Budget 2021: Father of two took up traineeship to develop skills in deep-tech sector

Mr Cheng Yi Chiao also underwent training at Ngee Ann Polytechnic as part of his programme.
Mr Cheng Yi Chiao also underwent training at Ngee Ann Polytechnic as part of his programme.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The prospect of getting paid to learn how to program robots and work for a deep-tech firm deeply excited Mr Cheng Yi Chiao.

So the father of two decided to take up a nine-month traineeship programme to do just that.

Last November, the 37-year-old enrolled in SGInnovate's Innovation and Enterprise Fellowship programme. Called Power X Robotics, it develops deep-tech talent in the fast-growing robotics and automation sector, and allows individuals to make a mid-career switch into the deep-tech scene.

As part of the programme, he is now attached to local agritech start-up Polybee as a robotics trainee. The company uses autonomous drones to pollinate crops in indoor farms.

His colleagues have been patient in teaching him the foundations of robotics control, said Mr Cheng, who has been with the firm for about three months.

"My belief is that if you continuously improve yourself, you will stay employable," he said.

He added that his role involves programming miniature drones for pollination, a practice that will hopefully encourage indoor farming firms "to grow a wider variety of crops locally".

Mr Cheng also underwent training at Ngee Ann Polytechnic as part of his programme, where he went through a refresher on programming languages C++ and Python. There, he additionally learnt about the Robot Operating System, a collection of software libraries and tools to help build robot applications.

Married to a 35-year-old public servant and a father to two children, aged two and four, Mr Cheng brings with him years of experience working in multinational corporations and start-ups. Previously based in Johor as a chief operating officer for an insect farming firm, he moved back to Singapore to be with his family.

He believes his expertise will come in useful. "I do hope to grow in this space and help enhance food security in Singapore through deep tech," he said.

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