Take 6: Brandon Pitts, College of Engineering and Center on Aging and the Life Course

Purdue Research Foundation
The Line by PRF
Published in
5 min readFeb 21, 2023


Brandon Pitts, assistant professor, School of Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering (Photo courtesy of Brandon Pitts)

Brandon Pitts is an assistant professor from the School of Industrial Engineering in the College of Engineering. He also is a faculty associate with the Center on Aging and the Life Course and director of the Next-generation Human-systems and Cognitive Engineering (NHanCE) Lab. Pitts co-led a team with Brad Duerstock, a professor of practice in industrial engineering and biomedical engineering, that developed a design concept to make autonomous vehicles accessible to people with disabilities.

The EASI RIDER — or Efficient, Accessible and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities — won first place in the Inclusive Design Challenge organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The EASI RIDER team also has been nominated in the Tech Team of the Year category of the 24th annual Mira Awards, which honor the “Best in Tech” in Indiana.

Pitts generously shared some of his time to answer our questions.

Question: What is the best pearl of wisdom you’ve received?

Brandon Pitts: It’s a very common phrase — “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes” — but it is certainly something that I strive to do. It is easy to subconsciously think that everyone else sees the world the way we do. But that is not true and my own research continues to show me this every day.

In my lab, we collect data from humans in different contexts and environments, and often interview them to understand their thought processes. It takes a lot of work to try to understand someone who has a different perspective, but we learn so much by doing so. We also may revise our own thinking by seeing how other people think.

Q: What is something you wish everyone understood about your work?

Pitts: There seems to be a societal push to develop machines that can perform as many tasks as possible for us — without an end in sight. I certainly support leveraging capabilities of automation and artificial intelligence to extend human capabilities, but I wished that more people 1) appreciated the unique strengths of humans (versus machines) such as decision-making capabilities, creativity, and the ability to improvise, 2) invested more resources into figuring out ways to help humans and machines better work together, instead of completely removing one from the equation, and 3) aimed to still keep humans as the central part of the systems we build.

Brandon Pitts stands with the EASI RIDER design concept during the early development stages. EASI RIDER makes autonomous vehicles accessible to people with disabilities. The final design won first place in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Pitts)

Q: In the movie of your life, who would you like to see play you? Why?

Pitts: My second-oldest nephew, whose middle name is also Brandon. He is quite a character in our family, is wise beyond his age, and knows me very well. He also is very curious about how the world works.

Q: What is a discovery you still hope to make in your career, or what is a discovery you hope to see in your lifetime?

Pitts: I have been thinking a lot about the overwhelming amount of information we receive every day from emails, smartphone alerts and messages, online communities, social media platforms, home security systems, and more. I’d like to explore the question, “At what point does having too much information harm our decision-making processes more than not having enough information?” I’m sure that psychologists have posed similar questions, but given the unprecedented amounts of information we interact with in 2023, we should re-visit and re-frame this topic to determine what’s too much for the human psyche in today’s data-rich contexts.

Another discovery I’d like to see made in my lifetime is also from a societal standpoint. I am originally from Louisiana, where hurricanes are commonplace and often cause significant damage to areas and communities affected by them. Given scientific advancements we’ve made over the last several decades, it would be great if we could develop some type of non-toxic solution that can be applied to the center of powerful hurricanes (via aircrafts) to reduce their overall strength and make the landfall impact much less severe.

Q: What is the most useful tool/item in your lab, office or home?

Pitts: My car. First, I very much enjoy driving and I also study ways in which drivers interact with vehicles. Also, living in West Lafayette, my car is what I use to explore the world, whether that’s visiting nearby cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, etc., or whether I’m using it drive to the airport to take a flight farther away.

Brandon Pitts stands with members of Purdue’s EASI RIDER design team, Carmel-based BraunAbility and the Colorado School of Mines at the 2022 Purdue Road School Transportation Conference and Expo. EASI RIDER’s nearly final design was showcased to more than 2,700 conference attendees. (Photo courtesy Brandon Pitts)

Q: How do you maintain or recharge your energy?

Pitts: After having lived in the Midwest for more than a decade now, I realized that I took the outdoors for granted when I was in Louisiana. I now enjoy being outdoors, especially during the summertime, and try to spend as much time outside as I can. This means mowing my own lawn in the summer and shoveling my own snow in the winter. On weekends, I also like to explore local restaurants and try food from all over the world.

Thank you again Brandon Pitts for participating in Take 6!

Learn about Brandon Pitts’ NHanCE Lab, or Next-Generation Human-systems and Cognitive Engineering Lab. Its goals are to understanding how human operators interact with next-generation technologies in transportation, work, and home environments, and to enhance their performance through interface (re)design.

Read about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first Inclusive Design Challenge and its winners, including the EASI RIDER from Purdue.



Purdue Research Foundation
The Line by PRF

The Purdue Research Foundation (PRF) helps to advance Purdue University’s mission in the quest for discovery, learning and engagement.