Meet the 3M DDC Judges

Each of the four university teams will be judged by industry leaders across areas such as engineering and philanthropy. Learn how each judge offers a diverse perspective. content for this section.

  • Grant Imahara 

    Electrical Engineer, Roboticist and Television Host

    For almost a decade, Grant Imahara was one of the hosts of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters. Using a blend of science and fun, he put urban legends to the test, sometimes with explosive results. Since joining the team in January 2005, Grant tested hundreds of myths, and in the process swam with sharks, hung from the skids of a helicopter, fired cheese out of a cannon into the San Francisco Bay, allowed 25 tarantulas to crawl on his head, dropped a BMW from an aircraft, sliced a car in half using a rocket sled, destroyed so many cars he’s stopped counting, and built many, many robots, all in the name of science.

    Before joining Mythbusters, Grant spent nine years working in special effects as an animatronics engineer and modelmaker for George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. He worked on numerous blockbusters including the Matrix sequels, A.I., Galaxy Quest, Terminator 3, Van Helsing, and Star Wars: Episodes 1-3. He put the lights in R2-D2’s dome and gave the Energizer Bunny his beat. He created the often rude and irreverent robot skeleton sidekick Geoff Peterson for The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

    Grant has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California and is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He has been on the cover of ROBOT Magazine, IEEE Spectrum, and MAKE Magazine. Over the years, he has garnered numerous official commendations from various organizations, including the City of Los Angeles, the City of San Francisco, and The White House.

    Grant was most recently featured as host of the Netflix original series, White Rabbit Project.

    Exclusive Q&A with Grant

    • As an engineer, how do you go about solving scientific problems? What is your process?

      In most cases, the problems we deal with as engineers are complex and might be overwhelming. For my first step, I
      try to break down the largest issue into a series of smaller problems, and then tackle those one by one. This
      approach makes it feel like you’re making more progress and keeps motivation high. You keep solving the little
      problems one by one until they add up to a larger, complete task.

    • What is the one concept you know now, that you wish you could tell your younger engineer-self?

      Things will always take longer than you think. It took me almost two decades realize that when someone asked me how
      long something would take, I had to take my best guess and double it, and then double it again. For students,
      a “best guess” is based on a perfect world where there are no surprises. But in the reality, you have to plan
      for the unexpected.

    • As one of the hosts of Netflix’s White Rabbit Project, how do you determine the hypotheses you test on camera? How can students apply that same thinking?

      We actually use the scientific method. In fact, it’s the same process we successfully used for many years on Discovery’s Mythbusters. As a team, we discuss the myth and all the possible hypotheses until finally we make an educated guess at the best explanation. The process of debating is important and the key is to go in with as little ego as possible. If you focus on the outcome rather than the source (whose idea is the best) it helps keep things moving in a positive direction. From there, we set up an experiment to test the idea. We then change variables one by one to see which are the determining factors in the outcome. Of course, documentation and meticulousness are the keys to success.

    • Have you ever built something with adhesives or tapes over traditional fasteners? Tell us about your experience.

      I recently built a hoverboard—the actual flying kind, not the two-wheeled toy—for Netflix’s White Rabbit Project. Since it was a flying platform, weight was a serious issue. I made extensive use of carbon fiber, which is known for its high strength and light weight. Carbon fiber is also quite brittle and does not respond well to traditional fasteners, so in order to make the necessary mechanical connections, I used special aluminum sockets with two-part epoxy at the tube ends. The epoxy created a strong mechanical bond with the carbon fiber while the aluminum provided a way to connect the frame.

    • What are you most looking forward to as a 3M DDC judge?

      When I participate in events with students, I am always amazed by their creativity and energy. They put so much of themselves into each project and it really shows. Good luck to all of the teams!


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  • Patricia E. Bacuros

    Director, Philanthropic Investment

    Direct Relief

    Pat Bacuros is an experienced and recognized leader in development and execution of approaches and programs that are aiming to support the advancement and strengthening of health systems, complement health education activities, as well as support disaster/emergency response efforts. For over 24 years, Pat has been enabling programs around the world to maximize impact and reach out to those most in need by building strategic partnerships for efficient and targeted Gift-In-Kind development.

    Pat joined Direct Relief in July 2014 as the Director, Philanthropic Investment. Direct Relief is an organization that provides medical assistance to improve the quality of life for people throughout the world, including the U.S. Her areas of responsibility include relationship building with healthcare companies to support programs with in-kind donations focusing on maternal and child health, disease prevention and treatment, health systems strengthening, and emergency response. She leads the staff functions in the Philanthropic Investment Department.

    Pat spent several years traveling to Central Asia, Asia, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe working with staff in the placement of gift-in-kind deliveries to medical facilities while relationship building with healthcare company in-country representatives.

    Pat also serves on the board of PQMD (Partnership for Quality Medical Donations), a global alliance leading the development and championing of high standards in medical supply and service donations. She is a graduate of Old Dominion University with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Education and holds a teaching license in the state of Virginia. She also studied emergency management and disaster response at American Public University.

  • Shirin Sadaat

    Technical Director

    Industrial Adhesives & Tapes 3M

    Shirin began her career at 3M in the Commercial Office Supply Division lab in 1986. Since then, she has held a variety of positions in the laboratory as well as business management in multiple divisions. Most recently, she served as the Technical Director for the Construction & Home Improvement Markets Division. Shirin is a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (1st Wave) and has worked for the Medical Surgical Division, Commercial Graphics Division and Aerospace & Aircraft Maintenance Division. Shirin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and a Masters of Science degree in Materials Science from the University of Virginia.

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