A Coldplay concert at Soldier Field in Chicago changed the direction of Brennan Dougherty’s life.
He remembers dazzling lasers, bursting fireworks and round screens that seemed to float in midair. A runway that started at the main stage extended into a sea of fans who leaped in unison and wore color-changing wristbands. Anyone with extra energy could jump on a stationary bicycle and pedal to help power the show.
Weeks later, the Clemson University mechanical engineering major, then a rising senior, started thinking about what kind of job he would like after graduation and found his thoughts turning back to that spectacular stage production.
“There have got to be engineers working on that somewhere,” he remembers thinking.
Dougherty was right, and soon he will be one of them. Dougherty will be an associate mechanical designer, working with a team that, according to TAIT’s website, has “set the standard for world-class live experiences.” TAIT’s clients have included Taylor Swift, Cirque du Soleil, The Metropolitan Opera House, NASA, National Geographic, Beyoncé, and the Olympics.
The launch of Dougherty’s career gives him a chance to bring together his passions for theater, music and mechanical engineering.
While growing up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Dougherty acted in several theater productions, including a professional role as Pugsley in the “The Addams Family” at Mercury Theater Chicago. He was also in choir, and he plays piano and guitar.
When Dougherty graduated from Glenbard West High School, he figured theater would become a hobby and engineering would be his career.
“To combine those right off the bat for my first job out of college is so exciting to me,” Dougherty said. “Working both sides of the brain, being on the creative side of engineering and having engineering and theater come together is a really cool combo.”
Dougherty said what he will remember most about Clemson is the community– one he has played an outsize role in shaping.
He and fellow graduating senior Lauren Carder started the Clemson Friday Morning Swim Club.
The club meets at the docks next to the Clemson Rowing Boathouse at 7 a.m. on select Fridays to jump in Lake Hartwell to welcome the start of the weekend. Several dozen students have joined, including about 85 for a “polar plunge” in December. The club’s Instagram page had more than 600 followers as of early April.
“Brennan is pretty much the epitome of the fun friend,” said Carder, who is receiving her Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering. “He has endless energy. He’s always down to do something new, creative, fun and outlandish. He’s always coming up with crazy ideas. This semester, we applied to the ‘Amazing Race’ together because one day he texted me and said, ‘We’d be really good at this.'”
Dougherty, a member of the Honors College, has made the most of his time at Clemson, and he has learned skills he expects to employ at TAIT.
He participated in the Eureka! Undergraduate Research Program, learned 3D design in a SolidWorks class, studied autonomous drones in a Creative Inquiry course and worked one internship as an energy engineer at 3M and one in mechanical design at IPR, just to name a few examples.
The faculty members who stand out in his mind include Todd Schweisinger, a principal lecturer of mechanical engineering and the department’s undergraduate program director. Dougherty, who gave tours as a mechanical engineering ambassador, said he got to know Schweisinger well and that they were in the Blue Key Honor Society together.
Two other faculty members that Dougherty noted are Fadi Abdeljawad, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Abdeljawad kept students engaged in online classes during the COVID-19 quarantine, and Martinez-Duarte taught a manufacturing class that Dougherty enjoyed, he said.
Dougherty also has worked with Freshman Council, which is part of student government and helps get first-year students connected with Clemson’s history and volunteer opportunities early in their academic journey to help keep the University’s traditions alive.
The two seniors who guided him through the program, Jonathan Gundana and Ann Collins Josey, were big influences on him, and now that Dougherty is a senior, he paid the favor forward by mentoring this year’s first-year students.
Aly Friend, who is a director of engagement of the Clemson Alumni Association and has advised Dougherty in his work with Student Alumni Council, called him a “rockstar.”
“He’s tenacious, and he doesn’t take no for an answer,” Friend said. “He’s a problem solver, and he thinks about things uniquely. I can think of many early mornings he was the first guy to pull in, and he stays late at night and offers to give people rides home. He’s just a really consistent and dedicated student, without a doubt one of a kind.”
The TAIT Group is composed of like-minded companies operating as one cohesive group in the live entertainment space. We share a passion for creating groundbreaking experiences and together, our work makes lasting memories for thousands of people around the globe. We bring extraordinary ideas to life, collaborating on visionary concepts, and delivering precision engineering, technical innovation, manufacturing, and production. We engineer complex movement for artists, brands, performing arts spaces, and venues around the world with our industry-leading show control and automation technology.