The Robotics Alliance Project at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has all kinds of great info to help guide you down your robotics career path. Here are a few questions and answers from the site’s ongoing webcast with some of its experts (http://www.robotics.nasa.gov/students/faq.php#employmentstudy) that might help you as you contemplate your own robotics future:
Q: What is the best part of robotics?
A: The best part of robotics is getting something to work using the efforts of many different people and skills. In robotics, there's a lot of teamwork. No one person does all the work to make a robot operate. It's always interesting to me to see all the different skills required to make our robots work. NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi
Q: What is the hardest part of building robots?
A: The hardest part of building robots is finding out something didn't work the way you expected. When that happens, we usually have to go back to the drawing board and come up with some other creative way to do what we want. NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi
Q: When did you know this would be your field of choice?
A: Our expert, Linda Kobayashi, knew she wanted to work with robots from a young age-after she watched a public television special about robotics. She then studied a lot of math and science and worked as a high school intern at the NASA Ames Research Center. After finishing a college degree in electrical engineering, she began to work full time on robotics for NASA. Our other expert, Brett Kennedy, became interested in robotics in college and, after getting his Masters degree in mechanical engineering, began working on robotics at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Q: Is robotics a good field for girls to get into? Does NASA have a lot of girls working there?
A: NASA has women working in a wide variety of fields and areas, including robotics. Women doing all kinds of jobs contribute to robotics at NASA. Women engineers, computer programmers, scientists, artists, photographers, public relations specialists, teachers, mechanics, technicians and many others help bring robots from ideas to reality.
Q: Can you describe a day at work? I assume it is not "routine" and repetitive, but can you give me an idea of what might be typical?
A: My workdays are certainly not "routine". While there are certain mundane things we all need to do each day, I think there's a different challenge in robotics to tackle everyday. Being in robotics, it seems there's no shortage of challenges and work to be done. Robotics certainly is an exciting field. One day I could be working on fixing something as simple as a broken connection, whereas on another day I could be in front of my computer designing a circuit. As long as you're always willing to learn and willing to take the challenge each day, I think you will find every day can be exciting and it will never be "routine". - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi
Q: How long does it take for you to build the robots you use in space?
A: In general, the time it takes us to build robots for space is mostly taken up with thinking about what we're going to do. For example, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) started as concepts as long ago as 1998, when we started the design of the rovers that are now FIDO and K9. The actual detailed design of the MERs started about 6-8 months ago, and we've just started to get the pieces made. NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy
Q: What college classes are required for getting a job in robotics?
A: It is different for every individual, but you can be sure that a good understanding of math, science, technology and communication is very necessary.
Q: I am a high school student interested in science, math, and technology. Do you know how I might find out what opportunities NASA has for robotics engineers?
A: Opportunities for robotics engineers at NASA continue to grow as robotic space exploration becomes a priority. As you start to look at colleges, consider a college that has a program in robotics.