News and Announcements

  • Sunday, April 15, 2012 6:40 PM | Anonymous
    The undergraduate team “CHBE Pandas” became the first team of chemical engineering seniors to win the grand prize in the Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase and Poster Competition, a featured event of this week’s UnConvention at Rice April 12-14.

    The team took the $5,000 Excellence in Engineering Design prize, one of 15 awards given at the April 12 showcase at Rice’s Tudor Fieldhouse. The name “CHBE Pandas” is a riff on the common acronym undefined which is pronounced “chubby” undefined for the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The CHBE Pandas won for their  design of a self-sufficient chemical plant to upgrade raw natural gas and clean water used in well fracturing. The goal is to improve the quality of life for people in the Sichuan Basin in China.

    CHBE Pandas

    Members of the CHBE Pandas celebrate their victory in the Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase and Poster Competition.

    Team members are Apoorv Bhargava, Prachi Bhawalkar, Valicia Miller, Shelby Reinhardt, Kavita Venkateswar and Erte Xi.

    The CHBE Pandas and many of the other showcase winners will display their work at theOshman Engineering Design Kitchen on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. during the UnConvention.

    Other prizes, each worth $500, went to:

     Best Interdisciplinary Design Project: tCOIL, a wireless system to power ventricular-assist devices.

     Best Conceptual Design Project: TLDW Inc., a sustainable airport-themed diner.

     Best Global Health Technologies Engineering Design Project: Team SAPHE, a postpartum hemorrhage warning system for the developing world.

     Best Energy Related Engineering Design Project: Tanker, a wireless sensor-receiver to accurately and inexpensively measure the fluid level in above-ground oil storage tanks.

     Best Health Related Engineering Design Project: CivSAFE, a replacement for cervical collars to protect the heads and necks of accident victims.

     Best Environment and Sustainability Award: Team SONSO, which has designed an environmentally sound station to link Houston’s METRO Rail to Amtrak.

     Best Sustainable Civil Design Project: CCP Civil Solutions, the design of a LEED-certified construction company headquarters.

     Best Gaming, Creative or Innovative Technology Award: Team Cadet, a customizable accelerator-decelerator equipment tester for military use.

     Best Engineering Design for Research: Team O3, a system for the ozone sterilization of bone grafts.

     Best Engineering Design Project by Underclassmen: IV Ring, an IV drip volume regulator for the developing world.

     National Instruments Award for Engineering Design: Don’t Believe the Pipe, a robot navigator to inspect complex pipeline networks.

     Texas Instruments Award for Engineering Design: Mobile Vision, a novel system for eye health diagnostics.

     Judges and Professors Choice Award: Rice Solar Car Club, the university’s first solar-powered car, which took second place in its division in the recent Shell Eco-marathon Americas.

     Students Choice Award: Breath Alert, a neonatal apnea monitor for the developing world.


    About Mike Williams

    Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.
  • Tuesday, April 10, 2012 7:17 PM | Anonymous
    Rice University HeadCase is designed to quickly immobilize accident victims’ heads to protect necks

    Undergraduate students at Rice University have come up with what they hope will prove to be a better and safer version of cervical collars to stabilize the heads and necks of accident victims. Cervical collars have been in common use since their introduction during the Vietnam War.

    The Rice seniors known as Team CivSAFE took on the challenge of a Houston researcher, an expert in spine mechanics, to develop safe and effective cervical spine protection for trauma victims.

    The team of three mechanical engineering and three bioengineering students responded to the challenge with a prototype that immobilizes the head without putting pressure on the neck. Kelsey Horter, a bioengineering student and a certified emergency medical technician, said the students tested a cervical collar currently used and found that when a patient’s neck is injured, the collar can push the head away from the body. “That separates the vertebrae and can make neck injuries worse. Some physicians believe the current collar may have compounded injuries,” she said.

    Student wearing HeadCase

    Rice University bioengineering student Kelsey Horter wears the HeadCase, an adjustable cervical collar for emergency use. Members of the student team that developed the device believe it outperforms standard cervical collars in its ability to immobilize the head and neck of a patient. (Credit: Rice University)

    “The collar was developed during the Vietnam War as a device that could be put on really quickly and would be easy to use,” said Rice senior Georgia Lagoudas.

    “Now problems with the current collar are being discovered,” Horter said. “We went back to basic emergency-care ideas.  As EMTs, we’re taught that if the knee is hurt, you stabilize above and below it. You never just stabilize the part that’s injured – which is exactly what we think the current cervical collar does. We jumped on the premise that if we could stabilize the head and the torso right beneath the neck, then we could stabilize the neck. That’s what our device does.”

    Standard collars wrap around the neck. The Rice device, called the HeadCase, takes a very different approach. “We placed the support on the side of the cheeks and the chest, and the top of the back,” said team member Sailesh Prabhu. “The result has been greater immobilization. Also, you’re immobilizing with contacts in places that won’t hurt the patient.”

    The disposable HeadCase is expected to cost less than the $15 price tag on current disposable collars, of which 15 million are used in the United States each year, the students said. “Mass production will drive down the cost,” said team member Oviea Akpotaire.

    CivSAFE team

    A team of Rice University seniors developed the HeadCase, a cervical collar that properly immobilizes the head without putting pressure on the neck. From left: Oviea Akpotaire, Kelsey Horter, Michael Zylberman, Elias Hoban, Georgia Lagoudas and Sailesh Prabhu.

    The HeadCase stores flat for easy transport and can be placed on a patient in 60 seconds, team members said.

    Inspiration for the device came from John Hipp, former director of the Spine Research Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, who has long sought a replacement for standard cervical collars. A team led by Hipp published a study in the Journal of Trauma in 2010 showing abnormal separation between vertebrae due to cervical collars.

    “Our interest in cervical stabilization began with the realization that the collars themselves may do more harm than good,” Hipp said. “The BCM research team then confirmed through multiple experiments that conventional collars not only do not protect an injured cervical spine, but have clear potential to exacerbate cervical spine injuries. The Rice design team has arrived at what is likely to be a viable solution to the problem. Their design has the potential to save the lives of many people following severe blunt trauma.”

    He approached Maria Oden, a professor in the practice of engineering education and director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, about offering this challenge to engineering students, who are required to complete a senior capstone design project.

    “This challenge was very interesting for our mechanical engineering and bioengineering students because they could see that a successful design, which would require creativity and excellent engineering, could make a huge difference in trauma victim care and potentially save these patients from additional injuries,” Oden said. “And the market size for this product is large, a big plus for students interested in entrepreneurship.”

    All of the students on Team CivSAFE have spent time wearing both the original collar and their prototype, and found the new device to be much more comfortable. “We hope that will reduce the chance patients will have pressure sores,” said team member Elias Hoban.

    The team, which has filed a provisional patent through Rice, is testing student volunteers to develop statistics on just how immobilized a variety of patients wearing the HeadCase will be. Horter and Prabhu have volunteers bite down on a popsicle stick attached to an accelerometer, like those now commonly found in smartphones, to measure the range of motion they’re able to achieve both with the standard collar and the HeadCase in place.

    “One of the critical questions we’ve asked is, When a patient is turned on his side, will his head flop to the ground?” Hoban said. “We’ve found ours just does a better job” compared with standard collars, he said.

    Michael Zylberman, a mechanical engineering member of the team and an EMT with Rice’s Emergency Medical Services, has extensive experience with the use of standard collars over the past three years. “In the simplest terms, we think ours works better,” he said.

    The team will take its HeadCase prototype to IShow, a student engineering design competition to be held in Montreal in June. The high-profile competition is sponsored by ASME, formerly the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Ten student teams, including CivSAFE, have been named finalists in the competition, two of them from Rice.

    CivSAFE’s device will be on display during Rice’s UnConvention, April 12-14, during which the public is invited to take part in a wide range of activities, including the 2012 Engineering Design Showcase at Tudor Fieldhouse April 12.

  • Wednesday, April 04, 2012 7:36 PM | Anonymous


    Special to the Rice News

    A Rice University senior capstone project to help infants with sleep apnea took top honors in the second annual National Undergraduate Global Health Technologies Design Competition hosted by Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies and the Beyond Traditional Borders initiative. Other winning projects were a modular infant incubator (Columbia University) and ways to address respiratory disease (Marquette University) and a protein deficiency in malaria-prone regions (Johns Hopkins).

    Team Breath Alert

    Team Breath Alert members Jordan Schermerhorn, left, and Andrea Ulrich test the infant apnea monitor at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The team won the top prize at this year's National Undergraduate Global Health Technologies Design Competition.

    Eighty-four students from universities nationwide gathered at the BioScience Research Collaborative last Friday for the competition.

    “This is one of our favorite events,” said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and director of Rice 360°. “We love to learn about the exciting technologies that engineering students across the country are designing to overcome global health challenges. This year we had more than twice as many teams compete as we did last year. This momentum reflects a growing interest among undergraduates in using their skills to be part of the solution to global health challenges, and we are glad to be a part of it.”

    Twenty-four teams from 15 universities, including three from Rice, presented their designs and delivered short oral presentations that defined a global health problem and described a technology they had designed to solve it. Teams also presented posters on their designs.

    Teams were judged on how well they articulated the global health challenges they sought to solve, the technical and social feasibility of their designs, their descriptions of the current status of their solutions and their plans to overcome remaining challenges. Judges included engineering and business faculty members from across the country, engineers from industry, physicians working in global health, technology transfer professionals and representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development, NASA and Becton Dickinson.

    “It is incredibly inspiring to learn about the work that students are doing to improve global health,” said judge Leonard Yowell ’02, a materials research engineer at NASA Johnson Space Center. “I can certainly see some of these technologies being used in the field and having a positive impact in the lives of the world’s poor.”

    Student teams presented health technologies they had designed in response to a variety of global health challenges, including common causes of neonatal mortality, safe labor and delivery practices, fistulas, neglected tropical diseases and anemia.

    Four teams won prizes:

     Breath Alert from Rice University took first place for its Babalung Apnea Monitor, which alerts nurses when a baby is suffering from apnea. Team members were Jordan Schermerhorn, Rachel Alexander, Rachel Gilbert, Bridget Ugoh and Andrea Ulrich. They were advised by Rice faculty members Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering education, and Gary Woods, professor in the practice of computer technology.

     Human Powered Nebulizer from Marquette University won second place for its hand-crank nebulizer to enable patients to inhale aerosolized medication for respiratory disease. Team members were Katelynn Kramer, Andrew Weingart, Sarah Schmeidel, Brian Laning, Ellie Hawkinson and Chris Hallberg. They were advised by Lars Olson, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Marquette.

     G6PDesign from Johns Hopkins University earned third-place honors for its point-of-care diagnostic device to detect G6PD deficiency, a condition common in malaria-prone regions. G6PDesign team members were Rohit Dasgupta, Vikram Rajan, Richard Powers, Uma Mohan, Joy Ukaigwe, Hannah Jiam, Ming Kang, Jordan Mandel, Renu Kondragunta and Pranay Rao. They were advised by Anne Le, assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

     IncuVive from Columbia University won fourth place for its modular incubator system to combat infant hypothermia in low-resource settings. Advised by Aaron Kyle, a lecturer in biomedical engineering at Columbia, team members were Kiet Vo, Min Ye Shen, Annabelle Chu Yan Fui, Indrias Bekerie and Leeanna Hyacinth.

    In addition, three teams won People’s Choice Awards. A team from Johns Hopkins University won for its presentation on “Improving Neonatal Resuscitation in the Developing World.” Teams vPRIME from the University of Pennsylvania and IV Raid from Rice University won for their posters.

    After the presentations, Johns Hopkins faculty members Harshad Sanghvi of Jhpiego  and Soumya Acharya of the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design delivered a keynote address on the potential of global health technologies to solve some of the world’s most critical global health challenges and promising new technologies in development.



    About Mike Williams

    Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.
  • Tuesday, April 03, 2012 7:29 PM | Anonymous
     – APRIL 2, 2012

    The Rice University Solar Car club charged out of theRice solar team blocks and won second place in its first Shell Eco-marathon Americas over the weekend. Rice finished behind a team from Newburgh (N.Y.) Free Academy in the prototype solar category.

    The team overcame a series of obstacles that dogged it right up until the start of the downtown Houston event, in which they made multiple attempts to drive 6 miles undefined 10 laps around the Discovery Green track undefined within 24 minutes and 15 seconds. Cars were judged not so much for speed as for efficiency in each of the categories, which also included gas, diesel, electric and alternative fuels. Even before reaching the track on Thursday, club members pulled a series of all-nighters at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen to configure solar panels that arrived days before the event and had to be painstakingly pieced together. The team was successful in its first trial on Saturday; it finished the course in the allotted time, but Shell’s joulemeters refused to display the amount of energy gathered by the solar panels, the main criteria for judging. On the second run, the car driven by Duncan College senior Kerry Wang broke an axle on the third lap. With fixes in place, the team completed a series of runs on Sunday. “We’re very excited to have been able to accomplish this in our first ever solar car race, and we’ve learned a lot in the process,” said club co-president and Duncan College sophomore Allison Garza. “We’re looking forward to designing and building more cars in the future and representing Rice in competitions around the country and, eventually, around the world.” 

    The Rice Solar Car team brought its vehicle, RSC Enterprise, to the Shell Eco-marathon Americas for the first time this year. The team finished second in the prototype solar class.

    About Mike Williams

    Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University
  • Sunday, April 01, 2012 5:14 PM | Anonymous

    Please click on the following link to take you the article featured on Shell's media webpage:
  • Friday, March 30, 2012 10:44 AM | Anonymous
     – MARCH 28, 2012

    Students pray for sun this week at Shell Eco-marathon in Houston

    Some Rice University students will break out their fancy new wheels this weekend, but not for Beer Bike.

    The 16-strong Rice crew will compete with 138 other teams for bragging rights to the most futuristic, energy-efficient car on the road, whether powered by gas, alternative fuels, electricity or the sun. The competition will take place in downtown Houston on a 0.6-mile track laid out around Discovery Green.

    Rice Solar Car club

    Members of the Rice Solar Car team show off their work-in-progress earlier this week. Clockwise from left: Rachel Schlossman, Juan Barbon, Joseph Song, Andrew Owens, Andrew Markham, Ben Lewis, Robert Wilson, Hersh Agrawal, driver Kerry Wang and Allison Garza. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    The Rice Solar Car Team formed a year ago and raised more than $80,000 from various sources, including a generous gift from Rice alumni Burton ’56 and Deedee ’56 McMurtry. The project picked up steam, so to speak, in the mechanical engineering class of the team’s adviser, Andrew Dick, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science.

    The result was a vehicle, RSC1, pieced together over the weekend at Ryon Lab and the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. It is the culmination of a year’s work that saw students choose an unusual design that breaks with the form factor of previous solar cars.

    “The biggest thing that drove this design was our time constraint,” said Duncan College sophomore Allison Garza, co-president of the club with Hanszen College sophomore Joseph Song. “Having only three months to design and build a car brought some innovative approaches.”


    Kerry Wang

    Kerry Wang will drive the car at this week's Shell Eco-marathon. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Kerry Wang, a Duncan College senior, will pilot the lightweight car this week. He worked primarily on the power system and will get the thrill of experiencing the 18.8-percent efficiency the solar panels will provide.

    Make that “solar panel.” The top of the car will effectively be one panel, pieced together from 174 small, square units laboriously wired together by hand and set into a 1.3-by-3.5-meter frame that will serve as a solid solar roof.

    “This is our first car, and we wanted it to stand out in some way. So we went for creativity,” Garza said, noting the team did extensive research on other solar cars. “There are two heavily used designs: You have the bubble canopy, which is a flat car with a bubble on top (for the driver’s head); then you have the manta-ray design, which is sleeker and usually has a shield where the eyes peek through.

    “We were thinking, ‘What can we do to maximize solar-array space while still being innovative?’ So we’re the first solar car that has the driver completely underneath the roof. We’ll lose a little bit of aerodynamics, but going 18 miles an hour doesn’t add a lot of drag.”


    Making solar arrays

    Students spent hours piecing together solar arrays for the Rice Solar Car. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    The competition requires that the vehicle weighs no more than 140 kilograms, or a little more than 300 pounds, including the carbon-fiber frame and two battery packs that total about 8 pounds. With the driver, who must weigh at least 100 pounds in accordance with the rules, the car will top 400 pounds.

    “Most car bodies take a good five to six months to fabricate,” Garza said. “Kerry came up with a design with panels that fit into each other like a puzzle. So instead of taking months, we spent 20 minutes putting it together. It will probably take us a day to seal it with carbon fiber tape.”

    The Eco-marathon is not a traditional race: There will be no head-to-head competition on the track around the downtown park. Competitors must maintain an average minimum speed of 15 miles per hour as they try to squeeze every last drop of energy out of their limited fuel. The teams are expected to take their cars for 10 laps around the track, a total of six miles, within 15 minutes.

    If the days are cloud-free, Wang said, fuel won’t be an issue. In fact, a good solar car will hit the finish line with more power than it had at the start. “(Solar cars) are the only cars that produce energy,” Garza said. “Technically, if ours is very efficient, we could produce more than we use.”


    Allison Garza

    Allison Garza, the club's co-president, solders a solar element for the car. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Wang said the primary 5.8-pound lithium polymer battery stores enough juice to run the course twice with no input from above. “Having more capacity means the battery’s more efficient at lower power, because less is lost to heat dissipation,” he said.

    Song said the team didn’t expect to qualify for such a large competition in so short a time, and he thanked the team’s sponsors and donors for making it possible. “With their support, team members of all disciplines and backgrounds have been able to experiment in a unique setting,” he said. “All of this trial and error has led to the creation of our first car.”

    The club’s real draw, Garza said, was the chance to contribute to what she sees as the future of transportation, however impractical current solar cars may be.

    “Besides getting to do a really cool engineering project, I also feel it helps the environment, in some sense,” she said. “Maybe one day in the next 10, 20 years we might come up with a technology that will revolutionize the way cars are built. That’s exciting to me.”

    Dick sees another benefit. “One of the original ideas for the solar vehicle was to also have it serve as a platform for new technologies developed at Rice,” he said. “We’d like to take advantage of that for the vehicle, but also to showcase researchers. That’s one idea for the future.”


  • Friday, March 16, 2012 10:55 AM | Anonymous

    Schermerhorn to accompany Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof on Africa trip

    Martel College senior Jordan Schermerhorn knows how she’ll spend at least part of her summer vacation. She will accompany New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to Africa.

    Schermerhorn has been named the winner of Kristof’s annual “Win-a-Trip” competition and will spend between 10 days and two weeks with the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist on one of his excursions, most likely to Malawi.

    Jordan Schermerhorn

    Jordan Schermerhorn

    As a bioengineering student, Schermerhorn works extensively with Rice’s Beyond Traditional Borders initiative, but this will be her first trip outside the United States. “So this is really exciting for me,” she said.

    “We are very proud of Jordan, who has decided to focus her excellent bioengineering skills and her beautiful writing on alleviating global poverty and global health disparities,” said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and director of Rice 360˚: Institute for Global Health Technologies. “We know she will make the most of this amazing opportunity, and we look forward to reading about her experience in The New York Times.”

    In a column last December, Kristof called for entrants with excellent communication skills, especially online, and Schermerhorn fit the bill. “I like using Twitter a lot and try to use that for a combination of professional and personal stuff,” Schermerhorn said. “So I keep it relevant to my academic interests, and I think he found that appealing.”

    She’s also earning her stripes as a bioengineer through her senior capstone design project as a member ofTeam Breath Alert, which is developing a neonatal apnea monitor for the developing world. The team won second place in the annual Rice Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition last year.

    In the Times competition, Schermerhorn was required to submit an essay that, Kristof wrote, described her abilities “in sparkling prose.” She wrote about a solo trip after high school to Big Bend National Park undefined “the instant I realized the world was bigger than my hometown” undefined that encouraged her to find a way to relieve the poverty she witnessed across the border in Mexico.

    Her studies at Rice and participation in Beyond Traditional Borders have refined her vision over the past four years. “I’d love to help demonstrate to students and budding entrepreneurs that there is a vast set of untapped opportunities here to build, create and implement solutions to complicated problems in the developing world,” she wrote. “And I could help reach a nontraditional audience whose potential to improve lives remains largely untapped.”

    She’ll write for a national audience when she blogs for the Times during her trip. She and Kristof, whose work focuses on human rights abuses and social injustice, will be accompanied by a videographer who will also file regular reports on their travels.

    The news is still too fresh for her to feel intimidated. “It hasn’t hit me yet, but it’s definitely a step up from writing for the Rice Standard,” she said.

    She was delighted to tell her mother, an editor for Educational Testing Services, that her communication skills got her the Times prize. “She’s very humanities-oriented, a grammar nerd, and she got this engineering/science-oriented daughter,” Schermerhorn said. “She didn’t know what to do with me. But she’s very excited.”

    Rice News staff 

  • Thursday, March 08, 2012 12:31 PM | Anonymous

    Rice students build an owl on wheels for Houston’s Art Car Parade – and for course credit

    Art Car 101

    In a cluttered art studio off the Sewall Hall courtyard, five students are in deep discussion about the shape of an owl’s wing.

    Does it curve at the top, or is it smooth? What does a wing look like, anyway?

    Pictures of owls are spread out on a table. Insects fly in through the open doors, attracted by the light on a warm evening. The students lean in over the cardboard wing they’ve cut, deliberating over shape and aerodynamics.

    “Do we want to take this to the car?” someone asks. And the five of them steal away into the night with their cardboard wing, headed for the Oldsmobile Alero they are transforming into an owl.

    Every Wednesday night about 13 students gather for ARTS 105, also known as Art Car 101. They’re building Rice’s entry for Houston’s Art Car Parade in May – and they’re getting an hour of course credit for it.

    Art Car 101 student

    Students in ARTS 105 are turning an Oldsmobile into an owl for Houston's Art Car Parade. Photo by Greg Marshall

    The idea for the course came from Greg Marshall ’86, Public Affairs’ director of university relations. He has arranged the university’s previous entries in the annual parade of crazy and colorful cars, a Houston institution organized by the Orange Show Foundation.

    Art Car 101 is a collaboration, Marshall said, between the Visual and Dramatic Arts Department and the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, which worked together to create a “cross-disciplinary class.” He proposed the course as a way to involve “the entirety of the Rice University family” in a project that would celebrate Rice’s centennial undefined including students, staff, faculty and alumni.

    The four instructors – who are contributing their time – are a perfect amalgamation of those groups: Two are faculty members, one is on staff and three are Rice alumni.

    And they have backgrounds that make them ideal candidates to teach an art car class:

    – Marshall has arranged the university Art Car Parade entries for the past several years, including last year’s “Centennial Sammy,” a Model T made in 1912. The 2008 entry, a single-molecule “nanocar” developed by Rice chemists, rode on the dashboard in a vial and won the parade’s Visionary Artist Award.

    – Jay Miller, a visiting assistant professor of philosophy, is a sculptor and has worked with Stanley Marsh 3, the creator of the Texas Panhandle’s “Cadillac Ranch.” Miller’s academic research tends to focus on the social significance of art, including the meaning of collaborative projects.

    – Natali Leduc ’07, who earned a Ph.D. in French studies at Rice, is an MFA candidate at the University of Houston. Leduc has a long history of creating both art cars and art bikes for the annual parade, and her work on bicycles was exhibited in Tulsa last year.

    – And Richard Carter ’84 is an adjunct professor of computation and applied mathematics. He’s also creator and owner of the “Sashimi Tabernacle Choir,” an ’84 Volvo covered with more than 250 Big Mouth Billy Bass fish and lobsters, all singing classical opera.

    The 2000 Oldsmobile was contributed by Tommy Brasher ’63 and Scott Brasher ’95, owners of Brasher Motor Co. in Weimar, Texas. (License plate: OWL100, a nod to the centennial.) And once the students are finished, the plain four-door sedan will be permanently transformed into a Rice Owl.

    “We have students from all kinds of backgrounds – engineering, mathematics, the visual arts, the humanities – and all of them are working on this common goal,” Miller said.

    Most of the students have “artistic bents,” Carter said, even if they’re not majoring in art. Claire Schaffer, for instance, a Lovett senior, is majoring in French – but she helped her parents work on two art cars when she was growing up in Houston. So ARTS 105 was an obvious choice for an elective.

    “I like classes where I create something at the end – a project,” Schaffer said. “I was looking for creative outlets, and this popped up.”

    In class that February evening, Schaffer was creating owl feathers by stretching old pantyhose over bent wire hangers. Leduc followed up with wire and a pair of pliers, securing each feather to part of a metal ironing board that once belonged to Schaffer’s grandmother.

    “We’re still in test mode,” Schaffer said. Next week, the plan might be altogether different.

    Art Car 101 student

    Lovett senior Claire Schaffer tries making feathers out of hosiery and hangers. Photo by Greg Marshall

    The feathers, of course, must be sturdy enough to stay on a car driving 20 mph. Schaffer and Leduc took their feathered ironing board out for a test run in the courtyard.

    “Run, Natali, run!” Schaffer called out, and they took turns careening across the concrete and trying to build up enough speed for some wind beneath their wing.

    Meanwhile, in another studio off the courtyard, a trio of students and Miller were welding.

    “Basically what we’re going to do,” Miller told them, “is create an armature for the front of the car – what will actually support the owl head.”

    He gave a crash course on the basics of welding and showed his students how to use the MIG welder to connect four thin steel bars.

    “One thing that’s really difficult about welding,” Miller told them, “is it gets so hot that it warps the metal and can throw your angles off a little bit. We have to be really careful.”

    Welding masks were handed out. The whir of the machine was followed by a series of crackles and bright flashes. Sparks scuttled across the concrete floor and into the night.

    Collaborative art projects like this, Miller said, are an “emerging creative process.”

    “Especially this kind of creative project,” he said, “ties together so many different abilities and ideas – both creative and analytic – in a way that you often hear talked about but rarely see realized.”

    The group hopes to have something to show visitors at the UnConvention in April. The car should be finished soon after that for a series of Art Car Parade events that culminates with the actual parade May 12.

    “We realize the Houston Art Car Parade is something big and important,” Miller said. “We want to be a part of that.”

    See another article in Art Car Nation!

  • Friday, February 17, 2012 10:05 AM | Anonymous

    Jocelyn Brown ’10, a staffer at Rice 360˚: Institute for Global Health Technologies, appeared via video at a White House event Feb. 8 to talk about life-saving technology developed by students at Rice University.

    Brown was one of four representatives of academic institutions invited to speak at the “Innovations in Global Health” event this week. She is in the African nation of Malawi on behalf of Rice 360˚ and was unable to appear in person, but prepared a video in which she discussed the groundbreakingbubble continuous positive airway pressure (bCPAP) device that provides support for infants whose respiratory systems are compromised. 

      Rice students at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen watch as Jocelyn Brown, an alumna and staff at Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies, appears via video at a White House conference, "Innovations in Global Health," this week. 

    From left, Rice alumni Michael Pandya, Jocelyn Brown, Katie Schnelle, Haruka Maruyama and Joseph Chang showed components of their bubble continuous positive airway pressure device, developed in 2010 to help infants recover from respiratory infections. Brown, who is in Africa demonstrating the device, appeared via video at a White House conference this week. 

    The bCPAP was developed by Rice seniors at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen as their engineering design capstone project in 2010, and Brown has remained at Rice to continue to develop the device. Also on the team were Rice alumni Michael Pandya, Joseph Chang, Haruka Maruyama and Katie Schnelle. The portable device can be built for $160 and provides the same level of therapeutic pressure as units commonly used in the developed world that cost as much as $6,000, Brown said.

    “In my brief time (in Africa) so far, I have seen how quickly babies improve on CPAP and how relieved their mothers feel when their children begin to breathe more easily,” Brown told the White House audience. “The very first patient we put on CPAP was a bronchiolitic baby whose oxygen saturation was dangerously low upon arrival at the hospital. Before starting CPAP, she was nonresponsive, but within minutes of receiving CPAP support, her oxygen levels greatly improved. Just hours later, she was able to nurse, and five days later, she was discharged from the hospital.” Brown said it was amazing to see the baby recover when she had the assistance of the CPAP and did not have to work so hard to breathe.

    “This is about reducing the costs and improving the results of how we spend taxpayer dollars to achieve development outcomes,” said Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which selected bCPAP for funding through its Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge last July. ”But it’s also about offering American students, universities, researchers and entrepreneurs a chance to tap into a set of problems that are fundamentally solvable.” 

    Saving Lives at Birth is a partnership among USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and The World Bank.

    Rice 360˚ Director Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering, attended the event on Rice’s behalf.


  • Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:52 PM | Anonymous

    Late in the Fall 2011 semester, after a summer of record setting drought, six freshmen marched from the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen to the wooded space between Keck Hall and George R. Brown Hall, carrying coils of garden hose and three objects resembling oversized hula hoops.

    As one student fastened the hose to an in-ground faucet, others wrapped the plastic hoops around the trunks of three oaks and connected them to the hose. When the signal was given, the valve was turned and out sprayed thin streams of water, soaking the ground beneath the drought-parched trees.


    “The tough part was the consistency of the angles. We had to get the water coming out in the right direction, with the right amount of pressure,” said Devin Mahon, a mechanical engineering major.

    The students were enrolled in Introduction to Engineering Design, ENGI 120, one of the first semester-long design courses offered to freshmen at Rice. Teams work on client-based design projects drawn from area hospitals, community partners, international communities and the campus.

    The students named their team WATER – Watering All Trees Everywhere at Rice. Besides Mahon, the other members are, in bioengineering, Peter Yu; in chemical engineering, Junli Hao; in mechanical engineering and materials science, Fay Pauly, Oscar Turner, Rachel Wang.

    Their goal was to work with the staff of Rice Facilities Engineering and Planning (FE&P) to develop an efficient watering system, one that conserves water while saving trees. The project was inspired by the ongoing drought in Texas.


    The spray from the students’ device is aimed at the “drip line” of trees, the outermost circle on the ground where rain drips from leaves and branches. There, rather than nearer the trunk, is the most efficient and beneficial spot for supplying trees with water.

    The team built three prototypes, finally settling on an optimal design of 10-foot lengths of PEX pipe, with holes measuring .043 inches drilled every 10 centimeters.

    “That gave us the best, most even distribution of water,” Turner said.

    Ann Saterbak, professor in the practice in bioengineering education, teaches the class.


    “This group was very hard-working,” she said. “They stayed in constant communication and kept a positive, realistic outlook. They demonstrated impressive management skills and took the initiative to consult faculty and staff about the technical and logistical complexities of the project.”

    She attributed the team’s success to “group trust and unwillingness to settle for an inadequate solution.”

    ENGI 120, as it’s popularly known, started in spring 2011 with 20 students in the first class. By the fall, enrollment had doubled.

    ENGI 120 introduces students to the engineering design process, and to working as a team. They work with "Apprentice Leaders" -- older students enrolled in Engineering 316. These coaches receive leadership training in the preceding semester in Engineering 315.

    “ENGI 120 helps students put the rest of the engineering curriculum in context. The class whets their appetite for design but also shows them the need for technical knowledge within the design process,” said Mark Embree, director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership and professor of computational and applied mathematics.

    “We also anticipate,” he added, “that students will use their intensive team experience in ENGI 120 as a springboard for group work elsewhere in the curriculum and in student clubs.”

    Grounds superintendent Ron Smith, with Rice FE&P, looks forward to trying out the WATER-designed watering device.

    “We watched a demonstration and it looks as though they would be effective and useful on campus,” he said. “We’re not aware of anything like them currently on the market.”

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Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen - Rice University

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Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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