What is a Robotics Engineer?
A robotics engineer is a technical designer tasked with creating robotic systems in many different industries and environments. Such systems are designed to assist or replace human effort to make workplaces safer and/or more efficient. Robotic systems are also employed in homes, places of education, in warfare, search and rescue, and many other environments. A robotics engineer will design robots needed to solve problems in these environments and some engineers will also participate in the assembly and manufacture of the machines they have designed.
What does a Robotics Engineer do?
A robotics engineer will use research to determine the exact make-up of a particular robot to address the problems it is being created to solve. Robots are complex software/hardware systems that require an interdisciplinary approach to design, build, configure and test. Software systems have to be designed or modified from existing designs and integrated into hardware that will be functional and economical. So part of the job of a robotics engineer will be evaluating prototypes they have created in terms of function, cost estimations, and other design calculations that need to be made to produce an economical and functional system.
This can be a dynamic job with time at the computer doing research, writing papers, and sketching design ideas, to time in the lab creating components, models, prototypes and testing those experiments. Much of this work will be done in teams, with budgets and deadlines and a combination of structured and unstructured work.
What is the job outlook for a Robotics Engineer?
There is expected to be continued growth for robotics engineering positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), say that the mechanical engineering field, which includes robotics engineers, will average 5% employment growth between 2014 to 2024. O*Net Online reports growth rate of 5-9% for robotics engineers https://www.onetonline.org/link/details/17-2199.08 . Estimates are difficult to predict in such a new field where robotics could potentially flood many industries, quite apart from manufacturing, as the utility of AI and automation become increasingly sophisticated. As robotics become more accepted in medicine, agriculture, the military, and in domestic settings, we may see the growth rate of this sector increase rapidly.
What does a Robotics Engineer get paid?
As with most mechanical engineering jobs the pay for a robotics engineer is in line with the advanced skills and degrees needed to so such sophisticated work. Depending on the employer, pay rates can be in the $90K-$100K mark at the upper end after some years of experience.
What are the education requirements for a robotics engineer?
To enter the field you will need at least a bachelor’s degree and typically in mechanical engineering. Some may have an undergraduate degree in physical science and mathematics with further postgraduate degrees like a master’s degree in robotics engineering. There are an increasing number of programs now that focus on robotic engineering both at undergraduate and graduate levels.
In your education you will need to gain a knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. Understand design techniques, tools, and principles that you will need to design robots. General knowledge of circuit boards, processors, electronic equipment in general, computer hardware and software applications and programming. Mathematics will also be important. General mechanical knowledge of machines, design principles and repair and maintenance. An understanding of physics, and general production and processing knowledge will also be key in this job.
Fernando Zumbado, a Robotic Systems Engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center says that you have to have a passion for what you do as well as paying “attention in class and learn physics, mathematics and other basic sciences. Without a strong foundation, it is very difficult to succeed at a higher level. But most important of all, learn how to learn. Understand how to approach a problem, how to craft a solution and how to implement your solution. Know that if you don’t remember how to use a formula, you can open the textbook and understand how to properly apply it. It is through constant learning that you are going to be able to grow professionally.” ( https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/robotics/careercorner/Fernando_Zumbado.html)
What do you need personally to be a Robotics Engineer?
Curiosity – Curious about how things work and wanting to create things that work better than what we have today.
Communication – You will often have to write reports, papers, work in teams, and so being a good communicator will be essential.
Hands On Problem Solving – Working with complex problems and evaluating the best options and solutions is at the core of this job. This will also involve understanding systems and how the systems you create change in various conditions and operational environments.
Arin Morfopoulos is a Robotics Engineer for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. His advice to students interested in robotics is to have practical experience in making things work. Arin says that “In robotics, there are so many fields used that you will never be an expert at all of them at the same time. It is important to have a passing familiarity with the fields other than your own so that you are not in a constant state of confusion, but it is much more important to have built things, beginning to end, yourself. Expertise will come naturally with application.” (https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/robotics/careercorner/Arin_Morfopoulos.html)
Dr. Lonnie Love, a robotics engineer at Oak Ridge National Labratory advises students interested in engineering to “Get active! Build stuff, make stuff, break stuff. There are lots of opportunities to get experience and see if a career in science or engineering is something you’d enjoy.” (>https://www.energy.gov/articles/10-questions-robotics-engineer-lonnie-love)
Patience – This is a job of lots of trial and error and therefore you will need patience through the process of creating a system that works.