Irvington High School sophomore Wins MIT’s 2020 THINK competition

Irvington High School sophomore Brooke Dunefsky
Photo courtesy of the Irvington Union Free School District

Brooke Dunefsky, an Irvington High School sophomore and a budding scientist, has won the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 2020 THINK competition for her paper and project, “A Self-Adapting Device that Utilizes Neuroplasticity for Rehabilitation of Stroke Victims.”

As one of six national winners, Dunefsky will receive a scholarship to fund the development of her device. According to the MIT website, the program is a science, research and innovation competition for motivated high school students who wish to implement new ideas and make a significant contribution to science and technology.

Dunefsky, who likes to find creative solutions to real-world problems, said her project involves creating a new device for upper limb stroke rehabilitation that is easy to use and provides feedback on the patient’s progress. Using 3D printing at a research lab over the summer, she created and tested an ergonomic handle and apparatus that trains stroke patients in performing supination and pronation.

“This affordable device, paired with videogame systems to keep patients engaged, will hopefully significantly speed up recovery time for stroke victims,” she said. “The goal of my project is to enhance the device in several key ways. First, I intend to embed sensors in the handle that will detect the patient’s range of motion while using the device. This will then prompt a microcontroller guided by an algorithm to adjust the resistance the device creates. Resistance will be created by a motor pushing against the base of the handle, and the amount of resistance applied will depend upon the patient’s previous performance. The device, which can be brought home by the patient, will then send feedback to the patient’s physician who can remotely track the progress over time.”

As a finalist in the competition, Dunefsky was invited to a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to MIT’s campus. She presented her research, toured labs, and met with professors to receive guidance on her project. Upon completion of her project in June, Dunefsky will be awarded up to a $1,000 scholarship to fund her device.

“Brooke is well-deserving of this award,” science teacher Nadia Parikka said. “She has such promise as a future scientist. Her work ethic and scientific curiosity are inspiring.”

Organized by a group of MIT undergraduate students, the competition’s name, THINK, stems from their vision to promote Technology for Humanity guided by Innovation, Networking and Knowledge.

Dunefsky said she enjoys participating in various school activities, such as Science Research Program, Science Olympiad, Model United Nations, debate and fencing. In addition, she likes to write and is in the process of writing her first novel. She’s also in the process of launching

a podcast called “Charity Talks,” in which she interviews heads of charities to help people connect with worthy causes. She is also a youth ambassador at the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute which promotes sustainability. Dunefsky said she hopes to continue to use science and technology to help others.

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