Journey in Robotics: From Roots in Ethiopia to a PhD in Australia
Fikre Gebremeskel, MSc alumni, Engineering Systems
Journey in Robotics: From Roots in Ethiopia to a PhD in Australia
Fikre Gebremeskel, MSc alumni, Engineering Systems
Meet Fikre Gebremeskel, Skoltech MSc alumni in Engineering Systems. Fikre is currently a first-year PhD student at the University of Technology Sydney in the School of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Fikre talks about his learning experience at Skoltech, current PhD research project Design Factors: Integrated Design of Collaborative Robots, Products, and Manufacturing Environments, and his future plans and goals.
my background
I came from Adigrat, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where I was born into a large family that prioritizes education and learning. They provided me with plenty of support, be it financial assistance, tutoring, or other forms of aid, throughout my academic journey. During my primary and high school years, I developed a deep affection for mathematics and physics. As time progressed, my interest grew towards the fields of electrical and mechanical engineering, which I found fascinating upon exploring specific topics.

When I enrolled in Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, I was happy to discover that they had recently launched a new program in electromechanical engineering that aligned perfectly with my interests and preferred subjects. Without second thought, I selected this course and thoroughly enjoyed it, immersing myself in various electrical and mechanical courses. During my undergraduate studies, robotics and automation systems caught my attention, piquing my interest.

Following graduation, I worked as an electromechanical professional in some organizations in Ethiopia. However, I aspired for a better academic opportunity abroad, which I actively pursued.
why Engineering Systems at Skoltech?
Upon completion of my Electromechanical Engineering degree, I set my sights on advancing my studies in robotics and automation. As such, I began searching for suitable master's programs in this field overseas, specifically in Europe and Japan, to pursue high-quality education. Fortunately, I came across an advertisement for Skoltech's scholarship program. Interested, I researched Skoltech and discovered their outstanding faculty and cutting-edge labs in engineering systems, particularly robotics. Additionally, the program's entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities, strong partnership with MIT, industrial internship prospects, high stipend, and other factors all contributed to my interest in Skoltech.

Nevertheless, gaining admission to Skoltech was no easy feat, as it entailed passing three stages: a written exam, interviews, and entrepreneurship and innovation challenges.

Master's in Engineering Systems
The program focuses on enhancing students' critical skills, understanding and mastery to lead and shape up the digital transformation of industries and the development of cyber-physical systems, aerospace, and high technology industrial products in all fields on Earth and in Space. The program's main objective is to educate students with the competencies and digital know-how that will enable them to support and play leading roles in the real-life implementation of digital engineering, robotics, space technologies, and science. We teach students to find creative and sustainable solutions to the critical challenges in a wide range of industries, including but not limited to aerospace, energy, and robotics.

Learn more
why is Skoltech special for you?
Skoltech was even more fascinating to me than it had been described. The quality of education, research activities, collaborative team in the Intelligent Space Robotics (ISR) lab, industrial immersion program, stipend, and English medium of instruction were all very appealing. For instance, the courses I took, such as robotics, control systems engineering, systems engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship, and other engineering courses, were engaging. The instructors effectively conveyed fundamental concepts and allowed for practical application in lab settings during the course.

Additionally, the research opportunities were great. I had the chance to work on various mini and research projects involving different robots, including universal collaborative robots and industrial robots, providing me with valuable hands-on experience. Through Skoltech's industrial immersion internship program, I also had the opportunity to work on a project in industry.

Furthermore, the support I received from the team in the ISR lab, particularly my former supervisor, Professor Dzmitry Tsetserukou, was invaluable throughout my two-year master's program and beyond. He provided the necessary materials and advice to help me achieve my goals. Overall, the quality of education, well-equipped labs, hands-on research activities, and supportive professors and students were some of the aspects that I thoroughly enjoyed about Skoltech.
about PhD research project and study experience at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia
I am currently in my first year as a PhD student at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), School of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, Center for Advanced Manufacturing. UTS is a popular and highly-regarded university in Australia, providing students with opportunities to develop in various areas, including research, professionalism, leadership, and impact. Having said that, my doctoral research focuses on supporting manufacturing companies and small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by facilitating the integration of collaborative robots (Cobots) into their production environments. As Cobots become increasingly safe, cost-effective, and simple to use, the demand for their adoption is on the rise. However, the success of human-robot collaboration in the workplace largely depends on the overarching design of the workspace. As a researcher in this field, my task is to address the challenges associated with cobot adoption by implementing an integrated design approach that considers people, cobots, the workplace, and products.

My PhD project Design Factors: Integrated Design of Collaborative Robots, Products, and Manufacturing Environments is part of the Australian Cobotics Center (ACC) initiatives that involve the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Swinburne University of Technology (SUT), and UTS. ACC seeks to enhance the Australian manufacturing industry's competitiveness and transform it through cobot deployment. Currently, I am in the research clarification phase, gathering information from literature and industry partners. Additionally, I have weekly meetings with my supervisor and fortnightly meetings and seminars with diverse scholars from the three universities and industry partners, which is beneficial for exchanging ideas and tracking my project's progress. Overall, I am content with my research progress and have a positive outlook.

future plans and goals
My future goal is to become a researcher and entrepreneur who specializes in the implementation of cobots in manufacturing companies. To achieve this, I have devised a plan to dedicate myself to my research and gain expertise in the application of cobots in advanced manufacturing, Industry 5.0, and other relevant sectors. Along with research, I also intend to develop my skills in other domains such as entrepreneurship, and professional networking.

my advice to current students and applicants
In my opinion, the students at Skoltech are highly competent and possess diverse backgrounds and experiences. However, I would like to offer some advice based on my observations of other successful students and my personal experience. It is essential for students to be independent thinkers from the outset and to decide early on whether to pursue a career in academia, industry, or entrepreneurship. They should be responsible for every aspect of their work, including selecting a research topic, preparing proposals, and conducting experiments. By doing so, they will be better equipped to communicate their progress and findings with their supervisors and peers in class and the lab. Therefore, I would recommend that students be independent, work hard, collaborate with others, and take advantage of the diverse opportunities that Skoltech provides.
and now about Skoltech
We are Skoltech – a new international English-speaking STEM university that was founded by the group of world-renowned scientists in 2011 in Moscow, Russia. In just 8 years, we united dozens of researchers and globally renowned professors, built a stunning campus, set up world-class labs and made it to the top 100 young universities in the Nature Index. Read more >>
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