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What is it like to be on a robotics team?

At this moment I am interested in robotics, so I was just wondering what is going to happen as someone joins a robotics team at their high school or college. In my high school, we do not have a robotics team, but we do have the technology student association. I wanted to know what there is to look forward to once I get to college. #robotics #teamwork #robotics-engineer #career #engineering

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Kazi’s Answer

I can share with you my experience of being part of a robotics team in my Senior year in University of Maryland in 1994. The was part of a team building a Robot which was being designed to be able to navigate autonomously in a typical environment and could respond to verbal commands and adjust course accordingly. As you can imagine, to make a project like this become a reality multiple teams are needed. The project is divided up into many parts or subset and each teams tackle one of the tasks and then the teams come together to assemble the whole project. Every semester new students and teams are formed and they improve upon the work of the students from prior semesters.

I was part of a team that designed just the speech recognition system. We designed a computer program to recognize digits 0 through 9 from a variety of speaker. For a fully functional robot the speech recognition system would have to be expanded to not only recognize digits but many more words and complex sentences. However, in one semester we built a voice recognition system that could only recognize digits but the template was there for students in the next semester to enhance the code to expand it's capabilities.

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Mike’s Answer

Hello Gloria,

Having been a mentor on my local High School's FIRST Robotics Team, I can tell you that it is truly an amazing way to get experience in a number of different areas. These areas are certainly transferable to post graduation in just about any career field. Plus you can try each sub-team and find the one you like the most, and then perhaps chose that as a future career path. And as you said, your school only has a TSA, but you may still be able to join a different FIRST Robotics team elsewhere, or at least attend their competitions and "lend a hand" to get experience. It is a lot of fun!

A typical robotics team that competes will have a number of sub-teams. These include: Robot-side, which includes Design, Mechanical, Electrical and Programming. Logistics-side, which includes Business Communication, Audio/Visual, Outreach, and Strategy. If you search the web for this info, you can find many more details on what each sub-team's function is.

Colleges do not compete in the FIRST Robotics Competitions. You could become a mentor in a local team nonetheless. Most undergraduate colleges and universities, as well as community colleges, offer classes in robotics or make use of robotic technologies in their curriculum. When I was attending college, I did not have such opportunities (as it was a long time ago), but I managed to find my way by relying heavily on my guidance counselor's insight and wisdom, and thankfully he pointed me in the right direction, and to this day I still use those skill sets at my job.

Good luck with your endeavors!


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Simon’s Answer

Hi Gloria,

mom familiar with TSA (I’m a volunteer judge). I’m surprised that you couldn’t pull a robotics team together through TSA. There was a lot of interest in robotics generally. As far as college goes there are science projects/teams at the college level also. There are many national competitions for engineering students. Keep in mind that robotics (getting a machine to do something) is basically a controls class, and lots of industries use controllers. Chemical plants control processes and cars and planes use programs to control their engines as well as travel. A big controls area is in safety systems. Keep you mind open to other industries besides the robotic industry. Although I’m not a programmer, I have programmed many processes in my career from water softeners and deionizing units to temperature and batch controls. It gives one great satisfaction getting a machine to perform s task automatically. Although many of the controls engineers that worked with me were chemical engineers, you can approach programming from several directions (electrical and even mechanical). Make sure your college has a controls program if possible. There are also many controls manufacturers that have schools and classes on programming. I wish you all the best on your career.

Simon recommends the following next steps:

Pick a school that has programming courses
Get on a college level robotics or engineering team.
Talk to a counselor or controls engineeer about a controls/robotic career.
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