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Careers & Education   >   British Science Week   >   STEM in Action: Robotics
Day 5: STEM in Action - Robotics
1 - Introduction
Meet Ose and Steph, our hosts for the day, who will introduce you to the world of Robotics with our team of experts from BT and the University of Essex:
2 - Robotics with Laura & Rose
Photo of Steph Bally
Steph (host): Now we know what we're going to be exploring, let me introduce you to our first industry experts, Laura and Rose. They will be looking at how robots may start becoming more commonplace and support humans in lots of different industries!
Over to you Laura and Rose...
Photo of Laura Russell
Photo of Laura Russell
Laura
Applied Research Degree Apprentice, BT
Key qualifications: A Levels in Physics, Maths and Product Design. Now working towards a degree as part of the Apprenticeship.
What does your job involve? Currently I am in the Internet of Things team and am working on a project involving Robots, Networking and Strawberries!
How did you get into your current role? I am on my final rotation as an apprentice and will stay in this team until I finish the apprenticeship in 2022. Previously I have rotated within Applied Research in areas such as Cyber Security, Software Development Labs and Openreach Research.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Something creative, maybe a designer of some kind.
What do you do outside work? I love bouldering which is indoor climbing without the ropes. If I'm not climbing I'll be making cake and eating it (obviously!).
Photo of Rose
Photo of Rose
Rose
Robotics Researcher, BT
Key qualifications: BEng (Hons) Robotic Engineering. Currently completing MSD Computer Science, specialising in computer vision for autonomous navigation.
What does your job involve? I work in the brand-new Robotics and Drone Lab at BT, researching and using my knowledge to assist in the development of all kinds of robots to help solve some of Openreach's real world problems.
How did you get into your current role? When I was young, I came to loads of robotics events held by BT which encouraged my love of the subject, and I was thrilled to find a place in this exciting new venture.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Robotics Engineer, then Architect, then Astrochemist, then back to Robotics Engineer.
What do you do outside work? I love reading, archery and water sports like sailing and kayaking. I also help out with my local scout group, particularly when they're doing archery!
Photo of Laura Russell
Laura: Thanks for watching our video, I hope you've enjoyed learning about robotics! We have had some questions submitted relating to this topic in the lead up to British Science Week which are answered below. However, if you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you. Please email stemexpert@bt.com. We also held a live Q&A session on the day, a recording of which can be seen below...
Questions and answers
Question:
How do robots recognise people and know not to crash into them?
student profile
Photo of Rose
Answer:
Robots have lots of in-built sensors that pick up all sorts of information. For example, a robot may have LIDAR sensors that use light reflections to detect how far away an object is. They can also use sonar sensors that emit pulses of ultrasound to gauge the distance from objects. However, sometimes just determining the distance from an object may not always be enough to avoid it… Many robots also have multiple small, but very smart cameras all over them. The camera feeds are analysed by the brains of the robot (a.k.a. the computer that controls it) and a mix of AI and machine learning can actually identify the obstacle and perform an action – say if it was a human and the robot has arms, it could wave and say hello!
Question:
What makes up robotics and what can I do or study to get into robotics?
student profile
Photo of Laura Russell
Answer:
Robotics is a combined field of science and engineering, there are many disciplines that make up robotics. It includes everything from mechanical engineering for making the physical body of the robot, to computer science for controlling the robot, to physics for enabling the sensing of the world around it. As robotics is such a multi-disciplinary field there is so much to get involved in!
See more robotics questions and answers...
Got a question? email stemexpert@bt.com
3 - Have a go activities
Photo of Ose Uadiale
Ose (host): Now it's your turn to have a go at building your own robotic arm which you'll then use to complete some further tasks. You can download the activity pack to get step-by-step instructions...
Downward arrow
Download activity pack
4 - Career profiles
Photo of Steph Bally
Steph (host): Robotics can lead to a really exciting career and you might be surprised by the various different roles available within this space. Below we've pulled together some profiles of people from Adastral Park and across BT that work in this area. Take a look and discover how varied a career in this space could be.
Photo of Jon Wakeling
Photo of Jon Wakeling
Jon
Acting Director, Openreach Research, BT
Key qualifications: BEng, Communications Engineering. Member of the Institute of Engineering & Technology. Chartered Engineer.
What does your job involve? I lead a team in BT Applied Research that is developing new capabilities for Openreach, covering fundamental physical concepts, new ultrafast fibre networks, tunnelling and climbing robots. The best bit is that we get to build prototypes and test them in the real world.
How did you get into your current role? I started as an apprentice at age 16 working in the field on 'poles and holes'. Over time, I have gained more qualifications and worked in many different parts of BT. I have worked in or with the research area for over 30 years on different things (satellites, networks, robots) all leading up to my current role.
What did you want to be when you were younger? A fighter pilot!
What do you do outside work? Outside work I like reading (history and SciFi/fantasy), hiking (preferably in the Yorkshire Dates) and helping to coach the Colts at Woodbridge Rugby Club.
Photo of Alistair Duke
Photo of Alistair Duke
Alistair
Research Manager, BT
Key qualifications: PhD in Collaboration Technology for Concurrent Engineering, MEng in Electronic Systems Engineering.
What does your job involve? Industrial Research is all about spotting trends in new technology and then applying them to solve problems or creating something new in an industry or commercial sector. It's not just about technology though. You've got to be able to sell your work to convince people it's worth pursuing. My focus is on Internet of Things and how data about the world can be used to transform businesses and people's lives.
How did you get into your current role? I joined as a graduate after working for BT on summer placements. I joined just as the Web was coming of age and my various roles have all been about aspects of the Internet and how it has and will continue to transform society.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Pilot or a film Star.
What do you do outside work? Triathlon, cycling and anything outdoorsy.
Photo of Trevor Morsman
Photo of Trevor Morsman
Trevor
Research Manager, Openreach Research, BT
Key qualifications: BTEC HNC in Electronics and Telecommunications.
What does your job involve? Lots of different things which makes it interesting from looking at issues that affect customers' broadband, investigating new Access technologies, working with vendors, contributing to technology standards and now looking at how robotics could be used to help engineers.
How did you get into your current role? I started as an apprentice 38 years ago at Adastral Park working my way up to my current role, during which time I have worked on telephone design, looking at Electromagnetic Compatibility issues, DSL technology and now robotics.
What did you want to be when you were younger? An architect but 7 years at University with no money kind of put me off!
What do you do outside work? I love spending time with family and friends, a bit of DIY, and being active playing sport (Basketball, Tennis, Squash, Golf, Skiing...) or just being outdoors on my bike or walking.
5 - University of Essex
Photo of Ose Uadiale
Ose (host): Meet Vishuu from the University of Essex who will show you even more examples of where Robots can start to impact our lives for the better.
Over to you Vishuu...
Photo of Vishuu Mohan
Photo of Vishuu Mohan
Vishuu
Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor). Director of Employability (University of Essex).
Key qualifications: PhD, FHEA.
What does your job involve? Playing with expensive toys (or Robots) - join robotics if you fancy this! Also, training the next generation of humans and robots to work together in smart farms, smart homes, hospitals and other environments.
How did you get into your current role? I always wanted to understand how the brain works. This curiosity led me to do a M.Tech in Microelectronics from IIT Madras, India and then to study biologically inspired robotics for my PhD in Genoa, Italy. Connecting the dots, I am now trying to build robots that can see/learn/act/interact, targeting a range of applications (and also in reverse, understand how we see/learn/act/interact).
What did you want to be when you were younger? I still want to be a shoe designer - and might open my own shoe studio after I retire! I also wanted to be a magician and WWE wrestler... but shoe designing is serious - a lot of robotic innovation can happen in a simple shoe too!
What do you do outside work? Amidst travelling a lot (mainly jungles in India and Africa), as time permits I am working on a top secret project BBB (Buddha, Bomb and the Brain) - which is now no longer a top secret!
Photo of Vishuu Mohan
Vishuu: I hope my video has inspired you to explore more about Robotics. We have had some questions submitted relating to this topic in the lead up to British Science Week which are answered below. However, if you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you. Please email stemexpert@bt.com.
Questions and answers
Question:
What aspect of robotics excites you most?
Student profile
Photo of Vishuu Mohan
Answer:
Playing with expensive toys! But other than that, robotics is truly an interdisciplinary field. You can work with farmers, care-givers in hospitals, neuroscientists studying the brain, soldiers in the army, fashion designers, astronauts, chefs... and that's just to mention a few! The applications of robotics are very diverse and so are the diverse set of people you get to meet in the daily job!
Question:
What do you think is the most impressive feature of an intelligent robot?
Student profile
Photo of Vishuu Mohan
Answer:
Simply, it's their ability to learn! It's the same for us humans too, and learning enables us to deal with new, changing environments that we've never encountered before. While there has been a lot of progress in machine learning, I still think we have not fully cracked the 'learning' puzzle for robots yet.
Got a question? email stemexpert@bt.com
6 - Related STEM learning content
If you enjoyed this content, why don't you take a look at some of these other great resources around this topic below:
British Science Week 2021
Drones
Explore the world of Drones with our team of experts from BT and Imperial College London.
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Home automation & robotics
Using Python and a Raspberry Pi to create a controllable camera on a gimbal made from servos.
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Giving eyes to AI
An introduction to the world of AI with experts from BT and King's College London.
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BT's new Drones and Robotics testing lab
Discover how the lab helps BT develop innovative solutions to challenging engineering tasks.
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ArguBots
The world is getting more polarised. This video explores how ArguBots may help open up our minds to different points of view.
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Will robots take over the world?
Watch this BBC Bitesize video as it discusses whether robots will really take over the world.
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