Thesis Spotlight: Ben Hoggan

Author: Sean McGee

Photo of student Ben Hoggan

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with ESTEEM student Ben Hoggan, a 2013 physics graduate of Utah Valley University. A Silicon Valley native, he moved to Utah in 2007 and traded in his water polo cap for hockey skates, growing a deep love for the rink. He comes to ESTEEM following an internship studying high energy physics at CERN to take his longtime passion for sports to design safer equipment for those who play them.

  1. What are the problems surrounding your thesis project and how does your team plan on solving them?

My project uses a technique called biomimicry to copy the protective structures of the brain for use in crash helmets. By doing this we can reduce the risk of concussions by reducing the impact in both sub-concussive hits, as well as rotational concussions. There are about 3.8 million concussions in the US annually, and these concussions can cause numerous problems in the long term (dementia, depression, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Currently there is one sports helmet manufacturer that even claims to address the topic of rotational concussions (Xenith), but it is more of a by product than a design of their tech.

  1. How and why did you get involved in your particular project? 
I was sitting in a doctors office when I saw an article about the problem of concussions and no protection in the NFL as well as some of the proposed helmet designs and though "I can do better than that, half of these wont even work". I was attracted to the topic in the first place because I had received a substantial concussion not to long before that playing ice hockey.
  1. What part do you play in your project outside of your academic work?
I love seeing the idea that I came up with transform into a real product, and after that, into a real business. Pursuing patents, producing prototypes, and preparing pitch presentations.
  1. What has been your favorite part about your work? 
I am the founder, CEO, and chief technologist.