Engineers are interested in things both big and small. For Alex Rassau, Associate Dean for the School of Engineering at Edith Cowan University (ECU), this meant switching his research focus from a PhD in microelectronics to robotics.
When Alex moved from the UK to Western Australia, he saw just how relevant robotics was becoming to the mining and oil and gas industry there, and also around the world. His undergraduate qualification in cybernetics and control engineering gave him a solid foundation in the field, and he now supervises ECU PhD students, researching ways to overcome the current limitations of robotic technology. One of those limitations is giving robots capabilities to analyse and make meaningful decisions about how to interact in their surroundings, by operating without supervision.
So many possibilities…
Advances in deep learning and a range of sensory and camera-system technologies are enabling major breakthroughs in the decision making capabilities of robots. They will be able to think and act analytically beyond predetermined settings that limit them to specific repetitive tasks. For Alex, being able to push the boundaries of innovation to come up with new and better ways of doing things was a compelling reason to switch to robotics. “There’s always new challenges and opportunities to explore interesting areas – and you get to play with fun tech toys pretty much all the time,” he says.
With major companies prepared to invest in these robotic technologies for maintenance and inspection tasks on offshore and remote sites, students with expertise in this area are highly sought after, Alex adds.
“I would strongly encourage people to get involved in programming as early as possible, because that’s an absolutely essential life skill in the 21st century,” he says.
– Marlena Batchelor
Alex’s study and career path
>> Batchelor Bachelor of Science (Cybernetics and Control Engineering), University of Reading
>> PhD in Microelectronics, University of Reading
>> Leading Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering, Edith Cowan University
>> Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), School of Engineering, Edith Cowan University
This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2019.
Author: STEM Contributor
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