RW Field Trip #1: Jon Morley

“It’s ok if things don’t work the first time.”

This is our first interview in our Robo Wunderkind Field Trip series, where we talk to educators, parents, and tech professionals around the globe about their coming-to-be story and the future of education. 

Today we had the pleasure to talk to Jon Morley (JM), Robo Wunderkind’s CTO & Head of Engineering. We talk about how experiential learning outside the classroom inspired his path the most, and his love for building something tangible. 

What was your favourite toy or game you played when you were a child?

JM: I used to play with legos as a kid, and actually I still play with them. At home, I have at least two drawers with at least 20 liters of legos in it. I loved to build spaceships and would build these massive cities that would go to war with what my brother/cousins built. 

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?

JM: Of course being Canadian it was to be a professional hockey player. (laughs) Unfortunately, I wasn’t good enough. I wanted to be a nano engineer working on really strong nanostructures. As a kid, I was inspired by my grandpa and dad. My grandpa was a biochemist, and my dad was an electrical engineer..he actually invented one of the first “internet phones”. I always like the idea of making something tangible so that everyone around the world could use it. 

Give us the scope about your job – the good, and the not so good.

JM: I’m the CTO & Head of Engineering at Robo Wunderkind, and that means I’m responsible for developing new functions of our robot. My day-to-day involves planning and working with the team to execute new ideas. I’ve been working on the Explorer line (that was just released), updates to the line tracker, and robot’s steering, along with some other exciting projects in our pipeline.

The Good: My job allows me to make tangible contributions. I love making new designs and developing new cubes for our robot.

The Not so Good: When I’m stuck on some code. For example writing code for a library for a new sensor. Maybe no one has done what you have done before and you don’t have stack overflow to lean on. You eventually have to just figure it out for yourself.

What did you study or do to be in the role you currently are in?

JM: I studied Mechatronics at Waterloo. It’s a mix of mechanical, software, and electrical engineering. I was more interested in the software and electrical aspect. At university, I was in the aerial robotics club – working on drones, etc. At university my lectures were more theoretical, so clubs like this one helped me to really apply my knowledge and learn what engineering is really about in the field. In this club, I worked on an automated tracker of drones. This would be normally an antenna station where you’d have a person pointing to where the drone is. We built a stand that uses the drone’s GPS to point where the drone is.

Before university did you attend any coding schools or camps?

JM: No, I went to an art school. Most of the coding and building I did was outside of school. I built a line following robot when I was 15 one summer. This was a little inspiration for the line follower that Robo Wunderkind has today.

If a child had a dream to be an engineer, what skills would they need to be successful?

JM: Math and physics are important to engineering, but that shouldn’t be everything they learn. The arts are also essential. I took music classes and it helped my brain think in different ways. I would also recommend they apply the skills they learn outside the classroom. For example, you can learn in a math class about a linear equation let’s say y=x. You could then apply that same equation you learn to a robot to drive in a straight line or in a circle. 

If you could go back in time what advice would you give to your 10-yr old self?

JM: It’s ok if things don’t work the first time. That’s actually a good sign. If things don’t work just keep trying.

Where do you see yourself or Robo Wunderkind in the next 10 years?

JM: Ideally we’d grow over 100x and be the default solution for technology education for kids.