LEGO pieces were the first building blocks of Christian Falcon’s journey to graduation from the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College in May 2023 with an associate in science degree in electronic and computer engineering technology (ECET).
“Ever since I was young, I was always interested in how things worked and in building things. One of my favorite activities was making creations with LEGOs,” Falcon said. “Little did I know my interest in Legos was probably the foundation for my interest in engineering.”
Things get rocky
Although the Maui native knew he wanted to be an engineer when he was growing up, his life took a slight detour after his graduation from Baldwin High School in 2015. He discovered a new passion—rock climbing.
“I decided to take a break from school to work and pursue rock climbing,” Falcon said. “Initially, I planned to take a two-year hiatus at most, but I worked as a carpenter and rock climbed for six years until the pandemic hit.”
Since it was difficult to find work, Falcon decided it was the perfect time to go back to school and pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an engineer.
“I enrolled in UH Maui College’s ECET program and was immediately inspired to put my all into this educational journey,” he said.
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On to advanced AI
After his first year, he considered finding a summer internship. Coincidentally, ECET faculty member Elisabeth Dubuit contacted Falcon to say that a UH-based autonomous racing team called AI Racing Tech (ART) was looking for summer interns.
Falcon said, “During my year-long internship at ART, I worked on advanced AI with many talented students from UC San Diego, UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University. I have also gained valuable experience applying many concepts I have learned in the ECET program including mechanical, electrical and programming design.”
He now has an ongoing internship at ART.
“We develop software for fully self-driving autonomous racing go-karts and high-performance race cars,” Falcon said. “I assisted the team in the Indy Autonomous Challenge, an international racing event, where 10 teams competed against each other by developing AI for autonomous racing. We are currently the No. 1 U.S. team in the Indy Autonomous Challenge.”
The program has also given Falcon and his classmates opportunities to travel, meet and work with students all over the U.S.
“We participated in the (Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone) GLEE 2023 workshop, an undergraduate-led project at the University of Colorado Boulder that aims to send 500 small-scale Arduino (a kind of microcontroller)-based boards to the moon’s surface in 2023. We’re also going to Virginia Tech this June for the CanSat competition, where a scientific rocket payload we designed and built will be launched,” he said.
Falcon said he plans to pursue another associate in science degree from UH Maui College with a concentration in engineering. After that, he may earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from a four-year university.
He said, “My dream job would be to harness all that I have learned to develop technologies that involve robotics and AI which will help improve humanity and give back to the communities that helped bring me up.”