Robotics: Study & make a career!
Programmes: Master’s in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence; M.Tech in Robotics
Eligibility: B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering, Electronics & Communication Engineering or Computer Science Engineering
Best institutes: IIIT Hyderabad, Osmania University, University of Hyderabad, MS University
Robotics Companies: Hi-Tech Robotics Systemz, Precision Automation Robotics India Limited (PARI), ABB, Kuka Robotics, DiFACTO Robotics and Automation
Photos: Rohit Gautam
(Image) IIT DELHI's anual Open House: Robotics spans through Mechanical Engineering, Electronics, Embeded Systems, Computer Science and even Cognitive Science
A decade or two back, the idea of a robot cleaning your house or car, was dismissed as mere fantasy. Not any more. Today, countries like the USA, European countries, Japan and Australia are engaged in robotics research and development. “Suffering from lack of availability of suitable manpower, there’s a dire need for robots which will do routine activities. This need drives people in these countries to demand cheaper and versatile robots in the near future,” explains Dr MK Soni, Executive Director and Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Manav Rachna International University, Faridabad.
How robots help
Robotics, a highly relevant and upcoming discipline will be the in thing in almost every field of activity right from domestic chores, handling dangerous and hazardous situations, relieving mankind of repetitive and tiring activities and defence to highly accurate and competitive manufacturing. Many industries also use robots in their manufacturing facilities and research. For instance, robots are used in areas like high heat welding and continuous handling of heavy loads. What’s more they can function in inhospitable working conditions.
In the next few years, robotic assistance will become reality in human life
A vast interdisciplinary field
Robotics span through mechanical engineering, electronics and embedded systems, computer science and even cognitive science. It involves innovative mechanism design with a combination of motors providing for novel locomotion behaviour, sensors and interfaces for information gathering and algorithms that aptly actuate the motors based on the interpretation of sensors. Within the robotics industry, positions are available in different stages of the engineering process. Some engineers are responsible for planning how robotics might address a problem, and make the process more efficient. Others employ existing engineering principles in the development of robots. Yet, this is the international picture.
Developments in India
In India, Department of Science & Technology is promoting research in this frontier and emerging areas under the aegis of Science & Engineering Research Council (SERC). Composed of eminent scientists, professionals and technologists from various universities, national labs & industries, SERC is assisted by Programme Advisory Committees (PACs) in different disciplines. “Research in the area of Robotics and Automation is in a high mood, mainly, with the starting up of manufacturing facilities by many multinational auto companies, and emergence of many R&D activities carried out by foreign establishments in India,” shares Dr SK Saha, Naren Gupta Chair Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Delhi.
Training options in India
“A few universities offer a degree focused specifically on the robotics engineering discipline. It is highly interdisciplinary in nature. There are several other options to enter this field,” informs Rohit Moudgil, Assistant Professor Gulzar Group of Institutions, Punjab. Robotics education at the undergraduate level is limited in India as of now. However, a few institutes have M.Tech and MS programmes that offer specialization in robotics. Artificial Intelligence, defined as the ability of an artificial mechanism to exhibit intelligent behaviour, is closely associated with robotics. Many institutes offer Master’s in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. “In India, I still feel that it is immature to offer a specialised B.Tech in Robotics when many of our engineering colleges do not even have good/qualified faculty to teach traditional subjects like Theory of Machines & Control,” observes Professor Saha.
INSTITUTES OFFERING ROBOTICS
International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad: Master’s programme in Computer Science with specialization in Robotics
The University of Hyderabad: M.Tech in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
University College of Engineering under Osmania University, Hyderabad: ME/M.Tech in Automation and Robotics.
M.S. University, Baroda: Master’s programme with specialization in Automation Control and Robotics
The Institute of Technology under the Banaras Hindu University: M.Tech in Production Engineering/Industrial Management Engineering with Robotics and Automation as electives
The Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani: ME in Computer Science with robotics as a subject
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning Prasanthi Nilayam: M.Tech Computer Science with specialization in artificial intelligence
PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore: M.Tech Mechanical with robotics as an elective subject
SRM institute of Science and Technology, Kancheepuram: M.Tech Robotics
JOB ROLE OF A ROBOTICS ENGINEER
Research work on robotics applications in various fields
Assist engineers in the design and application of robot systems
Inspect electronic components involved in production of robot
Test robots for defects after assembly
Install robots or robot systems where required
Install robot safety systems
Provide assistance to users, including fine robots
Programme robot for series of moves manually or by electronic instructions to a microprocessor or by setting up kinetic suits
Modify computer-controlled motion of robots
Trouble shoot to determine robot malfunctions, using knowledge of microprocessors, programmable controllers, electronics, circuit analysis, mechanics, hydraulics, and pneumatics
Disassemble robots and/or peripheral equipment like circuit boards, sensors, controllers, encoders, servomotors, servo valves, or automatic lubrication systems
At the UG level
So what should a student keen on robotics take up at the UG level? Decision should be interest-based. Do you want to be mechanically involved, take up new problems and make codes that can solve them or become an electrical engineer to create additional tools required by the robot? A B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering, Electronics or Computer Science, are ideal choices as they help one develop strong fundamentals. “Eventually specialised degrees will be required. But for now, mechanical, electronic and computer engineers can be trained. A slight reorientation of existing disciplines may be required so that the mechanical engineers do not face a handicap in electronics, and so on,” adds Dr Soni. Another option is to go for a B.Tech in Mechatronics as it falls closest to robotics.
Career prospects in India
Development in robotics has opened up job avenues, to some extent. Piyoosh Mukhija, currently employed with Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz, completed his MS in Computer Science with a specialization in Robotics at IIIT, Hyderabad. After a BE in Electronics & Communication, he joined Larsen & Toubro Infotech. “After working for four years and taking up projects based on robotics, I realised my interest in the field,” he says. “My profile wasn’t that great to get into a leading university abroad, I chose to study in India. It was a sensible choice and I am satisfied,” adds Piyoosh. Most people who specialize in robotics take up jobs, where automation is used as robotics technology is based on mechanical linkages, sensor-actuator integrations, software and computer vision.
Recruiters in India
Indian robotic firms include Precision Automation Robotics India Limited (PARI), ABB, Kuka Robotics and DiFACTO Robotics and Automation. Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has a whole arsenal of robots to tackle various situations and problems. In fact, it has institutes dedicated to building intelligent systems and robots, like the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Established in 1986, DRDO’s initial research focus was on the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, and Control systems.
Over the next decade, robotic assistance will become a reality in commercial space, domestic chores, security, transportation, distribution, android systems and most other aspects of human life. The scope is abundant but training options are limited, as robotics education is in nascent stages in India. Being a multidisciplinary arena, it exists as a specialization at the Master’s Level along with more defined disciplines like Mechanical Engineering, Electronics & Communication or Computer Science. However, one has to wait and watch for an independent offering from the premier institutions of the country. Till then, the enthusiasts of robotics specialization will have to do with the options available outside India.