This month, in our Behind the Bot series, we’re chatting with Ozobot’s Prague-based Senior Software Engineer, Ondřej Sienczak. As Senior Software Engineer, Ondřej designs and integrates various software platforms and programming languages with robot hardware. Among other projects, Ondřej has been a key contributor to the advanced functionality of our Ozobot Evo through developing software and integrating emerging technologies directly into the robot as well as making continual design improvements to increase overall performance.
With a background rooted in software design, Ondřej studied electrical engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague and collected over 15 years of experience in the embedded software development field at globally recognized brands, including some of Europe’s largest electrical and manufacturing companies, before joining the Ozobot team.
Read on to learn more about how he got started as an engineer, why he loves programming and a few helpful tips and advice for aspiring engineers.
On what inspired him to start coding
I had never seen a computer until I was 10 years old. This may sound strange for many people to hear, especially those from the U.S., but the situation was very different at that time in the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia) than it is today. Computers were super expensive for us then, because it was just a few months after Communism was defeated in our country. For example, a standard PC was approximately $1800 USD and my father’s salary was about $130 USD. Therefore, my father took me to school for a programming class. He told me, “Computers aren’t complex, they are fast, but you are the one who tells them what to do. Don’t be afraid of them.”
As a young child, I also loved building kits. When I started using a computer, I discovered a digital type of ‘building kit’ with virtually no limits and that was fascinating to me.
On his current favorite project
As I have always liked the programming of embedded systems, I’m happy to be designing and programming robot hardware as well as integrating new technologies with our robots at Ozobot. Right now, my favorite project is definitely the integration of a new programming language into the Evo robot because it shows that even embedded systems can move forward and you don’t need to have the technical discipline of writing complex programming languages in order to use it.
Actually, this is one of the reasons why I love Ozobot. There are so many types of technologies packed inside a small robot so that it’s simple enough for young children to play and learn with it. While it may not be apparent at first glance, there is a lot of non-trivial code running inside this tiny robot. Robots have to know how to see the line, how to follow it, how to move and change direction, and many other technologies which are used in real robotics and are also inside of the Evo.
On the biggest challenge in his career
Although I’ve worked on many challenging and technical projects throughout my career that have been quite complex, it may come as a surprise that my biggest challenge was my final project in high school.
As I was studying at a technical high school, the final exam came in the form of an extensive project. My task was to build an electronic piano, including mechanics, electronics, software and documentation, and present the finished product at the end. This project was the first time I had to create something completely “from scratch” in a limited amount of time, on my own.
My university projects and many others in my professional career did not feel as big of a challenge as this high school project because they weren’t my first — it’s all about perspective!
Why he loves working at Ozobot
Overall, my most favorite thing about working at Ozobot is the company itself. We have a perfect team full of smart, capable people where every person’s opinion carries weight and we can all influence and participate in projects as equals. I can also say that we are doing truly innovative software development. This may sound obvious given our products and industry, however, from my past experiences in the field, I know this type of real software development doesn’t always take place.
His advice for aspiring engineers
- Combine work with fun. It’s hard for me to imagine another job where you can play and create useful things at the same time. What is the difference between programming Evo and a robotic vacuum? Just size and complexity!
- Don’t be afraid of challenges. Even if you do not succeed, every challenge will give you the experience to help move you forward.
- Programming is everywhere! Keep in mind programming isn’t limited to the web, databases, or PC games. For example, ‘Nice’ programming is in the field of robotics as well as aerospace, automotive, home electronics, power plants, photography, and music industries. It can even be applied to nature and environmental needs!
Stay tuned next month to get another behind-the-scenes look at the people behind the bot!