue Robot
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Robotics Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
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We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Intel Foundation
- Northrop Grumman