Several schools offer fully online technical certificate programs in robotics. Secondary school teachers who want to teach robotics to their students can benefit from short certificate programs, while longer programs train high school graduates to work as robotics specialists in industry.
Online study generally allows students to view recorded lessons and access course materials as their schedules permit while adhering to stated deadlines. Students will need a computer with Internet connection; additional special hardware and software may be required to simulate hands-on experiences. Purchasing a robotics kit may also be required.
The certificate program for teachers explores how to develop lesson plans and projects involving robotics. They will learn to guide students in assembling and controlling robots that perform certain tasks. In a technical certificate program for work in industrial robotics, students learn about the programs commonly used in industry and how to install, maintain and repair them. This training may be sufficient for employment, but students who intend to seek a degree in the field should be aware that many schools will not accept credits from an online robotics program.
Online certificate programs may be geared toward teaching specific educational robotics packages to middle school and secondary school students. Fully online and lasting between 6-12 weeks, these programs task students with assembling increasingly complex robotics projects and completing the software required to control them. Teachers may be privy to sample lesson plans and exercises for their students.
Programs to prepare high school graduates for careers as robotics technicians also see online delivery and take 28-34 weeks of part-time enrollment to complete. They concentrate on the mechanics, power systems, sensors and control programs in use by major providers of industrial robotics equipment, as well as the maintenance and repair of these systems. In lieu of specific hands-on exposure to expensive industrial hardware, online coursework includes complex and comprehensive software simulations.
All distance-learning students need access to a computer with multimedia capabilities and a fast Internet connection to receive and return assignments, view lectures, take examinations and communicate with both faculty and peers. Programs may require students to purchase prototype robotics kits, software development systems or robot simulation software. These packages may require a specific hardware platform, operating system, ports and controllers.
Courses cover the principles, physical components, capabilities and computer programming requirements that make up the study of robotics. The difference is one of scale, since automated industrial equipment is generally much larger and more robust than commercial student prototype robots.
Presents strategies to move mechanical wheels, tracks, arms and sensors, along with the energy, power and feedback systems required for precision control. Topics include electronics, motors, gears, linkages, torque, hydraulics and pneumatics.
Courses for aspiring teachers of robotics tend to concentrate on a single dedicated programming language, whereas courses for robotics technicians present several software systems and languages commonly used in robotics programming. Students write their own control programs and watch them in action, using either their own robot prototypes or pre-packaged computer simulations.
Covers the various hardware and software approaches to robotic vision, sound perception, speech recognition and tactile sensation. Capabilities vary widely, ranging from simple surface edge-detection to complex pattern recognition.
Semi-autonomous robotic instruments need the ability to communicate with controllers for feedback or reprogramming. The class discusses hardware, software layers and common protocols used by local area networks as well as serial strategies used by robotic systems with dedicated control ports.
Robotics technicians work for manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of automated systems, as well as the end-user companies which buy and use robotic products. Technicians may specialize in installation, configuration, maintenance or repair, or they may be called upon to perform all of these tasks. Similarly, they may be responsible for a small number of similar machines or a wide variety of machine types, manufacturers and control systems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for electro-mechanical technicians was projected to grow 1% between 2014-2024. The median annual wage for electro-mechanical technicians was $53,340 as of 2015.
Teachers may incorporate robotics into their own courses, supervise after-school robotics activities or serve as advisors for competitive robotics teams. The BLS projected that between 2014 and 2024, job growth rates would grow 6% for middle school teachers and 6% for high school teachers. Median salaries were $55,860 per year for middle school teachers and $57,200 per year for secondary school teachers according to the BLS in 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education and Certification
Some credits may be applied toward an associate's degree or diploma program for electronics engineering technicians. However, most online programs for robotics do not offer transferable credits and will not count toward higher degrees. Many technicians continue to receive on-the-job training throughout their careers to keep current with technological advances. This may include acquiring various computer and electronics technology certifications, such as those offered through the Robotics Certification Standards Alliance in areas such as welding, embedded systems and AutoCAD. Certification is earned by demonstrating skills and passing an exam.
In online robotics certificate programs aimed at teachers, students gain the skills to design lesson plans educational projects in the area. Other robotics certificate programs prepare students for careers in the field and teach them how to assemble robots and use and troubleshoot related software.