Robotics The Abyss of TechnologyMarch 7, 2022 2022-06-05 12:53
Robotics The Abyss of Technology
Robotics The Abyss of Technology
Robotics has already been around for some time. The knowledge itself is indeed way behind what we see in movies such as the Star Wars and the Terminator franchise, but it is only fair to note that we humans have come a long way since the early days. We have moved forward from the days of creating semi-automated traps and mechanical machines that used to perform certain tasks under certain circumstances (or when put under a certain condition), to a time of automated research machines that are sent to other planets or even deep inside the galaxy to show us and help us discover what is beyond our physical reach – at least for the time being.
But that’s not even it yet! What this has led us to is tons of way more exciting things and applications which people can carry out as a profession or simply as a hobby. Robotics is also no longer just for the sophisticated scientific adult who has spent countless hours in libraries and behind computers in order to create a simple four-wheel moving object but rather, it is now within the reach of children as young as 5 and 7 years old.
Projects such as fire fighting robots and line followers have been around for over a decade already. There are now local, national, and even international competitions all around the globe which adds even more to the excitement. In our article “5 Benefits of Robotics For Kids”, we have discussed how robotics helps your child with their personal development as well as directing them towards one of them ost versatile and in-demand careers for their future; so if you are interested in knowing about that, we highly recommend you to head over to that article and give it a quick read as well.
Robotics has actually managed to make its way into so many different aspects of our lives. From simple garage doors with remote controllers to sophisticated military robots such as the Boston Dynamics Spot, which is essentially a dog robot, the field of robotics has been becoming more and more integrated with human activities. There are even humanoids coming to the market such as the Ameca of the Engineered Arts Ltd and the Robotic Avatar and Ambassador of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (AKA ASME). This means that we are so much closer to the future of automated ecosystems than what we believe; or want to believe anyway!
In this article, we are going to tackle some of the basic stuff about Robotics that you will need to know to have a say when it comes to robotics at the family dinner or with that co-worker who happens to think they are smarter than the others!
So What Exactly Is Robotics?
Before moving up any further, we first need to know what exactly Robotics is. While the answer to this question may seem quite controversial, it actually is not! Builtin.com defines robotics engineering as “the intersection of science, engineering, and technology that produces machines, called robots, that substitute for (or replicate) human actions”. This is by far the most complete and inclusive definition. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of The USA (AKA NASA) tends to provide a much simpler definition: “Robotics is the study of robots. Robots are machines that can be used to do jobs. Some robots can do work by themselves. Other robots must always have a person telling them what to do”.
Generally speaking, robotics is where the 3 main engineering majors collide. These are Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Engineering.
Designing and running a robot requires professionals from all three majors to tightly work together and bear the responsibility for each of their corresponding areas. It is apparent that simple projects such as line followers and firefighter robots do not require such fancy teams but the process of building any of the aforementioned would still require the
In our article “Engineering, The Realm of Creators”, we have already discussed what engineering is in general and what the major areas of engineering so be sure to check that one as well if you are interested in the matter. In this next section, we are going to take a look at what each of the electrical, mechanical, and computer engineers do when working in the field of robotics.
Electrical engineers are responsible for more than just our lights and TVs. They are the beating heart of any electrical system out there, which at this point is pretty much everything! Take a look around yourself and you will hardly find a tool or device that does not run on electricity. But there is more to this field of engineering than you think!
When it comes to robotics, the electrical engineer is responsible for designing the robot’s electric and electronic features and systems. They are to calculate how much power each component and action will require and how the overall power of the system should be distributed in order to achieve maximum efficiency.
They have to study and design the PCB boards (the green electronic board with capacitors and resistors) of the project and then assemble everything and basically breathe life into their robot.
They are also responsible for determining, selecting, and even designing all the necessary sensors that the robot requires in order to receive the correct data for its intended purpose. These may be simple sensors such as Lidar or thermal sensors for more common projects or, much more sophisticated ones that would require a separate design team of their own.
All that is pretty much common sense. What you might have not known is the fact that electrical engineers are also in charge of designing the control systems of the robots!
One of the main areas of expertise when it comes to electrical engineering is system control! They are responsible for designing and assembling a robust and efficient control system in order for the robot to perform its tasks smoothly and accurately. This is known to be one of the hardest parts of designing a robotic machine.
Generally speaking, a control system consists of input data, the control loop, and output data. The input data is often received by the sensors. There are however many instances in which the input data of one part of the control system is the output data of another.
the control loop is where the decision-making process happens. In this section, the central processing unit of the section or the robot makes the decision of what tasks must be performed by the system and sends the commands as output data to the corresponding section or unit. All this happens in a fraction of a second!
The mechanical engineers are responsible for designing the mechanical aspects of the robot. They first have to create a 3D design of the chassis and other components including the bearing, joints and joint mechanism making sure that everything will fit together, run smoothly when working as a group, and be able to withstand the foreseen loads and forces exerted on them.
They will also have to select the most appropriate material for their designs and put together the carcass of the robot. Depending on the purpose of the robot, they will be taking care of the stability studies as well as the forces the robot will be applying on other objects.
Working as a team member in a robotics project, the mechanical engineer must also make sure that his designs are not only mechanically optimum but also pleasing. After all, nobody wants to have an ugly robot around!
Another area of their work includes heat transfer study and optimization. This may be a negligible factor in smaller more simple robots but when it comes to industrial robots, for example, overheating can turn into a huge issue. HEat disposal and thermodynamics are also the expertise of mechanical engineers. They will have to first make sure their designs produce as little heat as possible, how the heat is going to be disposed and what measures should be taken in order for the robot to move towards overheating!
Once everything is designed and assembled, it’s now time to put everything together. The computer engineers turn all the commands and everything the electrical engineer has designed in terms of control into code which is basically the language of computers. You can read more about coding in our article “Coding, What It Is and What It Isn’t“.
You may say to yourself “hey, this guy just translates everything into machine language, no big deal!” which is utterly inaccurate! let’s see why.
The computer engineer must design the flow required for the control systems to work as intended and then code everything in the shortest most efficient way. The people in charge of this task must make sure their final result matches the initial intentions of the designers and that the system runs smoothly with no bugs, lacks, or buffering.
There are also so many times when the robot must be connected within a network and work either alongside other robots or other systems. This is also another area where the computer engineers come into play. They will have to use their networking skills and knowledge in order to keep everything functional in the loop!
History of Robotics: Not What You Think!
Automation & Robotics; Leonardo Da Vinci!
The truth is that we are not the first generation who is extremely fascinated with the art of robotics and neither were our fathers or their fathers. Humans have been into automated gear and processes. This traces back to the time of the ancient Egyptian and the Dynasty era of China where new automatic traps were created for treasuries and tombs. The earliest robotic design apparently dates to 3000 BC in Egypt. It was a water clock equipped with human figures to ring the hour bells. Some of these are still functional today and even take lives during archeological exploits. What we know as a robotic however is far newer of course.
Some of the most iconic traces of robotic designs and projects date back to the 1840s, to the time of the all-time extraordinaire, Leonardo Da Vinci! There is no doubt that other scientists have also made great endeavors in the field of robotics but Da Vinci has gained more solid fame and for good reasons. For example, the Italo-Spanish clockmaker Giovanni Torriani had managed to create a doll-shaped robot that was able to fetch the emperor’s morning bread.
Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the first people to come up with automated devices and set the grounds of what we know as robotics today. Da Vinci was one of the pioneer minds who tried to bring his mechanical designs to life by adding automating elements to them.
Da Vinci’s most famous work is probably the humanoid robot known as the “The Mechanical Knight”. While there are sketches, designs, and notes available on this piece of work, there is not much concrete evidence out there that he has actually put this design into practice and there are still arguments on the matter among the historians. Some of his other works include “The Self-Propelled Cart” and “The Mechanical Lion”. Da Vinci is also known to have designed a hydraulically powered robot that could be mechanically programmed to ring a bell.
While Leonardo Da Vinci’s works do not strictly satisfy the three rules of robotics we established earlier, it is still fair to consider them robots. It is true that non of the above-mentioned projects were able to sense their surroundings in any way whatsoever, but still, they managed to execute pre-programmed tasks which are good enough for his time. Scientists are still learning new things about and from his designs!
Modern History of Robotics
The word robot actually has a Czech root meaning forced labor or slave. It first appeared in Rossum’s Universal Robots, a play by Karel Capek. The play narrated the story of humanoids made of chemical materials which ended up attacking the human race, much like the sci-fi franchise, The Terminator.
Following the same footsteps, a Russian sci-fi writer Issac Asimov laid the ground for the three main laws of robotics in 1941 in his short story Runaround. These are as follows:
A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The first modern industrial robot as we know was not created until the 1950s. George C. Devol was the first person to ever create a robot that satisfied all three elements of sensing, decision making, and executing which were stated previously. This was later put into use in 1961 in the General Motors assembly line in New Jersey.
With the advancement of technology and science in each of the engineering fields, robots and automated machines started to get new forms. The development of such robotic projects soon found its way in varying industries including mass production assembly lines. In the mid-1990s, robotics started to find its way into the military (or at least that’s the date we have been old) and soon became one of the most important gears on the battlefields.
But the technology did not stop there. Today police forces use robots for a wide variety of applications such as neutralizing bombs, firefighters use them to extinguish fires, rescue teams use them to locate victims, and industries take advantage of such technology in their assembly lines.
Robots have also made their way into storage warehouses as well as pharmacies and drugstores. Today there’s pretty much a robotic project for anything!
Robotics As A Future Career
Taking a simple look around, anybody would know where the world is headed to advancements. As we established at the beginning of this article, the world has always been fascinated with automation, with things carrying out our tasks for us on their own!
Robotics is currently being offered as both college and university courses as well. With some hands-on experience or a college degree, one can be hired as a robotics technician and work in factories and plants where automated machines are put into work. With more work experience they will also learn how to diagnose and repair certain robots.
With degrees in higher education, the so-called robotics engineer will become an expert in the work. They are most likely to get many better-paid jobs at companies and corporations in which robots are designed and built. They can also become teachers, lecturers, and professors at colleges and universities depending on their level of education and field of expertise.
As mentioned earlier, robotics is a newly emerging field, and the number of job opportunities for experts in the field will be countless in the very near future!
Robotics With GeniusCamp
In GeniusCamp, we offer a wide range of robotics programs for children. These vary from beginner courses and projects such as “The Smart” car project which is based on Arduino programming.
In GeniusCamp we try to provide a safe and enjoyable environment with a proper and well-organized curriculum so they can enjoy a fun experience while learning and experimenting with the course material.
Children will get their hands on a variety of topics including electronics, system controls, working with microcontrollers, and more! They will also get to learn about coding and robot design in their corresponding courses.
Similar to our other courses, these are also taught in one-on-one sessions as well as in semi-private classes. Make sure to take a look at all our robotics courses from the courses section on top of the page.
All-in-all, robotics is a field of work that is not only fun and cool but can also lead to much larger achievements in the future.