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Robotics has not only become an integral part of manufacturing processes but is also now sneaking into our homes. Everyone has seen the iRobot Roomba, the vacuum cleaning robot that moves around the room sucking any dirt in its path. You may have even seen demonstrations of robot lawn mowers, such as the Robotics RoboMower. The prices really aren’t that high. About $400 will take care of your dirty floor and another $1,700 will take care of your overgrown lawn. Who would have thought that the dirty floor and overgrown lawn would be the “killer” applications for robotics in the home? The sci-fi shows have led us to believe that robotic servants, dogs, or children would have been the first instances of home robots.

What jobs involve robotics? Well, there’s mechanical design; there’s electrical design; there’s electronics design; there’s software design; and then there’s AI (Artificial Intelligence). All of this robot research, design and development is performed by engineers, both hardware and software types. What about engineering technicians? Well, someone has to build, test and maintain these robots during the development, manufacturing and lifetime phases of these robots and that’s the job of the electri-cal, electronics, computer and mechanical engi-neering technicians.

What kind of salaries are we talking about? According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of electrical and computer engineers is about $90,000, and the salary for engineering technicians is about $53,000. Note these are median salaries for experienced engineers and technicians.

How do I get into robotics? Well, right here at Fayetteville Technical Community College. The Electronics Engineering Technology Program at FTCC has evolved from a typical electronics program into one that covers many of the different aspects of robotics. There are courses in the C, C#, assembly and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) programming languages, all of which can be used to program a robot. There are courses in microprocessors and PLCs, which serve as the brain of a robot. There is a course in control theory, which covers feedback and motor control. You have to make sure the robot has all the right moves. There’s a course in AI, which covers finite state machines, fuzzy logic, neural networks and genetic algorithms.

So what about robots? Well, we have robotic arms and those wonderful Robotis Bioloid Robots to apply all this knowledge in the above courses. We also have the PLCs and have used the Microchip PICs to make our own versions.

In addition to our Electronics Engineering Technology Program, we are currently working to get a Pre-Engineering Program (Associate of Science) at FTCC. With this program, you would be able to get the first two years of an engineering degree at FTCC and then finish with a bachelor’s of engineering degree at the university of your choice.

Call me (Beymer Bevill, FTCC Department Chair) at 678-8216 to schedule a tour of the facilities and discuss what opportunities await you in the exciting field of robotics and other electronics-related areas. I’ll be waiting for your call.

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