He takes up 9-month traineeship to pick up skills in deep tech

Mr Cheng Yi Chiao, 37, enrolled in a programme that develops deep tech talent in the fast-growing robotics and automation sector, and allows individuals to make a mid-career switch to the deep tech scene.
Mr Cheng Yi Chiao, 37, enrolled in a programme that develops deep tech talent in the fast-growing robotics and automation sector, and allows individuals to make a mid-career switch to the deep tech scene.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

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 to the deep tech scene.

As part of the programme, Mr Cheng 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 the programme, where he did a refresher on programming languages C++ and Python.

There, he also learnt about the Robot Operating System, a collection of software libraries and tools to help build robot applications.

Mr Cheng, whose 35-year-old wife is a public servant and children are aged two and four, brings with him years of experience working in multinational corporations and start-ups.

Previously based in Johor as the chief operating officer of an insect farming firm, he moved back to Singapore to be with his family.

He believes his new 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.

Calvin Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2021, with the headline 'He takes up 9-month traineeship to pick up skills in deep tech'. Subscribe