An Example - Robotics
To help make this a bit more concrete, consider the design of a robotic system such as a mobile ground robot.
- Most obviously, such robots are constructed from physical components such as a frame along with levers, gears, cables and pulleys, etc. The design of those components may be done by Electrical or Computer Engineers, but more commonly would be done by Mechanical Engineers.
- Robots are typically powered by electric motors powered by batteries. The design and analysis of those motors would likely be done by Electrical Engineers.
- A robot needs the ability to sense its surroundings using cameras, RADAR, Laser rangefinding, etc. The design of those actual physical sensors would typically be done by Electrical Engineers.
- At the heart of a robot is typically a full-fledged computing system which runs a specialized operating system and multiple applications programs. The design of that specialized computing system would likely be done by Computer Engineers.
- One such set of application programs would take data in from the cameras and other sensors and operate on that data. For example, the software might process the data to identify obstacles in the path of the robot or identify other features from the camera feed. It might also combine that information with the processed RADAR data to determine the distance to obstacles and notify other software running in the robot system of those obstacles. The design of the actual algorithms to do that obstacle identification or RADAR processing would likely be done by an Electrical Engineer, but the implementation of those algorithms in software is often done by a Computer Engineer or Computer Scientist.
- Other layers of software are responsible for controlling the robot by planning its path through its environment. This high level control is based on sophisticated mathematics techniques and is typically developed by Electrical Engineers (although, in recent years, control theory is increasingly found in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering).
- It is possible that the robot may need to wirelessly communicate with either other robots or with a base station. The design of the antenna for producing the radio waves used for this communication is done by Electrical Engineers. The development of the means of encoding those communications onto radio waves is also done by Electrical Engineers. The development of the silicon chips to transmit and receive that information is done by a combination of Electrical Engineers (for the analog circuits) and Computer Engineers (for the digital circuits and overall circuit organization). The programming of the communications protocols used is typically done by Computer Engineers.