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I am going to be a senior next year, and I have done lots in computer programming and electronics. I am thinking of studying robotics when I go to university, but I am not sure how much programming there is going to be.

Are robotics engineers programmers? How much programming can I expect to do if I choose to go down this career path?

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Consider asking this question on electronics.stackexchange.com as well. –  Clinton Blackmore Dec 13 '10 at 15:35
@Clinton, thanks I will do that as well. –  omeid Dec 13 '10 at 15:37
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7 Answers

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I'm a hobbyist roboticist, and robotics is a wide field, requiring many disciplines. I suspect the general answer for what you'll do in the workplace is that it depends on the size of the company you work for. In a smaller company, you'll be able to wear more hats. In a large company, you'll be more specialized. In any case, it is always valuable to understand the big picture -- if I hire you to build a better bot, and you know how to code but understand what happens with the electronics, you are definitely more valuable to me than someone who merely knows how to code; the same is true if you are an electrical or mechanical engineer and understand how what you are doing relates to the other disciplines in the project.

I was previously a game programmer. The question is akin to asking, "I want to make video games for a living. Can I be a game engineer and a programmer?" For a very small company (say, less than three people), you can do it all -- make art, design the game, and do the programming. As most people can not do all those things well, in a mid-sized company, you'll either be an artist, a designer, or a programmer (or possibly a liaison of sorts, such as a technical artist). On an even larger team, the answer to "I want to program games" becomes "Do you want to do the front end? database? animation? artificial intelligence? rendering?" with each being its own special subfield.

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Thanks for your answer Clinton, So now do I have to study one of them in depth or do sort of course (even dough its 5 years) i Linked to ? in terms of having a good job in future some where with big boys. –  omeid Dec 13 '10 at 15:58
@Omeid: It is tough, but I strongly recommend you talk to some (at least three) students who are in the program of studies -- especially in the last year -- and ask what they think about it, and what they'd recommend. If you can get there, see if the school has a 'student for a day' program, and be sure to talk to people. Ask the school if they'd give you a list of recent graduates (bearing in mind that they'll select people who did well there) and e-mail them to ask about their experience. I think it is more valuable to talk to the students than the organization for an unbiased view. –  Clinton Blackmore Dec 13 '10 at 17:09
@Omeid: Being an outsider, I can only guess if this is the course you want. It may well give you the foundation you want to excel. If you contact the organization, they'll surely have counselors or advisors you can talk to who will help you decide which program they have is best for you, but, speaking of organizations in general, may or may not say (or even know) if they don't have something that is a good fit. Again, I heartily recommend talking to actual students there. –  Clinton Blackmore Dec 13 '10 at 17:14
Thanks for your advice i will definitely keep your advice in mind while take the decision, I really like the idea of 'Student for a day' and Will try to find the student contacts. Thanks again. –  omeid Dec 13 '10 at 17:29
@Omeid: If you know the sort of place you'd like to work, see if they job listings, and look at the qualifications, or talk to HR, possibly asking, "I'd like to work for a firm like yours. What would make me an excellent candidate to do so?" –  Clinton Blackmore Dec 13 '10 at 18:13
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I highly suggest you study Mechatronics:

a design process that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, control engineering and computer engineering. Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering, that is to say, it rejects splitting engineering into separate disciplines. Originally, mechatronics just included the combination of mechanics and electronics, hence the word is a combination of mecha​nics and elec​tronics; however, as technical systems have become more and more complex the word has been "updated" during recent years to include more technical areas.

French standard NF E 01-010 gives the following definition: “approach aiming at the synergistic integration of mechanics, electronics, control theory, and computer science within product design and manufacturing, in order to improve and/or optimize its functionality"...

Robotics is a blend of electronics, mechanics, and computing :)

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Can you answer the OP's question about the degree in which he will be involved in programming if they pursue the robotics degree? –  Robert Harvey Dec 13 '10 at 15:35
Thanks for your answer but what is the differences of it with robotics ? –  omeid Dec 13 '10 at 15:36
I agree. In my experience people working in Robotics can come from any one of those fields and if you can find a program that combines them, that's probably a good choice of school to attend. –  kenny Dec 13 '10 at 16:44
That is quite a jack of all trades and master of none program. –  Job Dec 27 '10 at 2:45
@Job: as someone who took computer engineering (electronics) but then learned a lot of programming, but does a lot of automation, I can tell you there are many times I would like to have had better mechanical resources at my fingertips. The Mechatronics idea is an excellent one. In automation, if you don't have both skill sets, then you end up applying the one you know when you really should be applying the other one (every problem a nail and all that). Better to be a jack of all trades in this case, I assure you. –  Scott Whitlock Dec 27 '10 at 3:48
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However it is typically a different style of programming. I've done ladder logic which is visual programming (with pictures and symbols), but you will also use a lot of procedural programming with C, or ASM. Sometimes you get to use OOP, but not often. (This all deals with programming microcontrollers/microprocessors)

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Yes, it depends on what courses you'll take in terms of the % of the programming involved, but expect some work on the lower level languages for embedded controllers (C, assembly, various proprietary langs/APIs) and perhaps functional/AI languages for funky stuff :) (Hmmmm prolog)......

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Robotics usually involves programming, although the type of programming depends on the type of robotics in use. This is more true in research, as industrial robots at least used to be frequently programmed by having a human run it through some movements and then replaying the movements. A robot engineer might do very little programming.

Some programs may involve autonomous robots, in which case (if you get involved) you'll do some Artificial Intelligence work.

Electronics is more questionable. There's programming-heavy parts and no-programming parts.

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Robotics and video games are what got me into programming. So, in my opinion the answer is yes.

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Same here but it was more robotics then games. –  omeid Dec 13 '10 at 19:05
Since we share that background, maybe you will relate when I tell you this: Programming was a natural choice for me since I had already seen the code work on my TV, and on my robots. It only made me more curious. –  Pablo Dec 13 '10 at 19:18
Also: Isn't it awesome that we have teenagers studying robotics these days? Congratulations young man, I am very proud of you. –  Pablo Dec 13 '10 at 22:42
Thanks man –  omeid Dec 14 '10 at 4:03
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I have been involved in both Mechatronics and Computer Science. I am currently in my final year of Computer Science (switched over after 2 years of Mechatronics), but am already working as a Software Engineer.

Mechatronics involves way less programming and no Software Development what so ever. The only real programming that Mechatronical Engineers do, will be when they pursue a field of Automation (which is predominantly a Electronic Engineering field).

So in summary: if you want to be involved in Software Development/Engineering, Computer Science is the way. If you want to design and maintain robots for factories, Mechatronics is a good option.

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