You’d be surprised to know how much of our daily life is touched by mechatronics
It never fails to give me goose-bumps. When the program I’ve written successfully gets the car to traverse through a maze by simply sensing light, for example, it’s priceless.
Nothing can be compared to the joy I feel when my program works without any bugs.
It’s at moments like these I know I have found my calling.
I’m about to start my fourth year in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology. The hands-on curriculum here offers me a taste of what it will be like to work on more advanced projects in coming years. I cannot wait.
My course is a mix of mechanical, electronical and computer science engineering. We are taught to incorporate elements from all the different engineering sciences and combine them to create programmable mechanical robots that have information being transmitted through wires connecting each part.
Transformers and Iron Man are a dream for robotics engineers. If you ask a robotics engineer why they chose this field, they’d probably say they want to build an Iron Man suit or a Transformer. These two shows/toy lines had a real influence on me as a child, and fascinated me so much that I looked into robotics as a career.
When I researched mechatronics engineering, I was amazed by its uses in everyday life. From something as simple as just turning on your TV or heating your food in the microwave, to something as complicated as writing software for the updates or actually building a robot, mechatronics is everywhere.
For example, the simple push of a button on the remote causes the sensor in the TV to detect that action and turn the TV on for you. The remote carries a chip which has programming codes written on it, that gets it to turn the TV on.
We don’t realise it but we use something created by mechatronics engineers every day. This really opened my eyes to what robotics was truly about. Robots for household chores, for example? Bring it on! At the moment though, I’m reading up on search and rescue robots. You’ve probably already heard of robots that security forces use to defuse bombs and dispose of them safely, but they can also be used effectively in natural disasters like a tornado or tsunami. A prototype has been created that is being tested to withstand all conditions, inclines and terrains, in order to be used as a search and rescue robot for civilians in times of a disastrous event. They can be sent in to scope out the area, to find survivors or even to defuse the situation. These bots can be as big and as small as you can think, they can look humanoid or like a car.
Robots are also used in the defence, whether as search and rescue bots or as spy vehicles.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) is a spectacular achievement for mankind as we can safely gather Intel without any injuries.
And of course robots are now taking us out of this world.
Robots such as the Mars Rover are remarkable feats. The Mars Rover had to be correct to the nearest millimetre in order for it to land on Mars. Due to this exceptional feat, we are now able to discover new things on a different planet without having to worry about taking humans there.
These achievements show an increase in the robotic industry and the technological world in the near future.
Soon there will be robotic houses. These will vacuum themselves, give you recipes, remind you of items in your fridge about to go bad and what needs to be restocked in your pantry. (Actually, fridges with these functionalities already exist).
Amidst the wonders that I am exposed to on a daily basis at uni, one thing that saddens me is that girls are under-represented in STEM, an education grouping of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Women are certainly capable of being a force in these fields, and many are currently doing so. But it remains a predominantly male dominated field and therefore we need to make our mark. Women can bring in new and creative perspectives to scientific innovation. All it takes is perseverance, persistence and determination.
STEM is an amazing way to go.