Careers for robotics engineers

It's your opportunity to shape the future - take it!

It is already clear today that robots will become established in all areas of life and work, and will noticeably change the quality of our private and professional lives. For a number of years, growth rates in the robotics industry have been reaching double digits. The end of this trajectory is not in sight – especially on account of the rapid progress being made in the field of artificial intelligence.

Robotics engineers desperately wanted

Computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering – interdisciplinarity not only characterises robotics training, but also the professional environment entered into afterwards. The main focus, however, is on software skills. This includes, for example, machine learning and seeing. Although there is often talk of robotics 'specialists', robotics engineers are in fact generalists in the true sense, with a broad technical background and well developed interdisciplinary skills.

Even today, companies are already desperately looking for robotics engineers and experienced personnel to develop and integrate applied and intelligent robotic systems. This is the demand THWS aims to meet with its own, unique bachelor’s degree programme in robotics, which has been newly conceptualised from the ground up. This robotics programme is unique in Germany: No other undergraduate programme is so comprehensively focused on the software engineering aspects of robotics. It can be assumed that robotics engineers have the same potential for a successful career in robotics as computer scientists have in computer science.

Guaranteed employment and great earning potential

The diversity of robotic systems and their innumerable applications offer budding robotics engineers a multitude of employment prospects. Even today, the demand for trained robotics engineers exceeds labour market supply. It can be expected that, with the rising deployment of robots, demand will continue to outstrip supply. In the medium and long term, robotics therefore offers guaranteed employment with competitive remuneration in a secure professional field.

In the air, on land and under water

Depending on where robots are to be deployed, robotics engineers focus on diverse fields of practical application.

A range of applications exist for outdoor deployment, which are collectively termed field robotics: mining operations using autonomous trucks, agricultural robots that sow, fertilise and harvest crops, robots for mapping buildings and cities from the air, and many more.

Autonomous mobile robots are often deployed for tasks too dangerous for humans, or which must be performed in inaccessible areas: these include remedial work in contaminated terrain or under water, e.g. when monitoring coral reefs, or as part of underwater archaeology. It is the task of robotics engineers to enable robots to adapt to changes in their operating environment, to learn from experience, and to perform complex tasks in unfamiliar surroundings. To achieve this, robotics engineers also use technology-based solutions for identifying objects and individuals, such as sensors, imaging systems and radar.

Service robots as social companions

Service robots perform partially or fully automated services for people, facilities or companies. Here, the aim is to program interactive components that control the robot's gestures, language or user dialogue. In the provision of care services in particular, robots are increasingly being used as social companions, with a focus on human-machine interaction: Robots support care professionals with psychosocial care, or serve to entertain and pass the time for residents and patients. In addition, social assistance robots support patients and care recipients with carrying out body movements and everyday activities, for example in the form of intelligent prostheses, gripping devices or exoskeletons.

Artificial intelligence - the path to self-learning robots

Robotics engineers design and build robots and cognitive systems. In addition to interdisciplinary skills, an ability to think outside the box is essential. In the past, the use of robots was restricted to particularly simple, repetitive tasks with fixed boundary conditions. Such tasks are found primarily in industrial mass production, such as the manufacture of automobiles and electronic components.

Tasks with changing, unpredictable boundary conditions, on the other hand, were considered difficult to automate and unsuitable for the use of robots. Due to advances in IT and the associated development of 'intelligent robots', this dogma lost its currency. This refers to robots that perceive their environment through sensors and can react flexibly to changes. Linkages with the field of artificial intelligence (AI) in particular have great potential in this context. With the help of AI, it is already possible now to identify objects and to grasp them, whatever their position. In the area of service robotics, AI can be used to develop human behaviour patterns and improve robot-human interaction.

'Robots as co-workers'

A lot is happening in industrial robotics, too. For years, the trend has been shifting from mass production to mass specialisation. This requires smart robots equipped with sensors such as cameras, and with intelligent software. The application of machine learning plays a major role in this context. Since these robots have to be constantly reprogrammed, their systems must be easy to operate. This means that a worker should be able to programme the application, for example using teaching pendants or augmented reality.

In the field of human-robot collaboration (HRC), workers and robots jointly manufacture or assemble a product. In this collaboration, each contributes their strengths: The worker, for example, contributes fine motor skills and tactile perception or sensory-cognitive tasks, while the robot provides ergonomic support or carries out quality control using a camera. Collaboration on an equal footing, as it exists between humans, is the goal for the future – in short: 'Robots as co-workers'. This level of cooperation requires mutual trust and understanding.

Typical areas of application for robotics are the automotive, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, mechanical and vehicle engineering, electronics manufacturing, metal processing, medical technology and the aerospace industry.

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