Desirable Skills, Qualifications, and Experience
Employers' Expectations and Requirements
Because robotics involves disciplines ranging from computer programming to electromechanics and industrial engineering, the future robotics engineer has to possess a broad range of knowledge. An engineer cannot design a mechanical robotic device without a full understanding of how the mechanical parts interact with the electronic and hydraulic parts that are controlled by the computer. Nor can a technician be expected to repair a device if he or she doesn't know how all the pieces fit together and operate.
What makes a good engineer? To start, a good engineer has varied tools and a keen attention to detail. Future engineers are those who take an early interest in how things work and are fascinated by electronic and mechanical devices. Engineering prospects generally do well in math and science courses and score above average in those subjects on the SATs or ACTs,
Their hobbies might include anything from tinkering with mechanical devices, robotic kits, and model rockets in the garage and backyard to science fiction, computer programming or 3-D modeling, and role-playing fantasy games. All these pursuits build an active imagination and help develop the qualities an engineer should possess, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. These include analytical thinking and developed research skills, computer literacy, creativity, patience, the persistence to solve problems logically, a capacity for detail and accuracy, and good communication and interpersonal skills.
Employers' Expectations and Requirements
When you interview for a first job, employers are not just looking at your grades, test scores, and awards. They are looking at you, to see if you are a well-rounded individual who can bring more than just basic skills to the table. That means your knowledge and experience aren't rooted solely in engineering, computers, electronics, or whatever your chosen specialty happens to be. An engineer must be able to write a competent English composition and have taken courses in drafting, mathematics, the basic sciences, physics, and a dozen other disciplines and fields.
A potential employer will be primarily interested in seeing that you have acquired adequate academic training and have taken all the courses needed to work in the field of robotics. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology provides a recommended pre-engineering program for the freshman and sophomore years of college that includes freshman chemistry, general physics, English, mathematics (including calculus, analytic geometry, and differential equations), engineering graphics, applied mechanics, and electives from the social sciences, humanities, matrix algebra, computers, materials, and statistics.
Once accepted into an engineering program, the curriculum consists of courses in analytical mechanics and engineering analysis, calculus, physics, principles of electricity and magnetism, quantum theory and solid state physics, materials science, chemistry, engineering science (which includes drafting and descriptive geometry), and electrical engineering. Along with this course load are such additional required courses as hydraulics and pneumatics, manufacturing management, industrial design, computer controllers and architecture, laser and microwave theory, digital electronics and design, statistics, mechanical engineering, computer programming, and artificial intelligence.
And to top that all off, an employer wants to see a prospective employee involved in extracurricular–and not necessarily engineering-related–activities. Clubs and groups, competitions, and social and charitable activities are also important and show a boss-to-be that this applicant is a dedicated, conscientious, energetic, socially engaged worker.
Most colleges and postgraduate schools provide placement assistance for new graduates. Job placement specialists in the high-tech industry are always in search of promising candidates for a wide variety of robotics-related positions. Professional organizations, online job search sites, internships, and personal contacts and networking are all excellent sources for jobs. Candidates can also contact a company or research facility that creates products or services they admire, provide their résumé, and seek an informational interview.
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