Robotics and Control Engineering
The Discipline and the Major
Robotics and Control engineering is a study in automation, the design and construction of systems or devices that work by themselves with little or no direct human control. We prepare midshipmen for the challenges and opportunities of a Fleet that embraces the new paradigm of autonomy. Many of the subjects we teach and research are traditionally included within the mechanical or electrical engineering departments elsewhere. At the Naval Academy a major such as ours, dedicated to control of engineering systems, aligns nicely with the department’s weaponry lineage.
The fundamental aspects of the discipline include sensors, actuators, feedback loops, computing, and computer programming which are taught in the youngster and junior years. In the first class year, a Robotics and Control major will concentrate in two application areas chosen from among the following five: estimation (getting quantitative information from raw data) and control, robotics (both large and small, in any domain: sea, land, air, space), embedded computing (programming portable devices), signal processing (including images), and engineering management. An honors version of the major exists for exceptional students. Most of the laboratories and projects involve design, analysis, and experimentation with devices in the aforementioned fields and, therefore, the department is equipped with a variety of sensing and actuation technology as well as a robust technical support staff.
In the first class year, Robotics and Control majors have the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the discipline and learn about the engineering design process as part of their capstone project, which is the highlight of their studies. Upon graduation our majors join their selected communities with great confidence as their studies have prepared them for a technology-rich workplace. Those who do not pursue a naval career will find ample opportunity in the defense sector, automotive, robotic, and biomedical industries to mention a few. Additionally, many graduates also go back to school for graduate studies in control, mechanical, electrical, biomedical, and chemical engineering.
Considerations for those who might be interested in this major
The “lifestyle” of the Robotics and Control major is similar to that of other engineering majors. The year includes course-related special events, internships, and nationwide competitions. Weekly life includes homework assignments and work in the lab. Computers are necessary tools for design and analysis as well as integral components of the systems under investigation. The math skills acquired in calculus and differential equations, and complemented by an engineering math course, are essential for in-depth understanding of systems. The technical abilities necessary to implement and integrate autonomous system are taught in youngster year. Our facilities support a curriculum that integrates land, sea, and air robotics capabilities. Our faculty are also experts in diverse control applications like the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber physical systems, human-machine interfaces, exoskeletons, soft robotics, and microrobots. The major is one that interests the curious and creative mind; one discovers the latest technology and also learns to use it in new ways.