The word “robotics” brings many images to mind. Depending on your experiences and frame of mind, a “robot” could be anything from the Roomba robotic vacuum to Lego and VEX robots used in educational facilities across the country to the industrial robots seen in manufacturing plants all over the world. All of the listed items are examples of robots and robotics.
Many people are introduced to robots and robotics through toys and the media. Remember Rosey, the robotic maid in the television cartoon The Jetsons? How about R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies? These and other examples of robotics are often our first introduction to robots. If these example of robots seem a little dated, one doesn’t need to look very far to find more modern examples. The Roomba robotic vacuuming system regularly runs commercials on our television sets. Honda’s ASIMO made headlines in the last few years, stunning viewers with its human-like abilities and demeanor.
While Rosey, R2-D2, Roomba, and ASIMO don’t usually play a vital role in our daily lives and aren’t weaved to complexly into the fabric of our economy, educational robots and robotics take us one step closer. Many middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities take part in robotic competitions every year. Organizations such as Legos, VEX Robotics, and FIRST Robotics distribute robotic building kits to hundreds of teams every year the allow students to learn about, build, and operate robots and robotic systems. The education gained from competing in these robotic events gives students an introduction into the field of robotics and the principles needed to take their interest to the next level.
What is the next level? Industrial robots represent the real-world, practical application of robotics. Industrial robots from manufacturers such as FANUC and Motoman automate industrial tasks such as spot welding, palletizing, arc welding, machine loading, cutting, and many others. The experiences gained from educational robots and a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) based education give students the background and foundation necessary to jump right into the industrial robotics field.