Make it smart and make it here! These are the rallying words heard around the world regarding keeping jobs in-country and manufacturing smarter, more efficiently, and less costly.
One of the challenges of advanced manufacturing technologies is that they generate employment needs for specially-trained technicians with an understanding of engineering, mechatronics and robotics as well as production methods. These are in short supply at present.
Community and tech colleges, as well as advanced tech universities, are attempting to meet those demands by offering certification and two- and four-year degrees in robotics and automation. Recently Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the US and George Brown College in Canada have created fully online programs leading to their certificates or degrees in robotics; other colleges offer robotics technician certificates. A challenge to all these programs is that there is no standardization from one college to the next (whether online or not) and little coordination with local employers. Most cover the essentials but there are significant differences in curriculum.
Certainly there is interest in robotics education. STEM programs stimulate interest in learning more about technology and engineering. Programs with a robotics focus like FIRST or VEX are working. Attendance at the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis attests to the interest. will.i.am and Sheryl Crow performed and thousands of family, friends, team members and others (including the Deans of Admissions from Yale and MIT) attended this annual event. My local FIRST team, 1717 from Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, lost in the quarterfinals in St. Louis but won the Industrial Design Award.