Brennan Cain

Computer Engineering Student Mathematics Student Robotics Researcher


I’m Brennan!

I am a student at the University of South Carolina. I am pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering in Computer Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. Beyond my required curriculum, I take additional courses in Math, German, and  Robotics/Controls.

I am working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in USC’s Autonomous Field Robotics Lab (AFRL) and Unmanned Systems and Robotics Lab (USRL). My current project involves coordinating a multicopter with multiple boats. I am also assisting on an experimental comparison of Visual-Inertial SLAM packages.

Last summer, I was in California for an REU internship with the Engineers for Exploration group at UCSD. I worked to develop realtime controls for a UAV using a PYNQ FPGA. This novel project allows all hardware to be programmed in C++ and creates a simple Python interface for high level commands. I presented this work at the 2018 IEEE International Conference on Big Data.

Aside from work and studies, I enjoy playing Frisbee with USC’s Dirty Birds, hiking, traveling, and cooking.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Unmanned Systems and Robotics Lab
September 2018- Present
  • Developed a cooperative system of a drone and an autonomous boat.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

University of South Carolina, Autonomous Field Robotics Lab
June 2017 – Present

Research Experience for Undergraduates Intern

University of California San Diego, Engineers for Exploration
Summer 2018
  • Developed real-time controls for a custom UAV
  • Used Vivado HLS to develop IPs for a Xilinx PYNQ FPGA
  • Relevant blog posts here.

Student Teacher

South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Math
Spring 2017
  • Developed and taught a cataloged course for full class credit
  • Covered PID controls, potential field controls, object detection through vision, and SLAM

Beaver Works Summer Institute

Massachusetts Institute of Technology and MIT Lincoln Lab Beaver Works
Summer 2016
  • Four-week summer camp at MIT
  • Developed an autonomous high-speed racing vehicle, MIT RACECAR.
  • Code here
  • Report here.

University of South Carolina, Honors College

B.S.E. in Computer Engineering

B.S. in Mathematics

GPA (Major): 3.9 (4.0)

  • Courses

    • Math
      • Vector Calculus
      • Elementary Differential Equations
      • Transition to Advanced Math
      • Linear Algebra
      • Vector Analysis
      • Statistics
    • Computer Science
      • Software Engineering
      • Computer Architecture
      • Digital Logic
      • Robotics
      • Operating Systems
      • Unix/Linux
    • Electrical Engineering
      • Electrical Science
      • Circuits
      • Physics: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Extracurriculars

    • Club Ultimate Frisbee
    • Undergraduate Research
    • German Club

South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics

High School

GPA (unweighted): 4.6 (3.6)

  • Courses

    • AP Physics 1 AP Score: 5/5
    • AP Computer Science AP Score: 5/5
    • AP Calculus AB AP Score: 4/5
    • AP Calculus BC AP Score: 4/5
    • AP Chemistry AP Score: 5/5
    • AP BiologyAP Score: 4/5
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Robotics
    • AP Statistics
  • Extracurriculars

    • National Honor Society
    • FIRST Robotics Competition Mentor
    • FIRST Technical Competition Member
    • FIRST Lego League Mentor
    • Tennis Team
    • Computer Science and Physics Tutor
    • Student to Student Skills Leader
      • A program to teach elementary and middle school students about programming and robotics
    • Ultimate Frisbee Society President


[2]: Bharat Joshi, Sharmin Rahman, Michail Kalaitzakis, Brennan Cain, James Johnson, Marios Xanthidis, Nare Karapetyan, Alan Hernandez, Alberto Quattrini Li, Nikolaos Vitzilaios, and Ioannis Rekleitis, Experimental Comparison of Open Source Visual-Inertial-Based State Estimation Algorithms in the Underwater Domain in IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS, h-index: 54), November 2019, to appear.

[1]: Brennan Cain, Zain Merchant, Indira Avendano, Dustin Richmond, and Ryan Kastner, PynqCopter – An Open-source FPGA Overlay for UAVs in IEEE International Conference on Big Data (Big Data, h-index: 33), December 2018, pp. 2490–2497.

Magellan Grant

University of South Carolina
Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

This grant was awarded to me by USC. It will fund my research for the full school year from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021.

Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

This fellowship oppurtunity will allow me to spend nearly a full year in Germany from July 2019 to June 2020. I will take courses in German, attend a German University, and complete an internship in Germany during this year.

McNair Junior Fellows

University of South Carolina
Summer 2019

Awarded based on previous research experience. This award funded my work for the Summer of 2019.

Engineering and Robotics Award

South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Math
May 2017

Awarded to the senior that shows exceptional interest and ability in the fields of engineering and robotics.

1st Place at ASGSR Capillary Flow Challenge

American Society for Gravity and Space Research
Oct 2016

My team won the High School Capillary Flow Challenge. This challenge was issued by the American Society for Gravity and Space Research. We designed a capillary tube with a nozzle at the end to pull silicon oil up and eject it in a drop tower.

3rd Place at MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute

MIT, MIT Lincoln Lab, Beaver Works
Aug 2016

My team developed algorithms to power an autonomous racecar. We competed against 9 other teams and placed 3rd overall.

Eagle Scout

Boy Scouts of America
Aug 2016

The highest honor in the Boy Scouts of America.

RIT Computing Medal Award

Rochester Institute of Technology
May 2016

In recognition of outstanding achievement in computing.

FAA Part 107 sUAS Remote Pilot

Certified FAA as a Remote Pilot and able to perform oversight and piloting for small unmanned aerial systems.

South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics Alumni Association

Alumni Board, Awards Committee
June 2017 – Present
  • Garnered nominations for the Outstanding Alumnus Award
  • Aided in the voting and selection process

IEEE Robotics and Automation Society

May 2018 – Present

IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society

May 2018 – Present

GSSM Student Brennan Cain Pioneers a Team-Taught Robotics Class

SC Governor’s School Blog

I created a one-of-a-kind class at my high school where I worked with a faculty member to teach a course in autonomous robotics for credit. The course passed the curriculum commitee’s standards and was taught the year after me by one of my students. Read more.

Microgravity: ASGSR Competition and Convention

SC Governor’s School Blog

I worked in a small team of 3 to design, simulate, and fabricate a droplet ejection device for a microgravity physics competition. Together, we developed a tube and nozzle which ejected a droplet at both the highest and earliest ejection leading to the farthest total covered distance (relative to the nozzle). Read more.

High school students race the autonomous mini-cars they built this summer at MIT

In the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I participated in an autonomous car development summer camp hosted by MIT Beaver Works. My team placed 3rd overall. My team is in the top picture too! Read more.