ROBOTS have always been a fascinating topic for pop culture – C3-PO, RoboCop, Transformers, Baymax and the Terminator are characters that make the top lists in best movies of all time.
Although the humanoid concepts tend to be over-exaggerated in movies, robots are gaining intellectual and mechanical capabilities sooner than we realise – think the Sophia-bot. Robotics is after all, among the fastest growing industries in the world and no longer limited to the manufacturing sector. Its application now spans the service sector and even critical areas, such as the oil and gas industry and agriculture.
Today, robotics is providing a medium of integration with other technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision, among others, with its applications set to grow exponentially in the future.
In response to the rising demand for products and services in the field of robotics, Taylor’s University heeded the call to introduce Malaysia’s first and only Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Robotics Design and Development.
The interdisciplinary programme is a three-year course that combines specialisations in mechanical engineering, electrical and electronics engineering and computer science. As technology expands, so does the scopes of robotics – this includes the development, creation and use of robots to explore the Earth’s harshest conditions, robots that assist in healthcare and law enforcement as small examples.
However, a robot has consistent characteristics such as a mechanical construction to help complete tasks like assembling cars in automotive factories; they also require electrical components to control and power the machine, like a battery or electric wire; and some level of computer programming, with a set of codes that will give it the ability to know when and how to carry out its task.
The two-year academic semesters equip students with a sound understanding of fundamental theories and concepts in Robotics technology. In their final year, students are required to work at a company in partnership with Taylor’s for a year-long industry placement for work-based learning experience. This will allow students to work closely with industry experts to develop and integrate their knowledge and skills in multi-faceted areas – increasing the students’ flexibility to adapt to the current employment landscape.
It is part of Taylor’s commitment to facilitate a student-centred curriculum, while focusing on enhancing professional development at the same time, resulting in highly skilled and employable graduates who meet industry requirements.
One of the core strengths of the programme lies in its seamless integration with the industry, as the syllabus is endorsed by industry experts, namely the Malaysia Robotics and Automation Society. Graduates of the programme also qualify to register with the Malaysia Board of Technology.
It ensures its core modules are taught by certified professionals from academia and industry modules taught by professional engineers and technologists through flexible and innovative teaching, learning and support. Better yet, the assessment strategies implemented are applicable to both course and workplace requirements.
What it translates into is the potential for companies - such as Western Digital, FourFang, Robopreneur, Omron Electronics and Me.Reka - to absorb students as permanent staff before or upon graduation.
This is because it works seamlessly to the benefit of employers, who can not only bring in fresh enthusiasm and new ideas to the organisation through the students - thereby creating an environment of continuous learning for existing staff as well - but also critically meet the industry’s skill shortage and grow the organisation’s workforce.
Moreover, an added benefit is that employers will also have direct links to further qualifications and continuing professional development for their employees when required.
Creating future-proof graduates
As the world inevitably goes through its next phase of growth, so too must education evolve to integrate multiple disciplines to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, thus the programme seeks to equip students with a diverse skill set in creativity and enterprise alongside other skills, while developing their industrial experiences.
Students are equipped with transferable skills, appealing to a wide range of industries, as the programme creates more fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0)-compliant graduates to drive the current market, and spearhead the IR4.0 revolution internationally.
Taylor’s University has been carefully curating an ecosystem that will equip students with academic knowledge, practical wisdom, and the ability to create and innovate.
Much like a greenhouse that creates an optimal atmosphere and environment for growth of plants, the ‘Taylor’sphere’ ecosystem aims to nurture students’ intellectual, mental and emotional growth, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship.
The Taylor’sphere focuses on equipping students with life skill modules where they can improve their leadership skills, cross cultural communication, design thinking, public speaking and mindfulness, to name a few. Working with a group of specialised Life Skills Moderators, students develop skillsets needed to navigate challenges within the corporate and professional world.
Additionally, the university’s one-of-a-kind Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace (TMM) experience drives entrepreneurship and innovation among students to provide solutions to societal problems, from the very beginning of their learning journey. With TMM, every student will take up a Social Innovation module and have the opportunity to receive guidance with ideation, prototyping, funding and product commercialisation under the mentorship of Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace, Bizpod and Research & Enterprise, making Taylor’s University the first in the country to incorporate such modules into all degree programmes.
In turn, the Robotics Design & Development programme helps future-proof graduates for job opportunities that may not yet exist right now, but more importantly, it creates a strong foundation to enhance professional development to innovate the future.
Aside from developing academic knowledge with a sound understanding of fundamental robotics technology theories and concepts, students will be able to balance that with employment responsibilities through direct on-the-job experience, in tandem with access to invaluable opportunities to improve their interpersonal skills with experienced professionals.
Thus, this will enable students to develop specialist knowledge, theory, and skills by using the workplace as a context for project-based or practice-evidenced learning.