IEEE Member Profile: Brett Pierce
IEEE Western NC Newsletter - August 2006
Each issue, the IEEE WNC will spotlight one of our consultants or regular IEEE members to highlight their capabilities and recent accomplishments.
Did you ever wonder who’s behind making those neat interactive exhibits work at museums and science centers? Well it was probably someone like Brett Pierce who designs and builds custom electronic controls, which integrate an array of special effects to captivate, entertain, and even educates visitors. Pierce owns and operates Interactive Electronics Design, LLC.
Recently, Pierce designed and programmed custom controls for interactive exhibits at the Colburn Science Center in Asheville and the Catawba Science Center in Hickory. Presently, he is working on a musical instrument sound exhibit for the new HandsOn! Children’s Gallery in Hendersonville.
He’s also working with Asheville Artist, John Payne, on an interactive dinosaur sculpture exhibit which will travel around the country to major museums starting early next year. Interactive ’s electronic control will animate the sculptures byproviding motion, sound, light, and other specialeffects. Pierce provided John with an easy way to articulate the sculptures and record animation sequences with a wireless remote control. In the final exhibit, the dinosaurs will wake up and perform animated sequences as museum visitors approach. They may even get the opportunity to control the dinosaurs themselves via remote control.
Pierce grew up in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois where he earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1988. After graduating, he moved to Pennsylvania where he worked as a Project Engineer designing new products for Lutron Electronics (a lighting controls manufacturer).
After that, his career took him to Alabama and upstate New York where he lead new product development teams in the medical and transportation industries. Eventually he landed in Western North Carolina in 1997 when he signed on with Welch Allyn as the R&D Project Leader. In 2001, Pierce earned his master’s degree in project management from Western Carolina University. When Welch Allyn announced in 2003 that it would consolidate the Arden operation with the corporate headquarters near Syracuse, NY, Pierce was among those who decided not to move to NY with the operation. “We had lived in several parts of the county and we knew we wouldn’t be as happy living anywhere other than Western North Carolina.”
After working about 1 year at Kearfott Guidance and Navigation in Black Mountain, Pierce decided it was time to end his corporate career and break off to work on his own. In early 2004, he started Knoll Creek Contracting, LLC and later Interactive Electronics Design, LLC where his focus has been to provide custom electronic controls for museums, science centers, and attractions.
Pierce is certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and is a senior member of the IEEE. In 2005, Pierce was instrumental in designing the embedded electronic controls behind the MagiQuest attraction in Myrtle Beach. MagiQuest is like a life-sized video gamein which players physically roam the game environment to find objects, and solve puzzles. Each player carries a “magic” wand, which he/she waves at objects in the environment to produce magic and earn points. The wands are actually electronic transmitters and the environment is covered with hundreds of hidden sensors. The sensors are all connected to electronic nodes which drive motors, play sounds, and flash lights among other effects to produce the “magic” of MagiQuest. Every wand has a unique ID and the nodes are networked via Ethernet to central computers. This allows the game system to track the progress of each player and trigger special effects relevant to the player’s progress.
When asked what he likes about his job, Pierce says: “What I really like is the feeling that what I do matters and that my work affects people in a positive way. It’s also a lot of fun to play with or create all the neat technology I get to work with.” Pierce plans to continue his focus on museums, science centers, and attractions, but he is also interested in applying his capabilities to serve any company in need of custom electronic design or electronic product development support.