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April 4, 2001

Student to Travel The World to Study Coaster Design

Claremont, CA -- Brooke Basinger, a senior majoring in engineering at Harvey Mudd College, has been awarded a 2001 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study international concepts in roller coaster design. During the next year, she will travel to England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico. She will receive $22,000 to fund her travels and research.

"The Watson fellowship is basically designed to throw people into the ocean without a life vest to see if they swim," said Basinger. "My project is on international concepts in roller coaster design, which means I'll be riding coasters in other countries and talking to designers about their design."

Basinger is one of 60 Watson Fellowship recipients selected from 50 colleges. More than 1,000 students applied for the fellowship.

The Watson Fellowship will help Basinger explore her life-long fascination in roller coaster. "I've been interested in roller coasters since I was little," she said, "and as I've progressed in my engineering education, I've realized that they're one of the coolest engineering feats on earth. With what else is scaring people to death a design goal, and where else are your limitations determined by how much abuse the human body can take?"

Basinger has already studied the differences between American roller coasters and those designed elsewhere. "American coasters seem to always strive for 'bigger, higher, steeper,faster,' while internationally designed coasters seem to have more subtlety and creativity in working around the limitations of the human body. Plus international designers seem to build popular coasters in every corner of the world, including the States, while American designers rarely build abroad and don't always succeed when they do. I suspect that these differences are, in part, due to culture."

Harvey Mudd College is a coeducational institution of engineering, science, and mathematics that also places strong emphasis on humanities and the social sciences. The college's aim is to graduate engineers and scientists sensitive to the impact of their work on society. HMC ranks among the nation's leading schools in percentage of graduates who earn Ph.D. degrees. It is the pioneer of the internationally known Clinic Program, established in 1963.