MDX alumnus Robin Read is grateful for the ‘transformative and deeply insightful’ education that has allowed him to develop a career in robotics.
When he started his Product Design Engineering degree on the Trent Park campus in 2005, all Robin knew was that he ‘wanted to build things’.
“The course was fantastic as it exposed me to a really broad range of aspects relating to Design and Engineering,” he said.
“I was given sketching lessons, learnt about different approaches to prototyping, how to use software and how to build electronic circuits. I even built my first mobile robot in the first year!”
The final year project allowed students to work with metal machining equipment, laser and water jet cutters and 3D printers.
Fifteen years on from graduating, Robin is enjoying a successful career in the robotics industry but still finds himself still drawing upon things he learnt while at MDX.
“When I look back, the course was truly pivotal for me in two ways - firstly it helped me discover what my passion is - building robots. Secondly, and crucially, I came out with a really strong skill set but was also able to identify what skills I still needed to develop in order to really feel ready to go into robotics.”
After studying for an MSc in Robotics then a PhD in Human-Robot Interaction from Plymouth University, Robin became aware of a robotics programme at Dyson.
He now works in the company’s Future Robotics Research group, leading a small team of engineers looking at Human-Robot interaction.
Robin said: “The general goal and mission of our work is to look to the future. We look at the emerging, cutting-edge technologies in the robotics world and explore and understand how those could be used to enhance or enable future Dyson robots over the next five to 10 years.”
Robin’s team focuses on building autonomous robots that work in the home environment.
“While we currently only sell robotic vacuum cleaners, we’re pursuing all kinds of weird and wonderful ideas in the background, and we're particularly interested in the world above the floor,” he said.
So what does a typical day look like for a Future Robotics Researcher at Dyson?
Robin said: “I need to consider and steer what we do, but most of my time is focussed on the practical engineering that goes into building working prototypes.
“I tend to be primarily software focused (as that’s where most of the magic happens in robotics) but I work with Mechanical/Mechatronic/Electronics Engineers as well as Product Designers as part of the process. Because of my background, I have a good feel and appreciation of the different aspects; why they are important and how they interact and impact each other.”
Robin’s main career aspiration is to put at least one robot out in the world that has a positive impact on people, and ideally have gone on the full journey from product/idea conception all the way to production where something comes off the end of a production line.
He said: “Building robotics is really hard and complicated, and requires such a diverse range of skills and steps. One day I hope to be able to point to a robot and tell people that I worked on it.”
Robin’s advice to prospective students and those going through clearing is: “It's okay to not be sure what you want to do after leaving school and studying on a course that has breadth can play a really big role in helping you discover what you want to do because it can expose you to so much.
“Be open-minded to what modules you'll take, some might not take your fancy, but some might really surprise you.
“Get an idea of what equipment you will have access to during the course and make sure that you understand what doors it might open for you. Going to university is perhaps one of the investments into your personal skills development you will ever make and it's worth being sure that you're investing your time and energy in the best way and in the right area.”
To find out more about Design Engineering courses at MDX click here.