Thesis Spotlight: Matt Hansen

Author: Sean McGee

Photo of student Matt Hansen

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Matt Hansen, a 2014 chemical engineering graduate from the University of Pittsburgh and ESTEEM student. He is currently taking a break from his study of polymers to grow his own thesis idea, a software and hardware platform to help improve the wellness of people everywhere by improving upon current "workout apps."

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

BLEBit empowers its users through custom interventions for physical activity based on the context and environment of each individual user. Current physical activity technology provides a single facet the physical activity; "are you fit, or are you not?", "did you make your step goal for the day?", "did you exercise enough this week?". My technology adds two additional dimensions to the current approach. 1) It couples activity and inactivity data with context, thus, enabling users to customize interventions based on the environment. 2) It classifies physical activity according to locations, and time (situations). Users are empowered to take action for desired and undesired situations; exercising before work 3 days a week, sitting for 8 hours every day at work. Users need more than a single bit of data "are you fit, or are you not?". I believe users are empowered when they are provided the individual bits of their physical activity data.

  1. How and why did you get involved in your particular project? 

My senior year of undergrad I became interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career so I began to look into business plan competitions. The project began when I participated in a health care innovation challenge. Our team was trying to combine multiple adherence software solutions (eg. medication, nutrition, physical activity) into a single application. Over time the project morphed into addressing physical activity. The motivating factor to continue the project has been the possibility of having a positive impact on the health of family. 

  1. What part do you play in your project outside of your academic work?

Besides the normal thesis work I code the mobile application and backend for the application. 

  1. What has been your favorite part about your work? 
My favorite part of the project is developing the mobile application. I've always been fascinated with computer science, and although chemical engineering did not allow a lot of room for coding, now I have a great outlet.