Brandon Michelsen graduated from UAT in 2020 with degrees in Robotics and Embedded Systems, Artificial Intelligence (A.S.) and Advancing Computer Science (A.S.). Reflecting on his years at UAT, Brandon appreciated being around so many others who shared a similar drive, mindset and passion for their industry.
Brandon is now working as an Embedded Software Engineer at Plug Power, Inc., a company that creates hydrogen fuel cell systems for a range of applications, including powering cell towers, data centers and electric vehicles. Part of his job includes writing firmware for the boards that control the fuel cells, ensuring they get the proper amount of hydrogen and maintaining the proper voltages.
Since Brandon is an entry-level engineer with the company, a lot of his focus has been on creating the communication interfaces that the systems provide to customers.
Q: How has your perspective changed now that you’re working vs. learning in school?
A: I would say I am more comfortable with making mistakes now that I am on the job (as long as they aren't causing dangerous problems). From what I've seen with my fellow engineers, making mistakes early and often helps us better adjust our design before it gets sent to our clients, which ensures we have a good product by the time it ships.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: I really enjoy learning new things as I work on projects. There are many things that I've had to learn while on the job, including how the chips we use work, how to set up an RTOS with our boards, etc. I also had to learn a lot about the electrochemistry that goes along with hydrogen fuel cells, which was very interesting.
Aside from that, I love working on the more challenging design aspects of our systems. It's a lot of fun to solve the more complex problems that we face as an engineering team.
For those currently looking for a job in their industry, Brandon advises to not lose focus, stating, “There is often rejection before you land something, so stick with it.” He also recommends setting a goal to send out a certain number of applications per week. While applying for jobs, his goal was at least 30 applications per week, which helped him get more interviews.
Q: What advice do you have for future UAT students?
A: I would say that the best thing you can do to learn is to work on projects. Research and theory are great, but they can only get you so far. By even just starting a project, you get a lot of valuable real-world experience that will help you in your industry. And projects are just fun to do.
Brandon is involved with some exciting projects at work, but he can't say much about them due to an NDA. In terms of personal projects, he’s teamed up with some of his fellow alumni to work on game jam projects. The Retro Game Jam is coming up in March, which inspired Brandon to learn Super Nintendo programming.
Q: What was the best thing you learned from UAT?
A: Honestly, the best thing I learned from UAT was how to learn. There were several classes I was in where the focus was not necessarily on learning something specific, as it was learning how to get the skills to work on a given project. The high-altitude balloon class run by Nathan Eskue comes to mind. In these classes, the focus was on completing a project, and I had to quickly learn the skills needed to properly finish the project. It was some of the most valuable experience I ever got.
In his free time, Brandon likes to learn new things in the world of technology and work on projects. He’s worked on several game jams with his friends and has been teaching himself more about computer architecture, game design and pixel art. Recently, he’s also gotten back into music and has been learning the piano. Brandon also enjoys the great hiking trails found around the area where he lives.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Many of my fellow students at UAT really inspired me. There were so many passionate and driven people I met while on campus who knew a ton about their field and were willing to invest the time to be the best they could be. They all really inspired me to put in the effort to do my best as well.
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