Follow your passion

Alexandru Ionut Budisteanu, a 24-year-old Romanian award-winning entrepreneur, speaks during the KAUST 2018 Winter Enrichment Program on pursuing his passion to achieve his dreams. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

​-By Caitlin Clark, KAUST News

"I am a maker—my passion is to use computers and my mind to build stuff," said 24-year-old Romanian software developer, engineer and award-winning entrepreneur Alexandru Ionut Budisteanu during his 2018 Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) keynote lecture on January 17.

Budisteanu's passion began when he was 3 years old and his parents acquired a computer from a family friend.

"I was one of the first kids from my neighborhood to get a computer. My parents said, 'Let's not sell the computer; the computer is the future.' As time passed, I discovered my passion of staying in front of the computer to play video games," he said.

A few years later, Budisteanu thought he could create his own video game. By following tutorials on the internet, he taught himself how to produce 3-D movies, but he was drawn to programming the games, not modeling or designing them. By the time he reached the fourth grade, he'd written his own video game.

"I followed my passion—instead of just playing video games, I created them, and then I began to create electronics by letting my passion guide me," he said.

WEP 2018 speaker Alexandru Ionut Budisteanu was named by Time magazine as one of 2013's "16 most influential teens in the world" for his innovative engineering and software design projects. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

Budisteanu is now the founder and owner of a group of tech startups including Autonomix (artificial intelligence software for affordable self-driving cars) and VisionBot (Pick and Place robots for automatically assembling printed electronic circuit boards).

His tech endeavors earned him a place on the 2016 Forbes "30 under 30" Europe list, and he was named by Time magazine as one of 2013's "16 most influential teens in the world." Also in 2013, he won a grand prize award of $75,000 at Intel's International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona, for his autonomous self-driving car prototype that he built out of a workshop in his parents' garage.

'Be passionate'

"I am here to tell you to be passionate about what you like to do. To change the world, you need to be passionate and play with your passion," he said. "It is very important to choose a job or something to do in your life that you really love. Find what you are good at and just work with your passion to achieve your dreams. I am doing what I love to do."

WEP 2018 speaker and award-winning entrepreneur Alexandru Ionut Budisteanu built an autonomous self-driving car prototype at age 17 in his parents' garage. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

At age 17 and over the course of one year, Budisteanu wrote his own software for self-driving cars to detect traffic lanes, traffic signs and a proposed path for the car to drive. He also built a small 3-D LiDAR—a light detection and ranging remote sensing method—used for navigation and control in autonomous cars.

Finding a challenge

"I was just challenging myself to see if I could build something like that and to learn something. It is very important to learn something from every project you do and experience that you have," he said. "The most interesting part was that I didn't know what challenge would come next."

As he worked on the 3-D LiDAR, Budisteanu realized the inherent difficulties in manufacturing it.

WEP 2018 speaker Alexandru Ionut Budisteanu built VisionBot, a Pick and Place machine for assembling printed circuit boards, and created a startup company that builds the robots. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

"There are 7.5 million makers like me out there who manufacture electronic prototypes, but—in order to manufacture on a larger scale—you need to go to Chinese manufacturers or find a factory to produce your product," he said. "Technology on a larger scale becomes more complex and difficult to do."

To solve the problem, Budisteanu discovered his next challenge—he created VisionBot, his Pick and Place machine for assembling printed circuit boards.

Making robots

"VisionBot is affordable and helps makers to turn their electronic prototypes into products, and it was designed by a maker for other makers," he explained.

Budisteanu's parents' garage—where he still builds his devices—continues to grow as his startups mature and he works with a small team to manufacture more Pick and Place robots. With a website he created to promote VisionBot, he reached 31,000 people in one year and soon began selling the robots in Europe to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"I was just playing around with my passion to see if I could manufacture stuff from robots," he said. "I had an idea and I worked hard to accomplish it. It's very important to have big dreams and work for something that is big. Maybe you won't achieve it, but you will get closer. Just focus on your passion and work day after day to fulfill it—even five minutes every day will help you work towards your dreams."

Today, Budisteanu is working on finishing his degree at the University of Bucharest while he continues innovating—and dreaming. His other projects include SaveEnergy, an Internet of Things (IoT) smart socket that disconnects electronics when not in use to reduce electricity bills, and SkyHub, a social network for disrupting internet forums.

WEP 2018 speaker and award-winning entrepreneur Alexandru Ionut Budisteanu is following his passion in computers and engineering to achieve his dreams. File photo.

"Simply, I just love computers," he said. "I'm trying to create my own job by following my passion. I'm not sure if I will be successful, but at least I'm trying."

"Try to invent your own job—if you don't build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs for them," he told the audience. "Follow your passion and live your dream. This is my dream, and you too have the power and skills to change the world. Now make it happen!"

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