Warning: The following article is written entirely in third-person!
Brandon is a roboticist and software engineer who designs, builds and programs robots ranging from the cute Coffeemecha to the towering Luna. Presently, he's a professional cyber-physical software engineer, the founder of Alicorn Systems, and a swarm robotics researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In the past, he's served as Lead Software Engineer for Enterprise Web Services Validation for the United States Air Mobility Command Agile Development Team (US AMC ADEV). He's the writer behind The Alicorn Blog, the founder of two FIRST Robotics teams, an organizer for the FIRST Robotics International Exchange Program and a published author.
Fun Fact: Once a year, he twists balloons for donations to the garden during the annual St. Louis Botanical Gardens Japanese Cultural Festival.
Brandon first started work on Alicorn back in 2013 when he was trying to simplify the programming process for his personal, Arduino-based robots and his FIRST Robotics robots. Over time, Alicorn kept receiving new and improved features, culminating in the full-scale platform that it's become today.
Brandon has worked closely with US FIRST and the St. Louis Community College to bring Alicorn to robotics teams world-wide. Thanks to Alicorn's simplicity and ease-of-use, students and teachers that would normally spend hours trying to make a motor twitch have been able to develop complex behaviors for their robots - in minutes.
Brandon has designed, built, wired, programmed, operated and even written about a large variety of robots. Whether it’s a small biped with just three servos per leg, a coffeemaker modified to have treads and work with the Leap Motion Controller or a eight foot tall competition robot, he’s always using a wide variety of skills to turn concepts into reality.
His skills range from things like full-stack development using C/C++, Vue.js, Java and Ruby on Rails to mechanical fabrication with CNC mills, and anywhere in between.
In addition to all of this, Brandon is also the published author of the blockbuster title Mastering Leap Motion.
Leading and Competing
Having had many unique opportunities to pursue his interests, Brandon has been able to become the successful team captain of not one, not two, but three distinct competition robotics teams, including FIRST Tech Challenge Team #4982 Café Bot, FIRST Robotics Competition Team #1444 Lightning Lancers and FIRST Robotics Team #5479 Café Bot. For a time, he also served as the scientific research assistant to the chairman of the Washington University Physics Department, where he wrote software to aid in the calculation of equations of state for dense matter in neutron stars.
As a result of his successful robotics teams, he has received over twenty different awards and accolades to date, ranging from writing to robot design. Some of his most notable awards are the FIRST Robotics Competition Dean's List Award for outstanding leadership of a robotics team, the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship Inspire Award for outstanding overall team performance and the inaugural Suprtek Tesla Award for leadership and innovation in the development of enterprise web services testing tools.
Connecting the World
When he’s not building or competing with robots, Brandon serves as a member of the Missouri FIRST Robotics Regional Planning Committee, where he works to connect student roboticists from all across the world as one of the organizers of the FIRST Robotics International Exchange Program.
The International Exchange brings together a wide variety of cultures during the FIRST World Championship, connecting our local roboticists in America with visiting roboticists from countries like Australia, Germany, Korea, China, Singapore, India and more. Founded by Brandon and his robotics team in 2014 as the result of their experiences with visiting teams during the world championship, the International Exchange has grown into a major program that builds new friendships that span continents every year.
You can find an article written by Brandon about the International Exchange and its impact on students on the official FIRST Tech Challenge blog.
In addition to serving on multiple other committees and organizing the International Exchange, Brandon both hosts and participates in outreach events and fundraisers to help inspire students across the world to participate in robotics programs. These events range anywhere from teaching kids how to program robots at the local library, demoing the Coffeemecha for students as a special guest during school hours or even twisting balloons during the annual St. Louis Botanical Gardens Japanese Cultural Festival.