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Alumnus Tommy Brockman is Part of UMD’s Engineering Team Victory

Brockman with Plaque Tommy Brockman, a 2015 Forest Lake Area High School graduate, has known that he wanted to be an engineer even during his days at Forest View Elementary School. As a student, he excelled in all things math and science; and he used his time at Forest Lake Area Schools to hone his skills before launching into formal engineering training at the Swenson College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD).

Design Sketch Brockman recently graduated from UMD with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, carrying a minor in Energy Engineering. On the way to earning his degree, he found himself in a senior design project that brought engineering to bear on real-world applications, namely inventing technology that can support first responders like the police or military. In preparation for the Air Force sponsored competition, students met with members of law enforcement & SWAT, professional fire fighters, and military representatives to learn the challenges that responders face in active threat situations.

The UMD team created MATES (Mobile Active Threat Emergency System) which is a collection of sensors connected to a wearable iPad interface, which they also designed. The MATES includes sensors for tracking movement through walls, covertly capturing audio and video, and locating cellular devices operating within the vicinity.


In April, the team traveled to Florida to share their solution along with other college teams from around the US. The team members sensed that they had been successful due to the great interest shown in their designs. In May, they were named winners for the challenge, setting off a flurry of work to provide schematics, documentation, and other supporting materials to allow for further development.UMD Design Team Motion Detector During Testing

The hand motion sensor, which is one of the four sensors that was developed during this project, has produced significant interest. This small sensor can detect motion as subtle as someone breathing inside a car trunk. Such sensitivity is impressive, but becomes even more attractive when it can be built for a mere $80 in parts. “Motion detectors are finicky, and having one that can detect motion that fine for a price that small is a rarity” said Brockman. The team has put together several of these hand motion sensors to give to local law enforcement agencies around Duluth.



Below, Tommy Brockman responds to questions about his experience as a student of Forest Lake Area Schools.


What experiences at Forest Lake Area Schools helped to prepare you for your life after high school?

The CIS and AP courses were extremely helpful to me as they allowed me to finish my degree on time without having to take an extra semester like most of my friends. I managed to start college without having to take Calculus 1, a public speech course, or economics because they were already done!

Are there any specific staff members that made a real difference in your life choices or success, and why?

I’ve had a ton of fantastic teachers while at Forest Lake Area Schools, but I’d love to give a special shout-out to Mr. Holle for giving me a killer time in 6th grade and preparing me for Junior High. I’d love to give Mr. Meier some recognition for his careers course which helped me figure out who I was and what I wanted to be. I want to thank Mr. Jordahl for giving me a fantastic intro to algebra when I started Junior High. Finally, I’d love to give a shout out to Mr. Livermore for supporting me, and helping me stick with music through High School.

Do you have any advice for the students of Forest Lake Area schools?

Take as many CIS and AP classes as you can! They really pay off when you go to college. I had many friends at college who managed to finish their degree in three, or some even two, years!

Even if you’re more mathematically inclined, this doesn’t mean you can’t do the arts. I may have gotten an engineering degree, but throughout high school I played the string bass, performed in plays, and joined speech. All of which helped me with vital real world skills and experiences.