Warning: The following article is written in third person!
Who’s Brandon Sanders?
Brandon is a roboticist who designs, builds and programs robots ranging from the cute Coffeemecha to towering (not really) robots for competition. Presently, he works for the United States Air Mobility Command (AMC) Agile Development Team as a software developer. He is the founder of Mechakana Systems and FIRST Robotics Team Café Bot, the main organizer of the FIRST Robotics International Exchange Program, a published author and the creator of Stratos.
Fun Fact: Once a year, he also twists balloons for donations during the annual St. Louis Botanical Gardens Japanese Cultural Festival.
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 in a leg, a coffeemaker modified to have treads and work with the Leapmotion controller or a three meter tall competition robot, he’s always using a wide variety of skills to turn concepts into reality.
As a result of his experiences, Brandon has developed an extremely unique and wide array of technical skills, which include:
- Almost every programming language you can think of, from C++ and Java to embedded LabVIEW and BASIC, all the way to Ruby on Rails, AngularJS and PostgreSQL.
- Autodesk 3D CAD software for mechanical design, testing and analysis.
- He’s fluent and comfortable with both Waterfall and Agile development environments in large and small teams alike. The idea of agile construction intrigues him.
- Technical documentation; he’s an award-winning writer and a published author.
- Mechanical fabrication and assembly; he’s just as happy writing a new app in Rails as he is operating CNC mills or arc welders.
- Adobe Creative Suite; many of his projects and presentations rely on custom graphics to create a bigger impact.
- Leadership of both small and large teams throughout short (six-week) and long (six-month) seasons to design and build robots.
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 for 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.
- The FIRST Robotics Competition Dean’s List Award for outstanding technical, communications and leadership skills.
- The FIRST Robotics Competition Rookie All-Star Award for outstanding overall team performance.
- The FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying, State, Super Regional and World Championship Inspire Awards for outstanding overall team performance.
Connecting the World and Inspiring Others
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 the Main Organizer 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 here.
In addition to serving on multiple other committees and coordinating 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.
Engaging the Community
In order to support the various robotics programs that he participates in around the year, Brandon works closely with major corporations and organizations like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Emerson, Nidec Motor Corporation, Optimist International, Boeing and more. Through constant communications with these sponsors and supporters, he has built strong communications and public speaking skills which have helped him and his teams become the successful and world-renowned groups of students they are today.
Mechakana Systems is all about
Brandon the combined worlds of software, gaming, robotics and community, whether he’s writing about his latest software framework or inspiring the next generation of roboticists.
The content of the Mechakana Systems website ranges from installing Minecraft on a USB drive to configuring and programming the XBee for use with an Arduino. In addition to this, Brandon routinely covers content relating to the FIRST family of programs as well as some of its teams.
If you like software, gaming, robotics or all three, this is the place to go!