Building imaginations one brick at a time | Waterloo News

Ralph Hempel’s beloved hobby as a baby has turned into his aspiration job as an grownup.

The 1986 electrical engineering alumnus who spent a great number of hrs participating in with LEGO developing up is now used by the well known making toy company’s home business in Billund, Denmark

As the LEGO Group’s senior firmware architect, he puts to use his around 25 many years of experience in building, debugging and delivering elaborate embedded methods.

Even though Hempel took a break from his passion as a teenager, he returned to it in his early 30s when he and his spouse Christine Hempel, a 1991 College of Architecture graduate, started out a household.

Hempel shared his appreciate of LEGO bricks with his three sons, two of whom are now engineers – a person a graduate of Waterloo’s mechanical engineering software – and a person who is a surgeon.

For numerous a long time, Hempel designed firmware for hearth alarm methods, very first with Basic Electrical (GE), adopted by Mircom, and then with UTC, which acquired GE’s hearth and security division in 2010.

Ralph Hempel received a LEGO Creator package for a new birthday.

Hacking into LEGO firmware

Residing in Owen Sound, Ontario at the time, Hempel was part of a hobbyist group that reviewed all issues LEGO, including producing their own controllers.

Intrigued by the yellow LEGO MINDSTORMS RCX (Robotic Command eXplorer) brick the business released in 1998, team members hacked into its firmware.

When the LEGO Team observed what the members had carried out, the firm invited them to go to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Mindfest described by Hempel as an engineering futurism convention.

“There, we had been in a position to reveal how we hacked into the brick, which was not really tricky,” he states. “The exciting point was when we confirmed the engineers at the LEGO Group the reversed engineered supply code they reported, ‘It’s better than what we have, and you just did it backwards.’”

Maintaining in contact in excess of the yrs with LEGO Group engineers, Hempel was made available a work with the company in 2016 to direct its firmware progress staff that had recently grow to be its have office.

Childhood sets compatible with most recent products

Transferring from Owen Audio to Denmark was a significant go, but one he and Christine, an city designer, have embraced. Alumni Ralph and Christine Hempel

The emphasize of Hempel’s time with the business has been creating the fourth technology of LEGO MINDSTORMS, distant-controlled robots that can be programmed in Python or Scratch, a programming language focused to 8 to 16 calendar year olds.

Ralph and Christine Hempel on a Dolomitic Alps hiking journey. 

Along with other individuals on a LEGO Team staff, Hempel retains a patent for the layout of the hub ingredient applied in the LEGO Education and learning Spike Prime and LEGO MINDSTORMS sets.

“We went back to the core of the initial LEGO RCX, which was uncomplicated to establish and has a more inclusive style,” he says. “Now we have a lot extra ladies and young children playing with it and not staying intimidated by the condition of the component.” 

The LEGO sets Hempel has stored for a long time are still appropriate with the hottest types.

“It all goes back to the modular style on the LEGO Method In Enjoy that is in the DNA of every brick,” he suggests.  “I have factors in my selection that are around 50 many years old and do the job exactly as they really should with today’s features.”     

‘Do what you love’

Through most of superior university, Hempel, who was born in Germany, planned to shift back to the nation and apprentice as a resource and die maker like his father had carried out.    

But just after his uncle browsing from Germany instructed he take into consideration pursuing an electrical engineering education, Hempel used to courses at 3 different universities and was acknowledged into all of them. Waterloo’s co-op system was the deciding issue for him. 

Wanting back at his time at Waterloo, it was the electrical engineering program’s concentrate on primary engineering abilities that has trapped with Hempel.

“I’ll always be grateful for that,” he states.    

The key to Hempel’s profession fulfillment in excess of the several years is acquiring a task he enjoys.   

“It’s like the phrase claims, ‘If you do what you adore, you may in no way do the job a working day in your everyday living,’” he clarifies. “I enjoy embedded devices and I have cherished taking part in with LEGO bricks ever considering the fact that I was a kid.”

Key image is of Ralph Hempel on his to start with working day with the LEGO Team in Denmark