I am just looking for advice. I go to college in Montana at Montana Tech. Since they don't offer a robotics degree of any sort I chose to get a dual major in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering along with minors in Computer Science, Math, and Physics. I have taken a few classes in robotic and loved them. The type of job I would want is something that is design oriented and hands on. Ex. Draw up a some parts in a 3D program, mill them out put them together add in the circuitry and let'em rip. My main question is have I chosen the right education path and does a job like this exist. Thanks.
I would concentrate on the Electrical Engineering part of your degree. The reason why robots are not as pervasive as they could be is the lack of complex software to control them. The mechanics of a robot are not that difficult to master even without any higher education. The software, and to some extent electronic design, abilities needed are more substantial.
I majored in Electrical Engineering and I currently spend 10 to 20% of my career designing hardware and the remaining 110% of my time writing embedded software for these designs. The software part I was able to pick up myself, but I doubt if I could have learned the Electronic and Digital Signal Processing areas of my career without a 4 or 5 year degree (plus some DSP graduate courses).
Schools that have "robotics" coursework are merely wrapping up common classes in the disciplines you mention. When you get your degree you'll know everything a "robotics major" will have learned. Your school counselor can help you determine how your courses map out to ones offered by MIT, CMU, etc.
I'm going to disagree with Howy and suggest you do not shortchange yourself on the mechanical side, especially given the ideal job you mention. There is no end to electrical and software engineers, but the person who has a firm grasp at what can be done mechanically is a rare breed. You mention wanting to do the CAD/CAM work: this pretty much means knowing how production machinery works, and its capabilities and limitations. Drawing stuff isn't difficult, but knowing how the CAM part does it's job is mandatory. Consider finding some local occupational classes that teach metalworking with mills and lathes.
I'd say the fact that you're not hung up on on "building robots" suggests you're going to do just fine in the marketplace. Yes, jobs like the one you mention exist, but be prepared to use those skills in designing machinery for making diapers, not necessarily on creating autonomous mobile robots.
There is no future in this subject. MIT tries to teach students on Robotic and artificial intelligence by using LISP language. There is no use in LISP for the last 20-30 years in their development. They lead robotic study in the lost world.
MIT is not the only institution that teaches robotics and AI. Note that AI is only part of the robotics equation
From what you wrote, one gets the impression that LISP is the *only* language they teach for AI. While lisp is still used as one of the tools for implementing AI related stuff, it is just a tool such as java, c++, or c#. LISP has some very powerful features that are a good match for AI.
LISP is still used, even in commercial projects and with sucess. Search around and you'll see
Basically, all you wrote is unbased.
PS: I've had my experiences with LISP. While its learning curve is steep, once you get the concept you really get impressed with its power. Even now, modern languages are still trying to implement features designed in the original implementation of LISP. Remember, right tool for the right job.
You're doing great; especially with the mechanical engineering skills. IMHO, the misfortune is that most people in robotics are strictly in it from the AI aspect. They take pre-made robots and try to software around the mechanical ineptness of a robot designed for everyone.
I suggest you continue what you're doing and then go to graduate school at CMU or Georgia Tech. One needs the professional references and associations build up during graduate school, depending on the kind of robotics career you have in mind.
See if you're school enters the AUVSI ground vehicle competition. If not, try to get a faculty member interested. Google AUVSI and take a look at the ground competition web site.
Back when I considered data acquisition and control to be my specialty, I found that the number of competitors I had for a position doing that kind of work was small. It's a (relatively) rare individual who understands both the software and the hardware that the software runs on and/or interfaces with. Even as a mostly software guy, that knowledge has served me well in my career - if nothing else giving me insight that an equivalent "software only" person usually did not have.
You might also want to consider a curriculum that offers concentrations in the systems side of things - where you get a good bit of it all. Also, I've known several people that get an undergrad in EE, and a graduate level degree in ME or Computer Science.
I agree with Gordon's suggestion of taking some courses in some form of metal working, milling, etc. This is an area that I am now tutoring myself on and wish I had more experience with! Never too old to learn!
I forgot to mention the most important thing, and this applies to any technical profession: Stat getting your hands dirty now! Start building small robots and learn how to program them yourself. This will prepare you for a real job much more than school. School will force you to learn all the boring stuff (math) that you would not normally bother with, but may come in handy later on.
I started programming (on my own) when I was in 8th grade on a TI994A computer, and I was always either in the local library reading electronics magazines or in the basement tinkering with electronic experiments. These years of experience put me way ahead of my classmates and my peers when I first got my Electrical Engineering job.
I was referring to myself - personally - and since robotics is a hobby for me I don't have a need for metal working in a professional sense, so self-tutoring is fine. So, for myself, almost all metal working knowledge was missing! I went through several iterations of asking people I knew and on the rec.crafts.metalworking newsgroup just to determine what kind of saw I need to cut aluminum extrusions. That's the kind of thing an instructor can answer with authority in about 5 minutes.
Since Sundewzer wants to make a career of it it seems like a good idea to get some good formal training in it - not necessarily a college course -but from someone with some serious hands-on experience.
Thanks for everybodys comments and suggestions. My college has a wonderful Creativity Forge Lab. With a couple milling machines, metal ley(sp?), and a Fanuc welding robot. I took a class with the welding robot and it was a good time. This coming semester I am going to be doing my senior design project and an undergraduate research project on a 3 axis robot that is new to the school but is about 20 years old. So it has a control BOX with about 8 2'x2' board. So I will be replacing the BOX and the final project I beilive is to attach a plasma welder. I have planed on trying to get my school interested in some sort of robotics compitition but there isn't much interest among other students. The robotics class I took last semester only had one other student and I in it. I have never delt with AI and although I have some interest in it, AI is the last thing on my mind. Well you have all made me realize that I am headed down the right path, some you say I am doing just fine, other say go more electrical and other say more mechanical. I agree with the metal work and I plan to expand my knowledge on it mainly for fabrication porpose.
LISP hasn't fallen out of favor because it's a bad language so much as because the average programmer has become a lot less intelligent in the last 20-30 years. People don't use Java because it is a better language; they use it because they can hire above average monkeys to write it. I work for an internet search engine company, and we don't use LISP at all, but when I'm interviewing candidates, LISP (or Scheme/ML) looks *really* good on a resume. It is sort of silly having any strong language preference, since any talented hacker can pick up most of a new language over a weekend anyway, but a strong understanding of functional programming languages usually equates to a strong understanding of computer programs in general. To say that LISP isn't worth learning is completely wrong.
LISP is historically interesting, but really, rather dated. The attempt to bolt objects on never really worked out well. And really, programs that wrote other programs weren't written very much.
Java, as a language, is actually rather close to LISP conceptually. Stanford, in the early days of Java, taught Java as "LISP in C syntax". Java sort of sank under a mountain of badly implemented GUI libraries, then came back to life as a server-side language for business logic processing inside web servers to replace COBOL. So Java is sort of looked down upon from a theoretical perspective.
I like LISP... what I don't like about it it's the darn parenthesis :-)
I think the problem with the java GUI is that they've overused the design patterns. While it gives flexibility, it complicates things unecessarily. It is understandable because when the language was designed, design patterns wasn't very known. As people started to get a better grasp on how the patterns work (and how they don't), then new languages were created that make a better use of them (see Ruby, C#, etc).
LISP is still going to be used for a while and will serve as inspiration for language designers. I agree that it is dated, and proof of that is that tools are seldon made for LISP, which makes it difficult to do something that is really serious in LISP.
Where's your research? I'm hardly a LISP wonk, but even I know there are current and somewhat pervausive applications written in LISP. Yahoo uses it for their Web stores -- some 10,000+ of them. It's popular in CAD (ever heard of Autodesk?) and electronics manufacturing for board routing. Didn't MIT use LISP for Cog? If that's not a major successful learning AI machine, I don't know what is.
Do some more Googling and you'll find LISP gets used in government defense work all the time. Face recognition, pattern analysis, you name it.