RoboJackets alumni go on to a wide variety of accomplishments after their time in RoboJackets, but we always hope they bring a bit of RoboJackets along with them. We’d like to take some time to check back in with some of our alumni and ask “Where are they now?” and what part of RoboJackets they still bring with them.
This issue, we reached out to Brad Geving, the founder of RoboJackets, to catch back up with him and ask him about his time in the club in its infancy. First things first, Brad was at Georgia Tech from 1994 to 2000, completing a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. When he was a student, he was interested in robotics, but there wasn’t a place for him to do that on campus. He wasn’t sure about a club addressing the problem:
I thought about how a club could solve that problem, but it seemed that unless there was a goal, there would be no direction for robotics projects. A robotics club for the sake of doing robotics might get pretty boring. I found the competitive nature of BattleBots quite motivating so that’s the epiphany I had: that competition provides the goal and a club provides the pool of resources to achieve that goal.
He also foresaw that BattleBots wouldn’t be the only competition that people might have interest in, so he wanted it to be a more general competitive robotics club: “I thought it was important for a competitive robotics club to be flexible enough to incorporate any kind of robotics competition that people were passionate about in the future. So in other words, I didn’t think it would be good to start a BattleBots club when it’s the competition aspect that matters.” Brad began pitching the idea around, and while he had his doubts, ultimately as he “met more and more people who were interested, [he] found new inspiration in the passion those people had for robotics and that increased the sense of responsibility [he] felt to make it happen.” Needless to say, it’s that initial drive that led RoboJackets to the form it is today, with 6 separate competition teams across a wide variety of competitions.
As the founder, his primary contributions in RoboJackets were setting the club up for future success:
Most of my time was spent advocating for the club and developing infrastructure so future generations had something to work with. The club was founded on the heels of a Battlebots competition so that was my main actual robotics contribution. But mostly my time was spent lobbying the administration for space and resources (for which the ME administration was quite generous and supportive), the Student Government for budgets, the Alumni Foundation for more budget and really anyone who would listen for budget.
Now, Brad lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Shelley, and terrier, Winston. In his career:
I currently lead the media buying and operations team at an AdTech company called Tatari, which was co-founded 5 years ago by a friend I met 23 years ago at Georgia Tech (small world). On the surface, my current job may seem far removed from robotics, but we’re sort of applying control algorithm techniques to media buying decisions and from that perspective many of the concepts I learned in engineering are applied here.
In his spare time, Brad dabbles in Arduino and 3D printing projects. He also loves all the outdoor activities in LA.
Finally, we asked Brad for his favorite memory from RoboJackets. Here it is, in Brad’s own words:
For the Battlebots build, Damon Padgett and I were notified that the competition was going to take place in just 7 weeks and we were starting from scratch so needless to say we were in trouble. We worked furiously to get the bot ready, but we had only portions of the shell ready by the deadline to submit “proof of functionality” photos. We had to prop up the frame and take a photo from a specific angle to make it look like a completed bot. In actuality, though, the bot had nothing inside! Somehow we passed the test (mind you, this is before it was easy to share video so they didn’t have that requirement or we would have been toast). After that, we pulled several all-nighters and about 500 trips to Home Depot to get the thing ready in time. We actually packed the whole 55-lb bot and all of our tools into two suitcases and checked them on the plane to Long Beach, CA. Thinking back, it’s amazing that everything came together in time to compete. But, as they say, where there is a will, there is a way. We were at Georgia Tech so we could do that.
The last note he ended on was a memory he had of meeting Grant Imahara, best known for his time on MythBusters, at that competition and running into him later:
As an aside, at the competition we got to meet Grant Imahara, who was just another non-famous bot builder at the time, and we got to know his incredible personality. I met him again when the RoboJackets team came to compete in 2017 and fame hadn’t changed Grant a bit – still his humble self. The robotics community truly has some amazing people and I’m grateful that the RoboJackets experience has made it possible to meet some of them.