Technology

How to Become a Robotics Programmer

The human mind has long adapted to technological advancements and the speed of receiving information. We are no longer surprised by artificial intelligence like Siri that calls the command “I want to listen to my playlist,” switches on your favorite music, or “write my paper” finds a thousand relevant examples successfully. At the same time, a robot vacuum cleaner drives around the kitchen. However, we don’t think about how much effort it takes for robotics engineers to create automated mechanisms and systems to reduce humans’ workload and perform tasks more efficiently. 

Specialists in this field are divided into engineers and programmers. The former design robots and keep them running, and the latter “train” them to perform tasks. We will tell you about robot programmers, the skills they need, and where to get the proper education.

Robotics programmer: who he is and what he does

Robotics emerged as a branch of mechatronics. Mechatronics is the science of creating mechanisms and systems from connected mechanical, electronic, electrical, and computer modules with programmed control. 

The robotics programmer writes the code for machines to solve problems automatically and checks the correctness of the code’s execution. After all, if you connect all the mechanical modules of the system and wait even forever, nothing will happen. The code that connects the modules is needed to perform tasks. 

Assembling cars, conducting medical operations, rescuing victims of natural disasters, exploring other planets – these are just a few spheres where robots are involved. The number of areas of their application is steadily growing: automated systems watch over the cultivation of vegetables on farms without human intervention, explore the depths of the ocean and clean it of plastic, wash floors and windows in homes, collect parcels in warehouses and do much more.

In each of the above cases, the programmer prescribes algorithms for the movement of robots and factors, based on which the automated system performs actions. For car assembly, the specialist makes a sequence of steps: the first screw here, then there, and after several cycles, vice versa.

Gradually, autonomous robots are replacing “simple” robots: the most common example is a robot vacuum cleaner. It is controlled by a microcomputer with artificial intelligence, created by a robot programmer with knowledge of machine learning, computer vision, and languages for writing code in these areas.  

What you need to know and how to become a robotics engineer

  • Robotics is built on several basic sciences:
  • Mathematics – all the other fundamentals of robotics grow out of it.
  • Physics – without understanding the movement of bodies and the laws of their interaction, it is impossible to master such a complex discipline as robotics. It would help if you also took mechanics and electrical engineering principles from physics.
  • Mechatronics is a synergy of mechanics and electronics. Robotics needs to understand how to make mechanical devices work with electricity.
  • Programming – and this is what makes complex devices work. It’s not enough to just assemble a robot. You have to set the rules by which it will work. That’s the task of programming.

Skills required for a robotics programmer

At first glance, it may seem that a robotics programmer is a highly specialized unit. However, every professional needs a broad outlook for systems to work correctly:

Programming

C/C++, Python, Java, MatLab, ASM (aka assembler), ADA, and others – depending on the robot’s platform, design, and memory capacity.

Machine learning

 It will come in handy for specialists who intend to create autonomous robots. We advise paying attention to these skills as autonomous robots become more demanded and displace controlled robots.

Knowledge of automatic systems design theory

To understand how nodes are linked together and what mathematical tools to apply to their operation.

An understanding of microcontrollers and microcircuits

Electronics, radio engineering, and electrical engineering involve understanding the assembly of a robot and tuning the interaction of its systems to transmit signals and perform actions properly.

Design

The skill of self-assembly of mechanical models and their combination with electronic “brains” will not be excessive.

We see that despite the name of the profession, it is not excessive for a robotics programmer to develop the skills of an engineer.

How and where to develop in the profession

A robotics programmer with minimal knowledge can go to a car factory and become a highly specialized specialist by learning a unique programming language. However, it would help if you understood that technologies are developing and you will have to learn something new over time. Development is possible in several directions:

  • Robotics engineer. In addition to writing code, a specialist interested in designing or self-assembling mechanical devices can grow into an engineer and acquire many skills to think through projects from start to finish. 
  • Educator. Some are interested in both writing programs and sharing knowledge with others. Communication skills, a love of continuous learning, and knowledge of psychology can be translated into teaching courses.
  • Project Manager. Robotics programmers can launch their projects with sufficient experience in implementing automated systems. It will require developing organizational skills, assembling a team, and taking on the responsibilities of a manager to guide other specialists.

Final thoughts

Thus, programmer-roboticist-perspective profession: the number of robotic projects is growing, and salaries in this industry can boast a high bar, the requirements to the competencies of the specialist – also. It is unlikely that you can get all the necessary knowledge and skills about what is being done in robotics on your own. Still, training is available at universities and online courses. If you need a diploma, choose the traditional first option, but courses are more suitable for a quick start in the profession. You will get the most up-to-date theory, actual cases, and practice, without which no knowledge works.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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