The Big Brain Theory

The Big Brain Theory

The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius on Discovery Channel features a seemingly impossible engineering challenge to be solved by the contestants each week. Competitors have just 30 minutes to come up with a solution using their own intellect to complete the challenge. Based on logic and design, the expert panel of judges determine the best engineering concept and select two captains to lead their team to execute the project. The team with the best design will remain safe, but the losers will face the judges who will determine which member will be eliminated.

The winner of the competition will earn $50,000 and a one-year contract to work at WET, the industry leader behind some of the world’s most innovative water-based designed environments and experiences including the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Participants

  • Host: Kal Penn
    Host: Kal Penn

    Host: Kal Penn

    Host: Kal Penn

    Kal Penn is an accomplished actor and producer. His notable feature credits include “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” and its follow-up “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”, “The Namesake”, based on the novel by Pulitzer-winner Jhumpa Lahiri, “Van Wilder” and its sequel “The Rise of Taj”, “A Lot Like Love” and “Superman Returns.” Known for his role as young Dr. Lawrence Kutner on the critically acclaimed television series “House,” Penn also had a recurring role on season six of “24” and guest starred on the hit series “Law & Order: SVU.”

    Born and raised in New Jersey, Penn graduated from the Freehold Regional High School District’s Performing Arts High School, attended the Governor’s School for the Arts, and received a degree from the prestigious School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA.

    Penn recently returned to acting from a 2-year sabbatical during which he served as an Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. During his time there, he served a variety of roles, including that of President Obama’s Liaison to the Arts communities, Young Americans, and Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders. He also served as an Adjunct Professor of Cinema, Sociology and Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in International Security at Stanford University.

  • Judge: Christine Gulbranson
    Judge: Christine Gulbranson

    Judge: Christine Gulbranson

    Judge: Christine Gulbranson

    Dr. Christine A. Gulbranson is an outspoken, rising star in the world of tech innovation, having been named to the “Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders of Silicon Valley” and MIT Technology Review’s “Innovator for the 21st Century.”

    A renowned expert in renewable and clean energy, photonics, optics and nanotechnology, Christine serves as a Senior Advisor for Renewable & Clean Technologies at Symphony Equity Partners L.P. She is also the founder and CEO of Christalis LLC, specializing in alternative energy, nanotechnology implementation and innovation/business strategies.

    As CEO of the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization, Gulbranson launched the first renewable energy accelerator in the U.S.

    www.christinegulbranson.com

  • Judge: Mark Fuller
    Judge: Mark Fuller

    Judge: Mark Fuller

    Judge: Mark Fuller

    Mark Fuller is CEO of WET, the industry leader behind some of the world’s most innovative water and fire-based designed environments and experiences including the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. As inventor of “laminer” stream technology, he co-founded WET in 1983 and holds more than 50 patents on water control, lighting and air compression devices.

    WET has achieved unprecedented recognition in its field and has received numerous awards for innovation including Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Design, an LA Architectural Award for Landscape Design, an Images of Universal Design Excellence Project award and features in Interior Design and The Los Angeles Times.

    Mark has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Forbes, and Inc., was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2010, was inducted into the Utah Technology Council’s Hall of Fame in 2011, and has spoken at TEDx in Salt Lake City.

  • Alison Wong
    Alison Wong

    Alison Wong

    Alison Wong

    Age: 31

    IQ: 125

    Location: Menlo Park, CA

    Occupation: Product Design Consultant

    Education: BS in Mechanical Engineering (MIT), MS in Mechanical Engineering/Product Design (Stanford)

    “All my life, I’ve been a bit of an outlier,” says Alison. “An engineer who loves art, an Asian in the Midwest, a woman in technology. I want to break down stereotypes.” Alison is a design consultant for companies like HP, Barnes and Noble, Motorola,and IDEO, and manufactures her own product designs. She worked at Ford in Dearborn, where she helped design parts on an aluminum Explorer and at Apple, where she made an efficient heat pipe for the iMac.

    Even though she runs her own company called Integral Design and teaches product design at Stanford, Alison still has time to draw cartoons, moonlighting as a storyboard artist and illustrator. On the weekend, she loves hiking and riding her motorcycle.

    Winning this competition would mean the world to her. “I’ve got the academic credentials,” she says. “But this title you can’t buy.”

  • Amy Elliott
    Amy Elliott

    Amy Elliott

    Amy Elliott

    Age: 26

    IQ: 128

    Location: Blacksburg, VA

    Occupation: Ph.D. Student, Researcher for 3D Printing Lab

    Education: BS in Mechanical Engineering, Currently in school for Ph.D.

    This Virginia mech-head calls herself the Martha Stewart of engineering because she can do it all. She’s pursing a PhD in mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and has already amassed a ton of experience in the machine shop, with mechanical design and in robotics competitions.

    After serving as an apprentice machinist for 6 months, she used her metalworking skills to build robots, spending several years with First Robotics and NASA Robotics Academy. She also worked for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center for three years, where she designed and machined an experimental setup to test bearings.

    Her current Ph.D work deals with rapid prototyping technologies; so she knows how to design and build extremely fast. Amy is undoubtedly smart, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously, describing herself as “hilarious, loving, dynamic, talkative… sometimes a baby and sometimes the boss… but always Southern.”

  • Andrew Stroup
    Andrew Stroup

    Andrew Stroup

    Andrew Stroup

    Age: 27

    IQ: 132

    Location:Baltimore, MD

    Occupation: Engineer for Department of Defense

    Education: B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering

    Andrew works for the Department of Defense as a Systems Engineer, but don’t take him too seriously. An avid gamer, he’s ranked as one of the top 50 in the world for playing World of Warcraft.

    At just 26 years old, Andrew has led major, multi-million dollar projects. With professional experience in aerospace and mechanical engineering, he is no stranger to designing large-scale systems. And when it comes to building, he has led the Oklahoma State University “Design, Build, Fly” team to a 1st place win over some of the best aerospace programs in the world, including MIT and USC.

    Andrew likes to joke about his high IQ and brags that he developed a specialized monitoring device used to identify contamination in aerospace platforms. When asked what would be the easiest part of The Big Brain Theory for him, Andrew replied, “winning,” because you don’t play games with the gamer.

  • Corey Fleischer
    Corey Fleischer

    Corey Fleischer

    Corey Fleischer

    Age: 30

    IQ: 120

    Location: Abingdon, MD

    Occupation: Senior Mechanical Engineer, Lockheed Martin

    Education: Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering

    Fueled by caffeine and a hardcore competitive attitude, Corey remains an active skateboarder, snowboarder and senior mechanical engineer for Lockheed Martin. In his spare time, created the “Wii Kart,“ a fully functioning go-cart controlled by a Nintendo Wii remote.“My son gets a real kick out of it,” he beams.

    Although he loves to party and might be considered a little reckless (he destroyed a perfectly good car in a Redneck Demolition Derby), Corey was hired by Lockheed Martin directly out of college. One of the few 30-year-old senior engineers at Lockheed, he’s known as “The Professor,” because, as he says, “I’m constantly schooling it on mission critical design projects.”

    When asked how he’d celebrate winning, Corey replied, “I’m definitely getting a ‘The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius’ tattoo.”

  • Dan Moyers
    Dan Moyers

    Dan Moyers

    Dan Moyers

    Age: 34

    IQ: 121

    Location: Los Angeles, CA

    Occupation: Spacecraft Engineer

    Education: Masters in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford. Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering, West Virginia University. Incomplete Masters in Electrical Engineering.

    In West Virginia, this self-described football-playing country boy built barns. Now in California, he flies remote-controlled spacecraft.

    With a Master’s degree in aeronautics and two bachelors degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Dan has years of academic experience designing and building structures,machines and simple robots. In fact, he once built an AI robot to catch the attention of a Hooters waitress.

    He considers himself an “epic” leader with a diverse engineering background and “thrive(s) on winning” and “love(s) to talk trash.” After graduating from Stanford with a 3.8, he was hired as a spacecraft engineer working on top projects.

    “My biggest challenge on this show will be keeping myself from becoming too aggressive,” he says. If there’s a cash prize, Dan hopes to use the money to help his parents and develop the first operating hover board.

    You can find Dan via:

  • Eric Whitman
    Eric Whitman

    Eric Whitman

    Eric Whitman

    Age: 27

    IQ: 142

    Location: Pittsburgh, PA

    Occupation: Graduate Student, getting a PhD in Robotics

    Education: Currently in 5th Year of Robotics Ph.D, B.S.E. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Masters in Robotics

    When asked what kind of people Eric gets along with best, he responded, “Do robots count as people?” Eric is a young, no-nonsense scientist who has amassed an impressive resume as a roboticist currently working on walking robots.

    He has worked on short-term jobs as a mechanical, chemical, electrical, and aerospace engineer and currently mentors students on an all-girl FIRST robotics team. In his free time, Eric works on hobby projects in his basement, including a Rube Goldberg animated assembly line.

    He enjoys debating and isn’t afraid to tell someone when they are wrong. Eric describes himself as “brilliant” and admits that he can be “arrogant and blunt” when he thinks someone is “lazy or stupid.” Competitive to a fault, Eric has willingly burnt his hand twice to protect one of his robots from harm.

  • Gui Cavalcanti
    Gui Cavalcanti

    Gui Cavalcanti

    Gui Cavalcanti

    Age: 26

    IQ: 134

    Location: Somerville, MA

    Occupation: Founder of a makerspace, Artisan’s Asylum

    Education: B.S. in Engineering with a Robotics Engineering concentration

    Gui loves building and designing so much that he decided to open an entire 40,000-square foot community workspace called Artisan’s Asylum. The Asylum is open to the public, and encourages and provides the tools for everyone to get creative and weld, work with metal, wood, electronics, fabric, digital design, and bicycle repair.

    Before starting Artisan’s Asylum, Gui worked for Boston Dynamics, designing and building the bodies and legs of humanoid and animal-shaped robots for the military, like Big Dog, PETMAN,LS3 and other high-end prototypes. He was trained as an engineer in structural and dynamic mechanical design and has tons of experience on a milling machine, lathe (both manual and computer controlled, MIG and TIG welders, and with woodworking and electronic assembly tools.

    Gui is the co-founder of Project Hexapod which is an effort to build a 4,000 pound, 18 foot wide, 10 foot tall, six legged, walking robot that seats two people called “Stompy.” He describes himself as a roboticist, community organizer, and a crazy man all wrapped in one. He works better alone than on a team, but, once on a team, he has to be the leader.

  • Joe Caravella
    Joe Caravella

    Joe Caravella

    Joe Caravella

    Age: 41

    IQ: 146

    Location: Sherman Oaks, CA

    Occupation: Owns an aerospace engineering company

    Education: B.S and M.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

    Born and raised next to an airport, this rocket scientist began creating radio-controlled planes and building rockets when he was 10. By high school, he had soloed a Cessna 152 and was building hovercrafts, hang gliders and jet-powered skateboards.

    After gaining his Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering, he spent ten years designing and building rocket engines. Now, as a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and the designer, owner and development engineer of his own aerospace company, Joe’s focus is on creating a 3-wheeled, road-able aircraft (flying car).

    An avid Halloween junkie, Joe is known in his neighborhood for designing and building frightening props, lighting, mazes and dungeons. A fun-loving guy who says he hates arrogant engineers, Joe also loves to surf in his free time.

  • Joel Ifill
    Joel Ifill

    Joel Ifill

    Joel Ifill

    Age: 26

    IQ: 120

    Location: Pittsburgh, PA

    Occupation: Welding Engineer

    Education: B.A.S in Engineering Technology

    You probably wouldn’t guess that Joel is an artist, based on the fact that he researches and develops nuclear reactors for the US Navy. With a background in welding and CNC machining, Joel is a former break dancer who designs and manufactures machine parts, fabricates custom computer cases and builds project cars.

    Calling himself “off beat” and “creative” Joel, has welded sculptures of his own design and routinely invents wacky things like a laser-wielding helmet for cats. Of course, that’s child’s play for a guy who used to build rockets and oversees the design and manufacturing of robotics.

    But Joel has faced his share of challenges. “As a minority with an engineering technology degree in welding from a small school, I have to face prejudice about the quality of my work,” says Joel. “I keep PhD’s on task at work… So I would like to show the world that I’m on top of my game.”

  • Tom Johnson
    Tom Johnson

    Tom Johnson

    Tom Johnson

    Age: 50

    IQ: 130

    Location: Germantown, OH

    Occupation: Owner of a small manufacturing company

    Education: B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Some Masters work in Systems Engineering.

    “I can work on a team if I’m the leader,” says Tom. “But I prefer to work alone.” The owner of his own manufacturing company, Tom is a former race car driver who has designed drilling machines for GE Aviation, suspensions for Formula Continental race cars, and (his favorite) a welding machine for Huffy Bicycles that the “experts” said would never work. Of course, he proved them wrong.

    These days, Tom is too busy building and managing machinists to do detailed designs on CAD/CAM (although, he knows the software through and through). He designs machine parts quickly in his head and gets his hands dirty as much as possible. “I’ve built everything that I’ve designed,” says Tom. “And I’ve never built anything that doesn’t have a purpose.”

    A self-described “show-off,” Tom calls himself a natural leader and problem-solver. “I’m never a follower,” he says. “Cry babies need not apply.”

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