Brandon Dreslin photographed on Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach, Florida, campus. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Bill Fredette-Huffman) Brandon Dreslin photographed on Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach, Florida, campus. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Bill Fredette-Huffman)
Brandon Dreslin photographed on Embry‑Riddle's Daytona Beach, Florida, campus. (Photo: Embry‑Riddle / Bill Fredette-Huffman)

The Human Element
Human Factors Student Dives into Learning and Research at Embry‑Riddle

Story by Makenna Pringle
Makenna Pringle

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Brandon Dreslin is graduating with his B.S. in Human Factors Psychology and gaining invaluable experiences while soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

Brandon Dreslin (’23) was originally drawn to Embry‑Riddle Aeronautical University for the same reasoning that motivates many students: the notoriety of becoming a pilot via an Embry‑Riddle education. As he researched the school, he discovered another opportunity that seemed like an even better fit for his interests.

“I was roaming the website and I saw that Human Factors Psychology was a program here,” he explained. “One of my goals in aviation was to become an air crash investigator, and some of the articles and videos that I'd been watching mentioned human factors... When I saw that, a light bulb clicked and I thought, ‘what if I combine my two passions, aviation and psychology?’”

Getting Involved On-Campus

Since arriving on Embry‑Riddle's Daytona Beach Campus, Dreslin has gotten involved in the Human Factors Psychology program in a variety of ways. In addition to being a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), Dreslin is involved in the society’s mentorship program.

“This school year I'm going to be a committee member on the HFES mentorship program. Basically, we match up mentors with mentees and give mentees opportunities to learn about what human factors has to offer and the different kinds of opportunities there are.”

Research Accomplishment

In addition to contributing to the premier Human Factors organization on Embry‑Riddle's campus, Dreslin was involved in crafting a research paper in a collaboration between Embry‑Riddle, the U.S. Navy and Integrated Solutions for Systems, Inc. (IS4S), regarding human factors in visual cues for helicopter pilots.

“We looked at why helicopter brownout and helicopter whiteout — degraded visual environments — are so harmful and detrimental to helicopter pilots,” he shared. “We looked at how we could design our own system to mitigate those effects.”

From there, Dreslin and fellow researchers designed a display for helicopter pilots that incorporated visual cues in an augmented reality environment. Dreslin alone created the computer-aided design (CAD) drawings that make up the visual cues and passed them along to a developer, who coded them into the display.

“The paper was a literature review on basic cues and how those relate to the visual cues that we just designed in the display. We also talked about how other people are recreating visual cues in augmented reality environments.”

Once the paper was completed, Dreslin traveled to the 14th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics in San Francisco, California, to present his team’s findings and research. Specifically for the conference, Dreslin added a section to the presentation that offered recommendations for correctly designing the displays.

“We wanted to give back and tell others how the design could be improved to further mitigate spatial disorientation in helicopter pilots,” he shared.

Through his hard work, dedication and genuine interest in his research, Dreslin was listed as the first author of this paper – a rare accomplishment for an undergraduate student.

“Honestly, it was super rewarding. This was my first ever professionally published scientific piece. To be the first author is something I know that not a lot of undergrads have the opportunity to do,” he said. “I'm so grateful for that opportunity, and especially to Dr. Alex Chaparro for allowing me to take control of the paper. He put a lot of faith in me - he let me do my own thing.”

Interning in Artificial Intelligence Research

Over this past summer, Dreslin interned with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, funded through the Department of Energy's Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program.

Dreslin’s internship allowed him to work with a mentor and their team on human factors research regarding differing trust levels between humans and artificial intelligence (AI).

“My mentor and her team do a lot of work in AI and machine learning, specifically human machine teammates,” he said. “And what they found in one of the earlier studies was that humans tend to trust machines less than other human teammates.”

At the end of the internship, Dreslin presented the findings at the Gold Experience July 2023 Virtual Research Symposium.

“My presentation was on conceptualizing the differences in trust between human-human teaming and human-machine teaming. So, looking at why trust in machines is sometimes lower than in humans,” he explained. “My task was to investigate why that was and try to conceptualize the reasons for that kind of relationship between the two team dynamics.”

Inspiration and Motivation

When asked about who and what inspires him to continue the pursuit of knowledge and advancement within the field of human factors, Dreslin cites the person who encouraged him to get involved in research in the first place, Dr. Alex Chaparro, professor of Human Factors and Behavioral Neurobiology at Embry‑Riddle.

“Dr. Alex Chaparro inspires me the most because he was the first faculty member I worked with and he's just a really great, easygoing person. He knows how to tailor his mentorship to his students, provides great feedback and is always there for whoever needs him. He's always been there for me,” he shared. “Other than Dr. Chaparro, all the grad students and all the Ph.D. students in our department are pretty much like big sisters and big brothers to the undergraduates.”

As for his passion for his field, Dreslin spoke about how incredible it is that human factors can be applied within any field, not just aviation, and the desire to find his own fulfillment in the task of improving quality of life for everyone.

“The ability to make the world a safer place is what is drawing me into the field more and more... that's what I want to do with my life: make people happy and make them safe,” he said.

Outside of his schooling, Dreslin is proud to run his own business, Dreslin Consulting, where he assists clients in “creating usable and functional digital products.” As he finishes his B.S. in Human Factors Psychology, he plans to begin applying for Ph.D. programs, putting work into his business and preparing for life post-graduation.

His advice to students on their own educational journeys?

“You get to know job postings that are open, what positions you can apply for in the future and what projects you can work on,” he offered. “You also get to know about other people's stories and how they got into human factors... it's really cool to hear where people come from, what their passion in human factors is and where they want to go with their career.”

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