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.
BY MIKE WILLIAMS
Oshman and his wife of 49 years, Barbara, donated the lead gift to Rice to establish the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), which was dedicated in December 2008.
His namesake building, which once housed Rice's central food-service operation, has become a point of pride for the George R. Brown School of Engineering. The OEDK gives engineering students a central facility to realize their required design projects, with easy access to a machine shop, a classroom, a wet lab, a welding shop and conference rooms.
Oshman told the gathering at the OEDK dedication that he and his wife were "looking at what we might be able to do (for Rice) when this idea came up. Barbara, not being an engineer, was not 1,000 percent sure we wanted to become part of something in the engineering department again, despite my love for the school.”
But the OEDK's mission to provide cross-discipline and cross-technology training not only for engineering students but also those in the humanities, social sciences, architecture and business won her over. “This will be a great base for that kind of education going forward,” he said.
Maria Oden, OEDK director and a professor in the practice of engineering education, said Oshman's vision is paying rich dividends. She said nine student teams from among 61 that completed projects at the kitchen this year have won recognition in national competitions.
"My sense was Ken Oshman initially appreciated, maybe more so than any of us here on campus, how this facility would change engineering education at Rice," Oden said. "He saw from the industry perspective what he wanted engineers to be able to do.
"I think a whole generation of engineering students owe a lot to Ken and his wife's willingness to step forward and support the OEDK," she said.
"From my perspective, the kitchen is his legacy at Rice," said Sidney Burrus, Rice's Maxfield Oshman Professor Emeritus and former dean of the Brown School of Engineering, whose connection to Oshman goes back to their days at Stanford. The OEDK, he said, "has not only changed Rice, it is a model that is changing higher education in the U.S. and around the world. It is remarkable."
"I'm delighted that Ken was able to see the OEDK become such a great success, a center of energy and hive of innovation for our undergraduate engineers," said Mark Embree, the John and Ann Doerr Professor and director of the Rice Center For Engineering Leadership. "This space has already transformed student life on campus, and the designs developed there have touched lives half a world away."
Oshman, a native of Rosenberg, Texas, was co-founder of the ROLM Corporation, a Silicon Valley telecommunications company acquired by IBM in 1984. He was a vice president at IBM until 1986, and chief executive officer of Echelon Corp., a networking company in San Jose, Calif., until 2009. He served as the company's executive chairman until his death.
After graduating summa cum laude from Rice, Oshman earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at Stanford University while working at Sylvania Corp. He was a member of President Ronald Reagan's economic policy planning committee and a committee to advise the president on high-temperature superconductivity. He received Rice's Distinguished Alumnus Award, was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and served on many corporate boards.
Oshman is survived by his wife; son and daughter-in-law Peter and Stephanie Oshman; son and daughter-in-law David and Joanna Oshman; four grandchildren; brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Tania Oshman; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday in Los Altos Hills, Calif.
BY JADE BOYD
Rice News staff
Rice University's low-cost "infantAIR" device -- a global health technology invented by Rice students to help newborns struggling with respiratory distress -- was one of 19 projects selected for seed-grant funding July 29 at the Saving Lives at Birth global health contest in Washington, D.C.
Rice and the 18 other award nominees will now enter into final negotiations before awards can be issued.
In Rice's project, a team of physicians and engineers from the United States and Malawi will refine Rice's bubble continuous positive airway pressure device -- or bCPAP -- and implement it throughout the African nation of Malawi. The device is designed to help infants breathe when they are struggling with acute respiratory infections, the leading cause of global child mortality.
"We believe that the bCPAP device has the potential to greatly reduce neonatal mortality related to respiratory distress in low-resource settings, and we are so pleased to have been nominated for funding to implement this life-saving technology in Malawi," said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, director of Rice 360° and the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering.
The bCPAP was invented and improved by undergraduates in Rice 360°'s Beyond Traditional Borders program. The students worked at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen under the mentorship of pediatricians from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital and the University of Malawi's Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH).
"The bCPAP is a proven therapy to treat neonates in respiratory distress, but it is often too expensive for hospitals in the developing world," said Beyond Traditional Borders' Jocelyn Brown, who began developing the device in 2009 as part of her senior design course. "The device we developed has been shown to deliver the same therapeutic pressure as the bCPAP setup at Texas Children's Hospital, while costing almost 35 times less."
In the Saving Lives at Birth competition, Rice proposed a one-year program to refine and test the bCPAP device and to develop a plan to scale up distribution in rural hospitals throughout Malawi. Bioengineers from Rice 360° will collaborate with pediatricians at QECH and Texas Children's as well as with industrial design engineers from 3rd Stone Design.
Pediatricians from the University of Malawi-QECH will oversee the clinical trials of the device and offer design feedback. The team will also work with physicians at regional hospitals and clinics in Malawi to help facilitate countrywide scale-up.
A team from Baylor and Texas Children's will expand and refine clinical protocols and job aids for the bCPAP. It will also develop training materials for caregivers, help to assess data gathered in clinical trials and develop easy-to-follow guidelines to help community-health workers recognize infants who would benefit from the device.
The team from 3rd Stone Design will perform a needs assessment at QECH and surrounding clinics to develop a clinical evaluation unit of the bCPAP device. The team will also determine user expectations and needs and identify engineering, medical, market and regulatory requirements for the bCPAP device.
A team of Rice University students and recent graduates rode a dragon to high honors this week at Imagine Cup 2011, an international technology competition sponsored by Microsoft that draws thousands of entries every year.
The unique combination of hardware and software incorporates a spirometer -- a tube-like device that measures lung volume -- connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone running Windows 7 Mobile. As the child blows into the tube, the game's central character, Azmo the Dragon, breathes fire. The stronger the child blows, the more fire Azmo breathes and the easier it can battle through various game levels.
The team members are Lovett College junior JungWoo Lee, Veronica Burkel '11; Martel College sophomore Chase Sandmann and Pierre Elias '11. Joe Warren, professor and chair of Rice's Department of Computer Science, and Dr. Clifford Dacso, a senior member of The Methodist Hospital Research Institute, executive director of the Abramson Center for the Future of Health and an adjunct professor at Rice, are the team's advisers.
The low-cost, open-source spirometer was developed by a team from the Center for Multimedia Communication (CMC), including Ashutosh Sabharwal, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE); Siddharth Gupta, CMC research engineer; and Peter Chang and Nonso Anyigbo, undergraduates majoring in ECE. The novel hardware, software and game are part of the new Rice Scalable Health Initiative.
The awards were announced in a ceremony in New York City July 13.
The Rice senior design team Electric Owl took the $10,000 top prize July 12 in Texas Instruments' national Analog Design Competition.
Electric Owl's members are Jeffrey Bridge, Robert Brockman, Peter Hokanson and Anthony Austin, who each graduated this spring.
It's been a great month for recent Rice engineering alumni who entered senior design projects into high-profile competitions.
Maria Oden, director of Rice's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and a professor in the practice of engineering education, and Marcia O'Malley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, advised the students in collaboration with Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston.
Team Equiliberators -- bioengineering graduates Drew Berger and mechanical engineering graduates Matt Jones and Michelle Pyle -- was selected as one of the top five finalists (the highest level of recognition) in the Student Design Competition sponsored by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). Oden, O’Malley and doctors at Shriners worked with the team to develop a balance-therapy system for cerebral palsy patients that uses Nintendo Wii boards along with innovative force transducers that measure both center of balance and a patient's use of handrails to remain upright. The competition was held June 5-8 in Toronto.
Team Dexter -- bioengineering graduates Allison Scully and Jessica Scully and mechanical engineering graduates Avery Cate, Dillon Eng and Rachel Jackson -- took the grand prize in the Undergraduate Design Project Competition in Rehabilitation and Assistive Devices at the ASME Bioengineering Conference in Farmington, Pa., June 22-25. The team developed an electronic pegboard to track three-dimensional hand motion; the device helps clinicians assess gains in the dexterity of cerebral palsy patients.
A third Rice group, Team Strikeout, has been named a finalist in the Global National Instruments LabVIEW Student Design Competition Aug. 1-4 in Austin. The team advised by Gary Woods, a Rice professor in the practice of computer technology, designed a prototype called PitchPALS (Pitch Pressure Analysis & Logging System), a replica baseball with pressure sensors that record the exact pressure and position of a pitcher's hand when delivering a pitch. Team members are electrical engineering graduates Sharon Du, Ashley Herron and Qian Zhang and mechanical engineering graduates Peter Hoagland and Jennifer Sullivan.
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