Montclair State Robotics Course Helps Students With Their Career Goals

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Published October 18, 2020
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The Montclarion
Students working in the lab during robotics class. Photo courtesy by Dr. Weitian Wang

Dr. Weitian Wang has taught Introduction to Robotics since the fall of 2019 at Montclair State University, teaching students how robots work and helping them perform hands-on projects with the technology.

Before Dr. Wang started teaching at Montclair State, he conducted research in control systems and robotics for nine years. He has obtained hands-on experience in academic research, teaching, experimental platform development and project management.

“Robotics will make human life better and will make humans work more efficiently. For example, in the manufacturing context, collaborative robots are not fenced off from humans. They can coexist with human workers and make the manufacturing process smarter,” Wang said.

Throughout his course, students learn about the hardware and software of robot functionality. State-of-the-art robotic programming approaches are also included in this course. Students use their own knowledge and create their own codes, making robots perform different tasks.

Students in the lab doing hands-on work. Photo courtesy by Weitian Wang

Students performed hands-on activities in their robotics lab in fall 2019.
Photo courtesy of Weitian Wang

 

Wang emphasizes the excitement for students of learning to make robots perform different tasks. He focuses his research on collaborative robots and human-robot interaction.

Wang also directs the CROSS Lab, which is located in the department of computer science at Montclair State. The theme of CROSS Lab’s research is to release robots from cages and empower human-robot interaction to be of high-quality, easy to implement and cost competitive in a human-centric collaborative context.

CROSS Lab devotes its research to both theoretical formulation and experimental validation with the goal of structuring a systematic research framework containing human factors, task models and robot autonomy for human-robot interaction.

Dr. Wang and his students in the Robotics course. Photo courtesy by Weitan Wang

Dr. Wang and his students working in the robotics course in fall 2019.
Photo courtesy of Weitian Wang

 

Robotics is also related to other computer science courses at Montclair State, since it is a fantastic combination of computer science, information technology and mathematics. Python programming is involved during the development of robot control software. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are also used in designing robots to be more sophisticated. In addition, discrete mathematics is required when designing a robot’s control algorithm.

Students are capable of setting themselves up for the future after taking this course. Both undergraduate and graduate students from computer science-related majors have shown strong interests in learning robotics technology to broaden their career opportunities. There has also been an increase in the employment of robots in multiple areas such as daily assistance and smart manufacturing.

If the number of students keeps increasing, there will be different lectures and hands-on projects that will be designed for undergraduate and graduate students.

Gillian Vana, a senior computer science major, enjoys the direct, hands-on projects in this course.

“When looking at colleges, I had been interested in taking robotics and it looked like a fascinating and different course that Montclair State has offered,” Vana said.

Miguel Villegas, a senior information technology major, took this course as a co-op replacement that was offered last semester.

“I am interested in doing a career that will involve robotics, but nothing specific,” Villegas said.

Lab tools to do hands on-work. Photo courtesy by Dr. Weitian Wang

Students work with different lab tools to do hands-on work.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Weitian Wang

 

Although people are fearful that robots will replace humans in the future, Wang ensures that future workers will be able to benefit from them.

“Some people think that robots will replace humans. Robots will not take over humans’ jobs, they will only assist humans and make humans more effective,” Wang said.

 

This robotic course gives Montclair State students the educational background to work with and build robots in their future careers. Therefore, learning the lessons about robot functionality is crucial to the success of some students in the future. These students will be prepared to deal with robots as they grow in prominence in society.

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