By Ainslie Coghill
Yannick Brisebois has followed in his mother’s footsteps.
On June, 13, 2019, Brisebois’ family gathered to watch him walk across the stage at Carleton University convocation. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, just like mom.
“My interest in engineering can definitely be traced back to my mother, as well as her father who was also an engineer,” says Brisebois.
His mother Bonnie knew he would be an engineer by the time he was one year old.
“On his first birthday, he was playing with one of those corn popper push toys, but not like most kids would play with it,” she says. “He had his face down on the ground and was examining the mechanisms.”
As a child, Brisebois tinkered with toys, then moved on to building winding marble runs, and making origami. When he discovered robotics, a switch turned on.
“I knew I wanted to pursue a future in mechanical engineering when I joined my high school’s FIRST Robotics team in grade nine,” he says. Brisebois was part of an extracurricular robotics team at All Saints Catholic high school in Kanata, called the ASTECHZ, and was the captain for his final two years of high school.
His knack for robotics carried over into his university experience.
A year before Brisebois’ arrival at Carleton University, a student club called the Carleton Planetary Robotics Team (CPRT) was formed. On one of his first days on campus, during fall orientation Expo, he happened upon their information booth.
Brisebois remained a member of CPRT throughout his time at Carleton. In the team’s third year, they took part in their first University Rover Challenge.
He held the position of mechanical lead at the time, and recalls many long nights assembling the team’s Mars rover before taking it apart so it could be shipped, overseas, for the competition in Manchester, U.K.
“We were still learning how everything worked. Amazingly there were no bugs in the code and everything moved as we wanted it to,” he says.
“The rest of the competition was also very memorable,” he says. “Unfortunately, our rover was standing still longer than it was moving. But the positive attitude and excitement of just being at the competition was overwhelming. I think this vibe was what defined our team, and how we have worked together since then.”
Brisebois spent his final year with CPRT as team lead and president. It’s a wonder how he found time for additional extracurricular activities, and yet he was on the Carleton Student Engineering Society executive (for three years), and participated in the Carleton University Student Association and Carleton Academic Student Government.
“I was very involved in the student community, participating in almost everything I could,” he says. “I’ve made many friends along the way, the closest of which from the various clubs and societies.”
Attending multiple conferences also helped Brisebois forge friendships with students at other engineering schools, and build on professional skills for his future.
“My five years at Carleton have taught me to be confident, accepting, and open to new ideas,” he says.
Brisebois’ advice for new students joining the Carleton community is to get involved however they can, and not be afraid of trying something new.
“It’s a great way to make friends with upper years who can help out on school assignments if you’re stuck,” he adds.
Stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be scary, but Brisebois points out it’s critical to learning and getting the most from a university experience. He notes that the CPRT team invites students from across campus, not just engineers, to join the team to learn more about robotics. He says the experienced students are happy to impart what they know on the newcomers.
“It makes the team feel more like a family, which I’m really proud to say I was a part of,” he says.
While he says it’s bittersweet to be leaving the team behind, Brisebois would like to return from time to time in an advisory capacity, and help out when needed.
He has already secured employment, and is currently working in Kanata for telecommunications company Ciena as part of their mechanical team, a job he enjoys.
Brisebois also hikes, loves sports like soccer, Ultimate, and snowboarding, and his proclivity for tinkering has made him a natural for activities like woodworking and jewelry-making. But robotics is still first in his heart.
“I really don’t know where I will be in the future, but wherever I am I hope I’m still building robots,” he says. “Honestly, my dream job would be doing exactly what I did during my last five years on CPRT, so maybe one day the alumni will start our own company and just keep doing what we all love to do.”
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