DeXcellence is a Bluetooth enabled device created by a group of five Rice University seniors to improve dexterity in cerebral palsy patients.

The students designed the device for their capstone project in collaboration with the Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston.

The device consists of a board marked with targets and a peg containing sensors to capture its location, speed and orientation. Bluetooth is used to send the data captured by the sensors to a computer. The data is then translated to useful metrics that a therapist can use to measure the progress of occupational therapy.

DeXcellence was inspired by a low-tech pegboard which is commonly used for the Functional Dexterity Test (FDT). Dr Gloria Gogla of Shriners suggested the students find a way to quantify the movement of the pegs used in FDT. “We got to go there and watch patients use the peg board, and we could see them cheat,” said team member and bioengineering major Sonia Garcia. “Instead of turning the peg in the air, they would drop it and then move it into the hole.”

There are two sides to the device, one in which the patient moves the peg from the center of one target to another while turning it 180 degrees. On the other side is a another test with a set of paths the patient follows with the peg.

“There is a big gap in technology for the evaluation of movement patterns in (patients with) cerebral palsy. At one end, we have clinical exams that are all visual. We even videotape exams so we can watch them again to catch more subtle things” says Golga.

“I think the possibilities for this are enormous,” said occupational therapist Dorit Aaron, former president of the American Society of Hand Therapists and a Shriners volunteer. “The device is different from the original FTD in the sense that it requires both gross motor as well as fine motor movements to accomplish the task. They have to manipulate the peg and they have to move it in space. That gives us information about the shoulder and elbow motion as well as the digits, and we can track it in the computer.”

“One of the realistic problems in the clinic is that we don’t have time. We need outcomes that can be substantiated, that are valid and reliable for the people we’re treating. This has the potential to be absolutely breakthrough with the cerebral palsy population whose coordinated motions are so difficult to quantify,” she said.

Gogola envisions the device having uses beyond cerebral palsy therapy. “This device could be used in any situation where dexterity, or the fine motor movements of the hand, need to be tested,” she said. “For example, it could be used to evaluate patients recovering from stroke, spinal cord injuries, trauma — any situation where the ability to use their hands is affected.”


The group of students behind the device won Rice’s annual George R. Brown Engineering Design Showcase and Poster competition and also ended up placing second in the International Student Design Showcase at the University of Minnesota’s Design of Medical Devices Conference.

Source: Rice University News and Media