Advice for a student

I'm thinking about changing my field of study (currently computer information systems). I'm a senior this year, and I've had a few jobs
where I sit in front of a computer all day, and each day it's becoming less and less appealing for the long-term.
I'm much more interested in things like robotics research (like in this video where the robot learns how to walk: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum 61).
I will graduate and get my BS in CIS, but should I just stick with that, or should I go back to school? I have many ideas for papers and research, and I'm good with theory and forming hypotheses. If I could get loans or pay my way through school, should I do or at least consider changing directions? I could use the things I've learned since there would surely be some programming involved.
I'm currently lacking in math skills (but could and would work on this), and because of general disinterest in business classes and not doing well in math early on (did not have goals then, so did not care), my GPA is about a 3.0. I'm not sure if I'd rather stay at my current school or go somewhere else. If I went elsewhere, would I be able to get into a decent enough school?
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How about a bit of homework for some of us in this newsgroup? Since you are bored with simply looking at the computer display, why not locate the Robotics software Microsoft has developed for people to learn the basics of robotics programming and control. Then report back to us with your impressions from a novice' point of view?
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wrote:

Thanks for the suggestion. I downloaded and set everything up last night and found some tutorials to go through, so I'll look at those probably Saturday when I hopefully have free time. I think I'll try the simulations, and if I like that maybe I should get a Mindstorms kit off eBay to play around with.
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Are you a senior in college or high school ?
If you get into Robotics Research there's still going to be a LOT of staring at a computer screen, I would think.
However, maybe that's just the case with the particular jobs you've been at. I've been a software guy for over 20 years, and have had both incredibly boring jobs and incredibly exciting ones. Come to think of it, the ones I've had the most fun at are the ones that involved "field work".

Talk to your professors about your concerns about getting into a decent school. What school system are you currently in ?
Sounds like you need to do some more research into the requirements of what you perceive to be a more appealing area. To go and choose another school, course of study, etc., based on "... surely be some programming involved ... " seems to be putting a lot on the line based on a mere assumption. Go find out for sure - don't just assume!

Why do you think you need to improve on your math skills ? I'm not saying you do or don't - just trying to get you to answer that question for yourself. I have personally been there and done that. Eventually I went back and took some calculus courses even though I had already done so and had earned my degree. But after a few years of wisdom & experience had sunk into my brain, the material wasn't near as difficult as when I was first exposed to it.
If you're concerned about your GPA, a little bit of experience will go a long way toward balancing that out. I have discovered this first hand over the past few years. You might even want to just work full time for a year and then go back to school.
Keep doing more research. Ask 1000 more questions. You're on the right track!
Sincerely, JCDeen
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I'm a senior in college.

Yea, "field work," moving around (less confinement to a chair or single spot), and more in-person communication is attractive to me.

I've set up an appointment for tomorrow.

You're right. So I drew up a possible plan for the next few years. I found this link -- http://www-scf.usc.edu/~csci445/ -- which has a syllabus, and that lists the books they use in the course. I wonder how much I could get out of reading books and asking questions on Usenet as opposed to being in an actual classroom setting. Maybe I should read a few of these books.
I'm interested in robotics, but (if after a while I am still interested) I don't know whether I want to make it my career or just a hobby. hmmm.... Not sure whether, if I go went back to school, I would want to take a full load or just one or two courses a semester (just thinking outload).
I've done a little research, and I've read that there are a number of problems related to autonomy and intelligence which have not been solved. This interests me more than doing things for some company that deep down I don't really care about (that could burn me out). I wonder if I'd need a full degree to do this (help solve problems) or whether I could just pick and choose courses/subjects.

I took Calculus but struggled through it. Pre-calculus was difficult, too. Same with Trig. I understand Trig pretty well. I think a good starting place for me may be college algebra. I'm lacking in a lot of the basics. Yea, I think the wisdom/experience thing applies with me as well...I'm sure I'd do better if I had a focus (robotics).

It looks like USC would probably take me if I could convey a high level of interest to them.

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It wasn't until a few years after I got my undergrad degree that I realized that there was something that was always tripping me up during the tests even though I managed to get most of the coursework and comprehension right. So when I decided to pursue a 2nd degree I humbled myself and went back and took pre-calc as a night class as a sort of Calculus Review. I aced it ... until one time I got test results back and the professor was very surprised at a very basic mistake I had made. That's when I discovered I had been making that same kind of mistake my entire college career: I had been balancing equations by arbitrarily dividing both sides by functions. From that point on I aced the rest of pre-calc, and went on to ace Calc I and Calc II when I retook them, which I had previously barely gotten grades of C in.
In PreCalc, Calc I and II (the 2nd time around) I had gained enough maturity and experience to ask questions like crazy if I didn't understand something --- there was almost always someone else in the same boat who didn't want to speak up. The hardest part about doing this after being in the working world for a while was allocating the time and discipline to do the homework and study after a full day at the office when all I really wanted to do was come home and watch TV or go have a beer with some buds or whatever. But the added experience and maturity went a long way. The comfort of already having my degree helped also --- my goal was to *learn* the calculus stuff.
Anyway, just a long story to demonstrate that you are not the only one to have ever been in your current situation. Keep shooting for the stars and you will get where you want to go - even if you don't know the road there yet. JCD
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Yes, you have a dilemma on your hands. Graduate with a BS in CIS, and you are financially set. You could easily be in the mid-sixties, seventies, or even higher starting salary. Switch fields, and you won't graduate, because you won't have enough hours in the required field. So first, I'd say, stay the course, and graduate with your current major.
If you want to change, do it as a graduate student. On the other hand, you might be able to add a minor. Or extend and get a dual major. If you add something like EE, Physics, or Industrial Tech, you'll be even more marketable.
If your interest is research, a BS won't do it for you anyway. Your GPA isn't stellar. (You've got to get really honest with yourself and ask yourself why. Could you have done better? And can you hold up in a grad program where the competition factor goes up by a factor of 10?) So graduate school might be difficult to gain admittance. But if you want to move to research, it will be difficult to get a spot without advanced degrees.
If you aren't burdened with outside obligations, like a wife or kids, a great way might be to go ahead and graduate with the CIS degree, get the job, then do graduate school at night. Not many people can really handle the dual pressure, but it is a way if you can.
So far, robotics is not a high paying field, and there aren't that many jobs. However with the congressional mandate that 1/3 of all military vehicles will be unmanned by 2015, the future prospects are hot.
I'm both teaching and attending graduate school using a video conferencing setup at a school 800 miles away from here. Plus I have my regular job doing NMI (at least at the moment, if the wheels don't fall off). The university would like to hire me to run a proposed robotic research center. But they really can't pay much without my having advanced degrees, even though I have decades of practical experience. So I'm in a masters program myself right now pulling down a 4.0 so far. My undergrad GPA was worse than yours. So I was admitted on a probational basis.
-- Randy M. Dumse www.newmicros.com Caution: Objects in mirror are more confused than they appear.
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Thanks for the response.

Oh, I'll definitely be finishing the CIS major. It's my future career that I was addressing here.

I could have done better, yes, if I had had more focus and motivation about the things I was studying.
I have little to no experience or knowledge in the robotics field currently, but I have high interest and motivation (again, I'm going to verify this by doing some preliminary research before moving forward with any schooling).
Since I lack experience/knowledge in robotics, then if I wanted to participate in research efforts, would it be a good idea for me to enroll in and complete a second degree (robotics; after I have my CIS degree), and THEN move onto grad school? Maybe undergrad school would be a way to verify that I would be able to do well in grad school with this new major.

Wow, that's awesome. I'm glad we're moving forward.

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On Sep 5, 2:48 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Certainly. Take it as a challenge. You have one more semester before the potential of graduating. Enroll in a beginning Physics, EE, or Mechanical course if you've got any room for optional courses. Start with the intent of ace'ing it. If you can't, don't bother continuing as an undergrad. Get in an advanced CIS program, and go straight to grad school.
Or go to work, and start bringing those big bucks home. Choose your job carefully, so you get closer to the hardware. Find a job where you work closely with a EE or other engineer. The exposure will be very beneficial. After 6 months out, you can decide if you want to move closer to his type of job, or away from it. Then consider grad school in the direction that fits best.
Remember if you go to work, don't change your life style. Put that money away. Or pay off your existing loans. if you get an expensive new car, move into fancy quarters, in general loosen up the financial strings, your ability to go back to being a student will be all the harder.
-- Randy M. Dumse www.newmicros.com Caution: Objects in mirror are more confused than they appear.- Hide quoted text -
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