Teenagers interested in robotics or engineering degrees should learn to program their robots

Teenagers interested in robotics or engineering degrees should learn to program their robots

     Teenagers have a lot on their plates. Of course, there’s the usual issues with puberty, social pressures, and dealing with a quickly-changing life, and these should not be understated. But in the stir and confusion, academics often take a backseat to other pursuits. This causes even more pressure down the line, because by the senior year of high school, many students need to have an intended major and some semblance of a tentative career path before heading into college. There are some that have known since day one that they wanted to be a doctor, pastor, counselor, or coach, and there are many others that will go through changes on their journey into the workforce. But for those (few) young men and women that choose robotics or engineering as their majors, the future is looking bright. In order not to fall behind the ball though, they need to understand the value of code in relation to their robotics.

 

     Robotics and engineering are two exemplary subjects to study. Having the skills and knowledge of an engineer all but guarantees that you will be in demand, anywhere in the world. Society needs engineers of all kinds to build our world, and robotics is growing into a vanguard field in its own right for a second technological revolution. For those with the predisposition towards these fields, they will be able to find jobs with ease. In fact, there is a growing demand for these and other STEM fields, since technology and its impact on our business and global society are growing at exponential rates. And if that type of security isn’t enough to sway your judgement, remember that these are two fun and exciting fields. Being able to create something that impacts the world in a positive, meaningful way is no small feat, nor is helping create the products and structures that fill our lives.

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Robotics and engineering skills can be applied to many different situations. For example, this picture shows a robotic submersible.

Robotics and engineering skills can be applied to many different situations. For example, this picture shows a robotic submersible.

     The value of code in these fields almost goes without saying. But coding is an important thing to learn in its own right. The technology that engineers create is done largely with the help of code. Understanding the digital structures, which we utilize without a second thought every day, can only be done if you have some appreciation of the work that went into the code. It’s like admiring a Roman aqueduct without understanding some basic physics or material sciences; the greater meaning will be lost. In addition, being able to code gives you a common tongue with people around the world. The same software that you use works just as well on a Chinese or Indian computer, making code the lingua franca of the scientific and technological community. Most of all, code teaches a way of algorithmically thinking that can be applied to any situation. Breaking down big problems into smaller ones, solving each one at a time, is a type of critical thinking that scientists take for granted, but anyone can utilize to great effect.

Robotics and engineering students will use code constantly in higher education, so it is wise to get some familiarity with it beforehand.

Robotics and engineering students will use code constantly in higher education, so it is wise to get some familiarity with it beforehand.

     Coding in robotics is as important as the wires, LEDs, metal, and circuit components from which the actual device is made. If those pieces are the body, code is the neurons, the brain, the connection between you and the robot. Computers aren’t smart, but they are obedient and will do exactly what you tell them. So if you want your robot to do something, you have to write the code to tell it what you want. This takes precision, which can be frustrating to master, but it is worth the time and energy to learn. All the things that make robots interesting, such as moving, sensing, recording, transmitting, and doing complex actions that make it seem like they’re ‘thinking’ use code as the levers behind the smoke and mirrors.

     The fields of engineering and robotics require code on a fundamental level. Getting teenagers interested in these fields to practice that code is what will set them ahead of the field when they get to higher education. These skills will continue to develop, but the sooner they start working on it, the more effective they will be. As they program, test, explore, and create, their code will grow just as their minds do. This can mean the algorithmic thinking they learn is applied to learning new languages of code, since each language offers its own suite of benefits and disadvantages. They can delve into one language specifically, mastering it and thinking of innovative ways to apply it to solve problems. Whatever they do, their robots, creations, and most of all, their code will change the world.