Why you should pursue a career in Robotics

Have you spotted Spot and Temi making their rounds last year?

The two robots have played notable roles in Singapore’s fight against COVID-19 – from reducing exposure of healthcare staff to infected patients to helping with safe distancing efforts[i]. If you find them interesting, it may be time to consider studying robotics.

Singapore’s robotics sector is emerging

Singapore’s quest towards Industry 4.0 transformation is ongoing, and the robotics industry is undoubtedly amongst her ports of call.

In 2016, the Singapore Government set aside over S$450 million to scale up the National Robotics Programme launched the year before. The programme further received SGD 41 million in funds through the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan to deploy robotics technologies[ii] across industries, such as healthcare, construction, manufacturing, and logistics.

Today, Singapore is home to numerous robotics start-ups such as Eureka Robotics and SESTO Robotics. The little red dot also houses both the headquarters of tech giants like Dyson, which has recently pledged £2.75 billion to the development of new technologies including robotics, as well as regional headquarters of market leaders like Universal Robots.

“Robotics and automation are key focus areas for Singapore, creating new growth opportunities and enabling the transformation of our industries,” shares Ms Fong Pin Fen, Vice President and Head, Advanced Manufacturing Strategy Group, Economic Development Board (EDB).

The growing robotics and automation ecosystem, as well as the keen adoption of robotics technologies, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to a need for well-trained robotics professionals here. Efforts to groom local robotics talents are well underway[iii], and universities such as the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) have launched an exciting degree programme in Robotics Systems — focusing on the design and development of service or field robotics systems — to meet this demand!

Fun fact 1: Robots and robotic systems are made up of many components. Key ones include the base (fixed or mobile), mechanical elements such as sensors and actuators (the ‘movers’), the controller, as well as storage and interface hardware.

 

“Singapore has a growing base of robotics companies, system integrators and research institutes to design, develop, and enable the adoption of robotics solutions in the manufacturing and service sectors. The Robotics Systems degree programme will equip students with the right skill sets to tap into these opportunities, and develop new capabilities to enhance Singapore’s competitiveness,” Ms Fong adds.

Robotics is a highly interdisciplinary field

Robotics touches upon disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, computer science, programming, psychology, and applied mathematics. Your varied expertise will help you become a lot more dynamic and versatile, giving you an edge over your peers in today’s unpredictable job landscape.

Robots and robotics systems also have a place across multiple industries, as mentioned above, giving you a higher degree of career mobility.

Below are just some of the many fields you can explore with a Robotics education.

1. Robotics and Automation Engineering

Robotics engineers are important individuals tasked to design, implement, maintain, and test robots, robotic systems, and the software systems that control them. Their job scopes may vary depending on the organisation they’re in, and these individuals work in many industries. You’ll find many of them in aerospace, medical, automotive, and even in nuclear science—just to name a few.

You’ll need to be proficient in areas such as computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, programming, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as statistics and probability. The sheer amount of technical knowledge required is the reason why a bachelor’s degree in robotics systems, or equivalent, is the bare minimum needed to join the robotics engineering profession.

2. Robotics Systems Integration

Robotics systems integration is the process of programming industrial robotics systems to perform automated manufacturing tasks. This helps organisations increase precision and efficiency in their production lines or other required areas, and decrease overall production costs.

Robotics integration can be done both for industrial robots as well as collaborative robotics systems that work alongside humans. The process is usually kick started with external robot integrators. and they may integrate existing robotics systems or offer clients pre-engineered ones of their own as ready solutions.

Fun fact 2: According to the International Federation of Robotics, Singapore had the highest robot density globally for the manufacturing industry in 2019! There were approximately 918 robots per 10,000 employees, with Korea coming in second at 855 robots per 10,000 employees.

 

3. Mechatronics

Robotics and mechatronics are closely interlinked and often overlap.

As many robotics systems comprise mechanical, electrical, and software components, robotics is often considered a subset of mechatronics. Students studying robotics are therefore exposed to mechatronics know-how — think sensor and signal technology or mechanical engineering — and will be more than capable of assuming a role in this field.

4. Software Engineering

Robotics software engineers are required to develop new robotics software and debug existing ones.

Programming for robotics is different from programming for computers; robotics software engineers require a firm understanding of electrical hardware and subjects like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision. They are expected to have experience in C++ and Python, and be familiar with robotics middleware such as the Robot Operating System (ROS) and the Gazebo Simulator.

How do I get started?

If you’re a pre-university student, you should start getting yourself up to speed in mathematics and physics. A strong foundation in these subjects will help you greatly before you dive into engineering and programming at the university level.

While Robotics is still a fairly niche sector, you can consider the newly launched Bachelor of Engineering in Robotics Systems at SIT if you’re certain that robotics is what you want to pursue.

Designed in consultation with key industry partners such as the National Robotics Programme (NRP) and EDB, the degree is structured on an applied learning and project-based pedagogy that includes a 12-month Integrated Work-Study Programme, ensuring that you’ll get all the hands-on practice you’ll need. The programme will commence in September 2021, and SIT’s admissions exercise has already started.  You can also check out the university’s Virtual Open House happening on 16, 17, 23 and 24 January 2021.

Digital Senior looks forward to seeing how robots will further integrate with society, and the part that you may play in achieving this reality. If you do become a robotics student, our readers (and our team) will love to hear about your learning journey. Drop us a comment or email: our inboxes are always open! (;

 

 

[i] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/from-robot-cleaners-to-remote-physiotherapy-sessions-embracing-tech-in-covid-19-fight
[ii] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/rie-2020-plan-research-development-technology-food-security-11385008
[iii] https://www.sginnovate.com/power-x-robotics

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