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Robotics in your career

Who might be working with robots in the future? Could the study of robotic systems be key to your future career?
This is a really great time to get into robotics, more than any other time in history. And it’s becoming so big in every walk of life. It’s really taking over. There were 35 billion US dollars spent in 2014 and that’s increasing all the time. There’s two different kinds of robots you can get into. There’s the big industrial robots, and they’ve been around since the 1950s. And there’s about 1.5 to 2 million of those operational on the planet at the moment. But the really big growth area is service robots, and that’s robots that interact with people in many different ways, whether it’s weapons, policing, elder care, those things. And there were 4.7 million of those in 2014.
That’s expected to rise really dramatically up to 2018. So if you’re looking for something that will really give you a job, that’s the place to be. Quite often what we do is we take teams of people - some that understand about psychology of the brain, and others that are programmers or roboticists - and with a team of people working together, the different expertise can really crack some of these problems that one individual would struggle with alone. People fascinated with swarm robotics could engage in a wide variety of different careers. On one hand, you have, let’s say, science. We have people that are interested in understanding how organisms work, like flocks of birds, and so on.
So we are interested in people building robots to replicate what the real birds do, and perhaps even collaborate with them and work together to really understand them. Another area could be to study the impact that human beings have on their environment. So robots and swarms of them could be used to monitor the pollution levels in the cities, to monitor the temperatures in the lakes, and algaes developing, and so on. We could get a much better understanding of our world by deploying the sensors in the places they need to go.
The project I’ve been working on is a modular robotic system that works in water. So that is, a robot that is composed of individual modules that can be reconfigured in shape to perform different tasks. Each module of the robot has four micro-pumps which allow it to move around in the water, and as the modules are connected together into different configurations, the entire robot can move around in the water, depending on the configurations of the robot. My work mainly focuses on the mechanical structure design and electronics design, and then I can band them together and perfect it by several experiments. One particular use case of a robot like this is for search and rescue operations.
In an unknown environment, you’re not sure what the exact situation would be like, and so you want the ability for the robot to be able to configure on the fly, to adapt to whatever challenges it faces. For example, maybe individual modules need to split up to search for survivors or for target locations more quickly, or maybe they need to be configured into a single object to lift debris or to open passageways. The University of Sheffield has the only department in the UK, and one of the best departments in the world, researching advanced control and systems engineering. It’s like they know how to make the theory of the control system or the systems engineering into the real world.
I’ve been interested in science and engineering in general for quite a lot of my life. Working in ACSE in particular, it’s really helped me to work on my own, to perform projects on my own, to do individual research, or to attend outreach events that I wouldn’t get the opportunity to do otherwise. And this has really broadened my career prospects, and when I finish the several options available to me. I could go further in academia, I could go on to do research, and perhaps continue with a project like this, or I could go into industry.
It not only could be applied in the robotics or industrial systems, it also could be used in the medicine system, or the transportation system, or even space engineering.

Who might be working with robots in the future? Could the study of robotic systems be the key to unlocking your future career?

In this video, academics and students from The University of Sheffield give us their view on how, in a growing industry, there are many careers options for those who can work with robots.

Further study

If you’re interested in building our future with robots, then you may wish to consider the following courses offered by the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at The University of Sheffield:

Undergraduate courses

Mechatronic and Robotic Engineering (MEng and BEng)

Learn how to design, analyse and test transforming robots, autonomous vehicles and other complex electro-mechanical systems. We’ll show you how to control robotic systems using modern microprocessor technology.

You can also explore advanced concepts including manufacturing systems, noise and vibration control, spacecraft systems and robot technology. At the end of the second year of the BEng, you may choose to transfer to the four-year MEng course.

Postgraduate courses

MSc Robotics

Control and Systems Engineering for your PhD

In our research, we address fundamental challenges in understanding and managing the complexity of man-made and natural systems. Our approach focuses on theoretical developments in complex systems analysis, modelling, control and computational intelligence.

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Building a Future with Robots

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