June 22, 2013
June 22, 2013
June 22, 2013
ASEE International Forum
21.20.1 - 21.20.6
Educating the Global Robotics EngineerRobotics Engineering as a distinct discipline is an idea whose time has come. Traditionally,engineers working in the robotics industry have been mostly trained in a single science orengineering discipline, such as computer science (CS), electrical and computer engineering(ECE), or mechanical engineering (ME). However, as an inherently multidisciplinary activity, nosingle discipline provides the breadth demanded by robotics in the future. Realizing this,universities are now starting to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in robotics. World-wide, there are now approximately 10 undergraduate programs and an equal number of graduateprograms in robotics. Note that the intellectual basis for Robotics Engineering is integration – itis fundamentally a systems engineering major that is grounded in CS, ECE, and ME. As such, itis well-positioned to educate the “entrepreneurial/enterprising engineer” of the 21st century, theengineer who 1) knows everything, 2) can do anything, 3) collaborates, and 4) innovates.The entrepreneurial/enterprising engineer needs a global perspective: 1) able to access globalinformation sources, 2) perform in a global context, 3) collaborate with anyone anywhere, and 4)take innovative solutions to the world economy. The globalization of robotics brings severalimplications for robotics engineers. We list a few here. Manufacturing: Robots in manufacturing enables the migration of production away from low-wage locations to low-cost-to-move-materials-locations. Capabilities and cost are the big drivers, dominated by workforce availability (including engineers) and the costs of obtaining and transporting raw materials, energy, and transport to the consumer or other end-user. Consequently, one can expect manufacturing to locate nearer consumers and reduced off-shoring. Defense: Drones and other autonomous vehicles extend military presence to wherever they can be fielded, not restricted to where personnel can be deployed. Persistent tracking and privacy implications, national sovereignty, human-in-the-loop (or not!), and responsibility for inadvertent causalities are just a few of the issues raised. Telepresence: Telepresence robots are a growing market, allowing people to "be" anywhere anytime. Schoolchildren who are unable to physically attend classes due to illness may now attend virtually. Likewise, doctors may be able to virtually meet with patients who cannot travel to their offices. Surgical robots separate surgeon from patient, although the surgeon remains in the operating room. Future surgeons will operate from anywhere in the world, not necessarily the operating room or hospital.Thus, the globalization of robotics carries many potentially disruptive societal impacts.Destruction of existing jobs / creation of new jobs. Enhanced security / reduced individualliberty. Longer lifespan / quality of life. Telepresence / never quite being present. Because of thedisruptive potential of their craft, Robotics Engineers bear a special responsibility to humankind,embodied in a Code of Ethics for Robotics Engineers. We conclude that in addition to a broadand rigorous technological education, they must be well educated in economic, ethical, societal,and global issues.
Gennert, M. A., & Tryggvason, G. (2013, June), Educating the Global Robotics Engineer Paper presented at 2013 ASEE International Forum, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/17225
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