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Robotics Engineer Interview for HS students

Updated: May 13, 2023

Each year, I receive numerous emails from high school students in engineering classes like Project Lead The Way. I have figured out that there must be an assignment on careers where they need to interview someone in a field they want to pursue. They look up robotics engineer and get me!

It got to the point where I was getting inundated with so many requests that I had to make a template of common answers. I am sharing it here for all those emails from HS kids that I see coming in my future. 🥰🤪🤣 #NoireSTEMinist #MySTEMIsForTheStreets

Please describe your engineering field.

I am an electrical engineer with a concentration in robotics and controls. Since my area overlaps so much with mechanical engineering, computer engineering and computer science, some call me a robotics engineer.

What is your current job title?

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Lawrence Giacoletto Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Advisor for the Multidisciplinary Minor in Robotics, Co-Director of the Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity Program (ROSE-BUD).

Please describe your particular job and duties

I teach several courses in design, controls, robotics and circuits. I also mentor and advise women, and historically minoritized and marginalized students pursuing degrees and minors in robotics, electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, and software engineering. I advise students conducting research on topics related to mobile robotics, human-robot interaction and human-robot interfaces. I do service and outreach to adults and children on engineering, robotics and diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). I also do service to my profession by reviewing papers, writing grants, attending conferences and moderating sessions.

Tell me what you do with robotics?

My area of research is human-robot interaction (HRI) which means that I try to understand, design, and evaluate robotics systems for use by or with humans (Goodrich, 2017). The goal is to develop principles to allow for natural and effective communication and collaboration between humans and robots. In particular I look at designing interfaces for controlling robots remotely in order to achieve some mission or task. The image on the left is a picture of the graphical user interface for robot communication which is called a human-robot interface. I am also an open-source hardware trailblazer fellow so I design open-source robots, #RoboticsForTheStreets, to enable academics, teachers, students, and makers to design, modify, program robots for their use including service, teachin and research (see link).

What is your average work schedule?

I work on campus about 25 hours per week teaching classes, meeting with students, doing research and attending meetings. I work off campus about 25 hours per week writing papers, writing grants, preparing for class and doing service for my profession and community. It really depends on my meeting and class schedule. It is a very flexible schedule that changes with my responsibilities. Although, most professors only work on a 9 or 10 month contract with their university, they do not have summers off. They spend the summers catching up on research projects, advising students, writing papers, writing grants. They also attend conferences to present their work, connect with collaborators and find mentors.

Describe your educational background.

Hume-Fogg Academic High School, Nashville, TN, 1988, Spelman College, BS, Mathematics, 1992, Georgia Teach, BSEE, 1993, Wayne State, MSEE, 1996, Vanderbilt, PHD, EE, 2003.

If you had it to do over, would you do anything differently?

No, I would not because it has always been my passion to be an engineer and an educator and that is what I love to do. My desire is to work to bring more diversity to this profession. One thing I may have done differently was learn more about the profession before I got to college or started working. Also, I would have applied for more scholarships so I did not have to work so many jobs while in college or student loan debt after I graduated.

What advice would you give to me as someone interested in pursuing a career path similar to yours?

I highly encourage students to continue to be creative, curious, innovative, study and learn as much math, science and coding as possible. Try to take honors and advanced placement calculus and physics course in high school. Take online courses on these topics or check out websites like, Khan Academy, EdX, Coursera or MOOC. Join programs to help you learn more about science and engineering like Project Lead The Way, VEX, Botball, FIRST Robotics, etc.

My Robotics Engineer Barbie #ILookLikeAnEngineer

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