Art and Science of Robotics

Pursuing Robotics without the Degree

We all know about the shift that companies all the world over are willingly embracing – regardles of whether they operate in manufacturing, in business process outsourcing, or in information technology infrastructure. That is, the large-scale migration towards automation of business processes that can be automated; in doing so, organizations seek to reduce waste and delays in defects.

And in particular sectors, this has entailed the replacement of humans by robots – if not the anthropomorphic robots we see in robot battle leagues on television or in Japanese animes, then in automated assembly lines that consist of simple moving parts and automatons. We see this particularly in electronics and food manufacturing – they look nothing like what we assume they should look like (C3PO and R2-D2 come to mind).

Consequently, more and more people are becoming attracted to this field for a bevy of reasons – that including the interesting and exciting career paths that robotics has to offer.

But can one really dive into robotics without a degree in the same way that people pursue writing or art careers? Not so fast – let’s examine this a little bit further.

Dispelling Misconceptions about the Art and Science of Robotics

The first thing that comes to mind when people think about robotics is that robotics entails building and working with giant, anthropomorphic robots that we’ve seen in the movies and in television slugging it out with bizarre octopus-like creatures, or otherwise those we’ve seen on the Jetsons.

But reality could not be farther from most people’s expectations. Robotics, more often than not, entails that you work with robots that do not look like their Hollywood adaptations. For instance, take the assembly of pressure washers, like those that can blast water at higher pressures with good nozzles. Now imagine trying to automate a very complex and very expensive machine that can do it at 500x the speed and accuracy, and the manpower needed to do that.s

You will most probably end up working on a specific and highly technical part of a whole – and that includes writing control loops, formulating and designing plates, electrical harnesses, and graphical user interfaces. And more often than not, by the time you’ve worked all of that out, you’ve exhausted most of your funding by then, and your client will have you around your throat, because you are way behind schedule – two months past expected delivery date. Not the rosiest picture of the robotics industry, is it?

Well, that’s because it isn’t. Robotics can be a very extremely frustrating career path, contrary to what most people will imagine it to be. And that’s NOT talking about the thousands of dollars you’d spend on a robotics or engineering short course, diploma or degree yet.

The Importance of a Degree

On the other side, it’s almost impossible to get into robotics without a degree or a diploma to some extent – that’s because not only will you need the technical know-how; and granted, even if you’ve had practical experience as a hobbyist, you can’t work in robotics without knowing people who do it for a living – and that’s the reason why you spend thousands in an engineering degree for.

To get to know people who are already working in the field, whether it’s your classmates or your professors who can vouch for you when your future employers come knocking. In robotics, as in any other field, it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.

The Final Accounting

In the final accounting, as with anything, your passion and motivation will decide how your intentions play out – while you can theoretically pursue a career in robotics without a degree, know that the road will be long and hard. Thus, you need to remember why you are doing this in the first place – otherwise you’ll be just wasting time and money. Good luck.