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Instruction in robotics is usually part of a master's-level program in mechanical engineering, which is rarely offered entirely through online study. Online courses usually allow students to log on to view recorded class sessions at any time. The few degree programs that do offer online courses generally also require some on-campus courses and laboratory work. Exams must be taken under supervision at an approved site.
Applicants to a master's degree program in mechanical engineering should have a bachelor's degree, preferably in engineering or a related field. The program's required courses may include mathematics for engineering, dynamics and product design. A thesis or research project may be required.
Many programs in mechanical engineering offer an option to concentrate in robotics. Students will be trained in robotics programming and robot design. Other courses may cover computer control for robotics and kinematics.
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Though scarce, online options are available for Master of Science (M.S.) in Mechanical Engineering programs that include robotics training. Students enrolled in these degree programs acquire a broad spectrum of skills and knowledge involving mechanical, electrical, computer and robotics engineering. They may sometimes choose an area of emphasis, such as robotics and kinematics, solid mechanics, energy systems, design methodology and automatic controls.
Information and Requirements
A master's degree in mechanical engineering program typically requires 24-45 credit hours for graduation. Although a large portion of the coursework is offered entirely online, most degree programs require some campus visits to take certain courses or receive hands-on training through laboratory experiences. Proctored exams are also required and must be taken at an approved learning facility. Online materials are usually presented asynchronously through streaming videos of pre-recorded lectures that can be accessed at any time convenient to the student. E-mail, fax and telephone are utilized to interact with instructors and turn in assignments.
The curriculum for an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering consists of core mechanical engineering courses, more specialized courses in an area of emphasis, electives and laboratory requirements. Students also have the option of undertaking a thesis project or replacing it with additional courses.
Robotics and Automation
This course provides an in-depth examination of robotic manipulators, automation concepts and kinematics. Mathematical modeling is applied to robotics to facilitate further understanding of them. Other topics studied include robot programming, trajectory generation, task-oriented dynamics and control, motion planning and human-friendly robot design. The opportunity to simulate robotic automation is also offered through coursework.
Computer Control of Machines and Processes
Students are introduced to theories and applications involving digital computer control functions. The trend of increasing dependence on digital computers in the field of automatic controls is discussed as well as other contemporary issues in the field. Detailed research is conducted in discrete system modeling and analysis, essential computer hardware and software, sequential logic, system identification and intelligent control.
Feedback Control Designs and Techniques
The creation and construction of linear feedback control systems for several different specifications is at the center of attention in this class. Root-locus and frequency response design techniques are examined as effective ways of analyzing and synthesizing control systems. Learners also study combined observer and regulator design, state-space techniques for modeling and proper pole placement.
Robotics engineers, also called automation engineers, design, operate and provide technical support for robots and robotic systems as well as find ways to integrate robotics into a company's industrial processes. O*NET reported that a bachelor's degree is generally necessary in this field, and 10% of robotics engineers have obtained their master's degree (www.online.onetcenter.org). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported employment of 125,460 engineers in 2015 in its 'Engineers, All Other' category, which includes robotics engineers, and a median salary of $95,900 in 2015. Per O*NET, job growth for the 2014-2024 period for this category is projected to be slower than average at only 2% to 4%.
Aspiring robotics engineers who hold a bachelor's degree in an engineering-related field may get the training they need from a hybrid master's degree program in mechanical engineering. Through online courses and in-person training these programs help students learn about the components, programming, testing and applications of robotics.