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.
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.
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!
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.
“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.
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.”
M. Kenneth Oshman '62 appears on a Houston Chronicle list of notables who died in 2011.
M. Kenneth Oshman, 71, a Rice University trustee and benefactor whose gift to the school made possible the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, dedicated in 2008. Aug. 6.
Based in Maple Plain, Minn., Proto Labs advertises itself as the “world’s fastest” manufacturer of “custom CNC (computer numerical control) machine machined parts and injection molded parts.”
McLurkin will receive up to $100,000 worth of prototyping and production services to be used for robot production. Shortly after joining the Rice faculty in 2009, began designing his own model, the R-One. It can be programmed for different levels of learning but is inexpensive enough to be used in a K-12 program.
“I want robots to be as popular as scientific calculators,” McLurkin said. “I want to support a curriculum where every student has their own robot and can study individual lessons, and where they can also work in teams -- using their robots collectively in multi-robot systems.”
From 1999 to 2003, McLurkin was the technical lead and project manager at iRobot Corp., where he managed the DARPA-funded Swarm Robotics project. He earned a Ph.D. in computer science in 2008 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
BY MARY LYNN FERNAU
Special to Rice News
The Ice Owls team won first place overall in Rice University's third annual Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition with a plan to design and build a device for vaccine storage in developing nations. The competition was held Nov. 17 at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business.
Forty teams presented 90-second "elevator pitches" -- overviews brief enough that they could be given on an elevator ride -- to a group of 275 judges. The teams were evaluated on the commercialization potential of their projects and were asked to consider such factors as customer needs, market applications and unique differentiators. Prizes totaling $6,150 were awarded to the winning proposals. Competition judges included investors from throughout the Houston area, many of whom are involved with the Rice Business Plan Competition.
The elevator pitch competition was created to expose engineering students to the possibility and process of commercializing the technologies they create, said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. This year’s event was open to anyundergraduate student team that wanted to pitch a product.
“Fourteen teams of non-engineering students were a wonderful addition to the 26 teams of engineering students who pitched their capstone engineering design projects at the competition," said Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering education and director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. "We hope that entrepreneurial opportunities and exposure to the possibility of commercialization of their work will help all the students think beyond the initial stages of an idea and consider taking that idea into the marketplace.”
Burke added, “We hope that a number of these projects will move forward and become commercial successes and result in the formation of new startup ventures."
First place overall ($1,500)
The Ice Owls' plan called for the design and construction of a system that uses steam from a capteur-soleil, a low-cost technology to capture the sun's energy, to make ice. The system will be used in developing nations for vaccine storage. Team members included Victor Leyva, Shai Bernstein, Tristan Clement, Geoffrey Holmes, Travis Howell and Yean Lee.
Second place ($750)
Breath Alert developed a system capable of detecting apnea in premature infants and is suitable for use in crowded, poorly staffed settings. Team members included Rachel Alexander, Rachel Gilbert, Jordan Schermerhorn, Bridget Ugoh and Andrea Ulrich.
Social and Global Health Ventures ($400 per team)
Citybusters' plan called for development of an air-sterilization system tailored to the demands and limitations of a bus environment that has the potential to reduce the spread of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Team members included Shidong Chen, Grace Ching, Jerry Lue, Sundeep Mandava and Joey Spinella.
PEEK developed a cost-effective and portable endoscope with high resolution for providing point-of-care screening in the developing world. Team members included Rebecca Hernandez, Charisma Kaushik, Jean Kim, Amy Liao and Sabha Momin.
Medical and Rehabilitation Technologies ($400)
TCOIL's plan called for the design of two prototypes: a transcutaneous energy transfer system suitable for implantation and capable of powering Procyrion’s cardiac assist device, and a wireless system capable of controlling pump operation and determining critical pump operating parameters. Team members included Alexander Dobranich, Trevor Mitcham, Michael Torre, Hana Wang, Erin Watson and Tyler Young.
Energy, Sustainability and Electronic Technologies ($400)
Rice Recovery's project sought to develop a system that can harvest energy to supplement existing energy production systems in a solar electric vehicle, the Rice University Solar Car. Team members included Andrew Owens, Ethan Wagner, Kerry Wang and Robert Wilson.
Research and Innovation: Laboratory, NASA & Military ($400)
Collar ID designed a new collar that can be fitted quickly in the field of combat to properly immobilize military patients with spinal cord injuries without exacerbating injuries. Team members included Kareem Ayoub, Alicia Buck, Adriana Gamboa, Michael Heisel, Irma Martinez and Daniel Peng.
Open Challenge: Hardware Solutions ($400)
Loco4Motion proposed a cellphone case capable of converting the energy generated from daily motion into electricity. Team members included Sonia Garcia, Allison Garza, Vivaswath Kumar, Chester Kupchella and Joseph Song.
Open Challenge: Networking, Software and Public-interest Ventures ($400)
SNOWMAN's plan would establish a combination of algorithms to manage social-network content according to each user's preference on friends and industries. Team members included Mira Chen, Mingming Jiang and Frank Zhang.
First place, Houston Entrepreneurs’ Organization ($1,000)
Impossible Challenges developed a design that will potentially allow the launch of microsatellites with a mass around 1-2 kilograms into orbit for a fraction of what NASA or any private company spends per kilogram. Team members included Andrew Amis, Joe Anderson, David Sullivan and Kern Vijayvargiya.
Second place, Houston Entrepreneurs’ Organization ($500)
Wisga's plan would leverage the power of reviews to help students discover the internships, research positions and opportunities of their dreams. Reviews help students find the experience that is the best fit for them and provide organizations that recruit on Wisga with the best applicants possible. Team members included Ian Akash Morrison and Aniruddha Sen.
The competition was part of Rice's involvement in Global Entrepreneurship Week, which was sponsored in part by the Kauffman Foundation. The event was hosted by the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and was sponsored by BP, the Houston Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, the Jones Graduate School Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Rice's Center for Engineering Leadership, the George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Jones School.
-- Mary Lynn Fernau is marketing director for the Rice Alliance.
Check out the OEDK website at oedk.rice.edu to see a list of all of the winners!
The undergraduate elevator pitch competition was held on last Thursday, November 17th and Ice Owls took the first place $1,500 prize. Congratulations to mechanical engineering majors Victor Leyva, Shai Bernstein, Tristan Clement, Geoffrey Holmes, Travis Howell, and Yean Lee on their win. The team was pitching their design project, which uses solar power to produce ice. See the list below for all of the winners!
1st Place Overall: $1,500
Ice Owls - Victor Leyva, Shai Bernstein, Tristan Clement, Geoffrey Holmes, Travis Howell, Yean Lee
2nd Place Overall: $750
Breath Alert - Rachel Alexander, Rachel Gilbert, Jordan Schermerhorn, Bridget Ugoh, Andrea Ulrich
Social and Global Health Ventures: ($400 each team)
Citybusters - Shidong Chen, Grace Ching, Jerry Lue, Sundeep Mandava, Joey Spinella
PEEK - Rebecca Hernandez, Charisma Kaushik, Jean Kim, Amy Liao, Sabha Momin
tCOIL - Alexander Dobranich, Trevor Mitcham, Michael Torre, Hana Wang, Erin Watson, Tyler Young
Rice Recovery - Andrew Owens, Ethan Wagner, Kerry Wang,
Collar ID - Kareem Ayoub, Alicia Buck, Adriana Gamboa,
Michael Heisel, Irma Martinez, Daniel Peng
Loco4Motion - Sonia Garcia, Allison Garza, Vivaswath Kumar,
Chester Kupchella, Joseph Song
Open Challenge: Networking, Software, and Public-interest Ventures ($400)
SNOWMAN - Mira Chen, Mingming Jiang, Frank Zhang
1st Place: $1,000
Impossible Challenges - Andrew Amis, Joe Anderson, David Sullivan, Kern Vijayvargiya
2nd Place: $500
Wisga - Ian Akash Morrison, Aniruddha Sen
Engineering students reached an early peak for their design project at the Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge!
Rice University engineering students reached an early peak in the creation of their senior capstone design project when they won a batch of awards at the annual Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge this week.
Team members are bioengineering majors Rob Bauer, Malcolm Blake, Eric Lee and Thierry Rignol and mechanical engineering major Zachary Foster. They were the only Rice representatives among eight teams. The other teams were from Texas A&M, Texas A&M at Kingsville, the University of Texas and the University of Texas, El Paso.
"We got to talk to some very informative NASA engineers, who thought our design selection was appropriate and a vast improvement over the current design," said team leader Bauer. The teams also enjoyed a backstage NASA tour.
Team Helios advisers are Matthew Wettergreen, lecturer in bioengineering; Brent Houchens, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science; Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering education and director of theOshman Engineering Design Kitchen; and Bara Reyna of the Space Medicine Division at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
In anticipation of a visit to Rice University last spring, I was sent an agenda for my time in Houston. One item in particular caught my eye: meetings with a number of faculty members in a venue identified as the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. I located the building on a campus map, but that was of little help for understanding exactly what a design kitchen was.
In the absence of facts or context, I let my imagination carry me away in the direction of fancy and fantasy. I surmised that a “design kitchen” was a carefully thought-out academic metaphor for a place where fresh design ideas were cooked up, recipes for invention followed, and new concoctions put to the test. There could never be too many cooks in a design kitchen, I reasoned, because the more interdisciplinary participants the better. And if you could not stand the Texas heat, you could always go into the air-conditioned design kitchen.
When I finally arrived at Rice’s design kitchen, I found it to be a wonderfully open and welcoming space. Since my visit occurred near the end of the semester, my guide explained, I would have to excuse the tools, materials, and works in progress that spilled over and out from the otherwise neatly and amply separated tables at which student design teams worked to beat end-of-term deadlines.
A large and well-equipped machine shop stretches the length of one side of the building, easily seen through the wall of windows that separated it and its dust and noise from the workspace proper. Most of a perpendicular wall is lined with conference rooms enclosed by glass, so that it is immediately obvious whether a room is occupied or not. These rooms are available for design teams to confer among themselves and with faculty advisors. They and the design kitchen generally had become so popular across campus that even students outside engineering had begun to flock to it. Thought was being given to expanding into the basement.
As I met with faculty members associated with the university’s design programs, I waited for an opportunity to ask the origin of the term design kitchen. It turns out that the explanation is much simpler than I imagined. The building, which used to be the central food-preparation facility for the campus, had been abandoned when newer facilities became available. The old kitchen became a storage room, but its proximity to the engineering buildings and its large open plan made it attractive for converting into student design-project space. A $2.4 million gift from Kenneth Oshman, a Rice alumnus, and his wife, Barbara, to establish a place where engineering students from all departments could collaborate on design projects made the transformation possible.
The thoughtfully renovated interior space was so successful that the design program grew accordingly. When it was time to give a name to the facility, the design faculty considered some familiar designations: design laboratory, design studio, project space, etc. But when the most apt “design kitchen” was suggested, it was soon embraced as a distinctive way to identify something unique to Rice. Sometimes the best choice for a new name for an existing building with a new use is simply to modify the old name by which it had for so long been known. So Rice’s old Hicks Kitchen became the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.
Since my visit to Rice I have learned that the Missouri University of Science and Technology has acquired an old bakery building in Rolla for students to use for their design projects, but to the best of my knowledge they are not calling it their Design Bakery.
Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. His most recent book, The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems, is now available in paperback.
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