Benjamin Basseches '15 Wins Brown University Distinguished Senior Thesis Prize

Benjamin BassechesBenjamin Basseches '15 is one of six recipients of the Brown University Distinguished Senior Thesis Prize. A mechanical engineering concentrator, Basseches worked with Professor Joseph Trey Crisco and completed an honors thesis entitled, "Joint-Specific Play Controllers for Wrist and Forearm Therapy."

The Brown University Distinguished Senior Thesis Prize recognizes exemplary senior thesis projects by undergraduate students across the University. Each department may nominate one thesis. Award recipients exemplify the range and quality of undergraduate research at Brown University. Each finalist makes an important and original contribution to an academic discipline, and all finalists provide lucid explorations of important issues and questions of interest to today's educated readers. The Office of the Dean of the College administers the award.

Benjamin's thesis describes the development and testing of an innovative therapy approach for children with neuromuscular impairments affecting their upper extremities. This play-motivated therapy approach uses a specially designed controller, strapped to the wrist, that lets kids control motorized toys and play computer games while performing beneficial wrist and forearm movements. The controller records motion data during play, making it possible to obtain biomechanical outcome measures and to track therapy progress. Play thresholds, the wrist and forearm angles that cause toy movement and gameplay events, can be personalized and easily adjusted to achieve appropriate difficulty for kids with limited range of motion. Over the last year, Ben ran play session trials with kids, incorporated forearm supination/pronation control motions into gameplay, and designed a computer interface for configuring the controller and playing a variety of games. Once efficacy is validated through clinical trials, the play controller system would provide an inexpensive, nonintrusive, and fun (intrinsically motivated) form of rehabilitation therapy with the potential to greatly improve the quality of kids' lives.

Ben first became interested in engineering and design in high school through a project-based pre-engineering curriculum. While at Brown, he discovered his passion for human-centered design and pursued this interest through studio courses at Brown and RISD. Specifically, Ben is excited by the idea of facilitating play through design, which he explored in both his thesis project and a RISD senior studio called Design and Play. Ben was a member of the club volleyball and tennis teams at Brown and served as chapter treasurer of the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi. In addition to earning honors, Ben graduates from Brown magna cum laude. After graduation, he will be working at Onshape—a cloud-based Computer-Aided Design startup in Cambridge, Mass.