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Help choosing undergraduate study for robotics-like work

  1. Nov 9, 2008 #1
    I am sort of torn on what I want to go to school (University) for. It is pretty highly torn between Computer Science and Computer Engineering, But I am also interested in Physics.
    I don't know exactly what I want to do after school, but I am really interested in robotics and would love to have a career where I would design, program and build robots. I don't mean industrial robots either. I think I might be interested in a double degree between CompEng and CompSci, but that would come after first year I believe(right?). I imagine it would be easier to apply to CompEng and then and CompSci afterwards. Can anyone tell me what would be a good choice of program to do the job I mentioned above (just an example, I'm not set on just doing that.). Better yet, is there anyone on here that does that sort of robotics work? At this point it seems like I would need a triple degree to be able to study all of that (design, build, program, and make the electronics):smile:.

    Can anyone tell me what the different fields of science/engineering are like?

    Thank you in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2008 #2
  4. Nov 9, 2008 #3
    That's a really cool resource. Thanks.

    This might even help me with my robot arm, nice.
  5. Nov 9, 2008 #4
    I'd just like to throw out that majoring in physics would be a poor preparation for robotics work. I am about done with my undergraduate studies and there's no way I'd be useful in robotics.

    For AI type stuff I think computer science would be more applicable than computer engineering, but I guess doing both is the best choice. :) The reason I say computer science is because it seems to be about those sorts of things, how to do X, is X even possible, etc.
  6. Nov 9, 2008 #5
    At my school Computer Science is the field of choice for AI - but is almost completely devoid of any hardware classes. I think the CS curriculum requires one class on computer architecture - but even half of this course is used to teach assembly language. This also isn't a degree in Engineering, so it generally requires less credits, and you don't get the aspects of economics and project-based design.

    Computer Engineering is specifically geared towards computer hardware and integration of computer hardware with software.

    Electrical Engineering is the field for control systems, electric motors, electric devices such as solenoids, sensor design, etc.

    Mechanical Engineering would cover the mechanical aspects of the robot, such as the actual arms, joints, and run-issues (e.g. generation of heat and how it transfers through the robot, vibration, etc).

    Some schools (not mine) have degrees in Electro-Mechanical Engineering. You might look for a school that offers one of these programs - but know that you won't be getting into any serious work in AI. But if you want to be a one-man show, this is probably the direction to go.

    Good Luck!
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008
  7. Nov 9, 2008 #6

    This is why I was thinking of doubling CE with CS, As its not really the mechanical that I enjoy, but the electronics and AI, so that would cover both, and I would get the engineering degree.
  8. Nov 9, 2008 #7
    Note that there is a difference between Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering - primarily in the electives taken. In Computer Engineering you will be focused on computer hardware - so the little black control box and the software on the chips/drives. You won't get very far into control system design, sensors, power devices, etc. In other words, with dual majors of CS and Computer Engineering you will be capable of designing the brain and how it thinks. The skeleton, muscles, eyes/ears/sense of touch/etc., balance, stability, etc., will be somewhat or completely undeveloped abilities when it comes to your design capabilities.
  9. Nov 10, 2008 #8
    While true, that's not really the point of it all. The point is to know the underlying concepts. If he learned how to make a brain, he can learn how to make eyes, ears, etc. And vice-versa. If he goes to grad school, he'd learn that there. If he got a job after undergrad, the company would teach him what he needed. I don't think it's that big of a deal.
  10. Nov 10, 2008 #9
    I'm certainly not an expert on the issue, so I digress to anyone with actual design experience. But control systems is one of my areas of interest. I think it's important to understand things like inherent stability/instability, damping characteristics, sampling rates, and understanding what the sensors the robots are using to interact with the outside world are actually sensing. I think you can cover this stuff if you choose some of the EE electives as a Computer Engineer, but I would think it's one of the most important aspects of robotics.

    It does sound like he is much more interested in the brain and how the brain thinks, but I think it's important to emphasize that this isn't all that's required for a robot that functions to your desired output.
  11. Nov 10, 2008 #10
    if you want somewhere to start, look up Micromouse competitions. These things have been going on for quite some time. Some schools even offer CSE majors, so you don't have to necessarily double major. A good understanding of control systems is good, but ultimately it falls to how efficiently you can code. So you should be able to get away with a basic understanding of it.

    In most robotic projects, you usually have a group of 3-4 with their own expertise. When I did my senior design project back in college, I had a CE to code and an ME to build the chassis. I did the ckt design. So it depends on what you like to do, or sometimes on what you're better at.
  12. Nov 10, 2008 #11
    I was reading the EE page at UW (here in Canada), and it says that you can specialize in a specific area, such as mechatronics... as well as others. Which reminded me of mechatronics. If I took mechatronics engineering with a double major/minor in CS, would that be a pretty good grounds for robotics. Keep in mind that I don't want to just build robots, that is just something that seems to well encapsulate all of my interests. Any opinions?

    Also I found this on the Co-op sample jobs page:
  13. Nov 10, 2008 #12
    If it piques your interests, then go for it! Double major in EE and CS would be pretty damn impressive, but you should know that both majors have very different responsibilities when it comes to mechatronics. EEs mostly deal with getting the hardware to work, which I often find to be more frustrating than debugging software.

    Why not?? Robots are coooll... :cool:
  14. Nov 10, 2008 #13
    Yeah, I'm actually browsing over the course lists for CE, EE and MechE right now, to see which of them I like the most courses from.
  15. Nov 10, 2008 #14
    Physics (mainly classical mechanics) would be useful if you want to create a control systems responsible of stabilizing robot motion and control, other than that i dont see much use in Physics for robotics. It sounds like you're more interested in machine learning and AI.. which is an entirely different from designing robots from a mechanical engineering point of view (although it is quite useful to learn about inverse kinematics / dynamics of robots if you plan to learn more on AI and robots).

    Here is a good example of robots and AI / machine learning.

    The people in this video are mainly computer scientists and only work on programming the robot's vision sensor capabilities: inferring data from cameras and commanding the robot to move in such a way to pick up objects from a bin. Tons of math goes into this, its definitely a field where you would want atleast a masters or PhD. My suggestion is to go for Electrical Engineering, get acquainted with programming and algorithms; if your EE program offers software electives you should probably take them. If your college offers a robotics course, take that as well and learn as much as you can (learn the basics of robotics: inverse kinematics). As others have mentioned, control systems can be very useful. Right now there are amazing breakthroughs being made with vision controlled robotics and i definitely see it being a key step towards robot-AI development.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  16. Nov 10, 2008 #15
    As we speak!:tongue:

    Yeah, EE seems likely. I don't think I could do it without at least a minor/option in CS. Way too little programming in any of the engineering courses for me.
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