HOUSTON – (May 15, 2020) – High praise from NASA brought attention to two teams of Rice University students working to make settlements on the moon and Mars more practical.
The capstone teams based at the Brown School of Engineering’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen have developed what NASA engineers consider vital to a settlement’s success: a portable database of tools made for 3D printing on demand.
Our eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) challenge allows university teams to develop technologies to support our human space flight and #Artemis missions.
Here’s how @RiceUniversity took the challenge one step further.@PerryCoCentral pic.twitter.com/bqKL4kUapE
— NASAexplores (@NASAexplores) May 8, 2020
Our eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) challenge allows university teams to develop technologies to support our human space flight and #Artemis missions.
Here’s how @RiceUniversity took the challenge one step further.@PerryCoCentral pic.twitter.com/bqKL4kUapE
— NASAexplores (@NASAexplores) May 8, 2020
While both teams had to leave campus in March and finish their projects from a distance, denying them the chance to fully test their work at the OEDK’s maker space, they still completed them to a degree that captured the attention of NASA officials supporting them through the agency’s ongoing eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) challenge.
Fulfilling their commitment to mentor the next generation, the teams took part in NASA-sponsored remote sessions with high school students to talk about their experience and the value of a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree. NASA was delighted enough to tweet their pride in the Rice teams.
Team Live Long and Printer, from left: Colin Nyhus, Victoria Joshi, NASA project sponsor Mike Fiske, Oliver Lopez and Paraksh Vankawala. Photo by Sabia Abidi
“We talked to sophomores, juniors and seniors who are interested in engineering about our experience in college, about minorities and engineering, why we picked engineering and what options are available to them,” said Victoria Joshi, a senior mechanical engineering major.
Her team, dubbed “Live Long and Printer,” designed 3D-printable plans for tools that could be manufactured by off-planet adventurers as well as a digital repository to make the files easily accessible. Joining Joshi on the team were seniors Oliver Lopez, Colin Nyhus and Paraksh Vankawala, also mechanical engineering majors.
“We took this project on because we’re going to explore beyond the moon and go further to Mars and other planets,” said Vankawala, whose goal is to join the astronaut corps. “As we do that, communication is the big concern. It can take nearly 45 minutes to get a message to Mars.
“So our objective is to give astronauts an opportunity to resolve emergency situations on their own, with a 3D printer on board,” he said. “If they need a new part or a tool, they can make it on the spot without the need to talk to anyone back on Earth.”
The Space Stuff team, from left: Nicolas Terrazas, Chad Fisher and Sang Bum Lee.
While “Live Long and Printer” focused on everyday tools like strong-but-lightweight wrenches made in gyroid patterns that use minimal material, their partner team, “Space Stuff,” had a slightly different focus, creating a database and populating it with simple medical devices like a tooth elevator suitable for 3D printing in microgravity. Sang Bum Lee and Nicolas Terrazas are both mechanical engineering majors and Chad Fisher is a bioengineering major. All are seniors.
Both teams were advised by Sabia Abidi, a Rice lecturer in bioengineering, Matthew Wettergreen, an associate teaching professor at the OEDK, Jimmy Wu, senior research director of the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and Michael Fiske, the teams’ NASA mentor and an engineer at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
“The opportunities afforded by the X-Hab program benefit not only the university students, but NASA as well,” said Fiske, who added the teams “gained invaluable experience in topology optimization for additively manufactured parts as well as database design and applications for the International Space Station (ISS), a win-win situation!”
Various 3D wrenches printed at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen use little material but retain sufficient strength to be used in space. Two Rice senior capstone design teams worked with NASA to develop tools and database platforms for 3D printing devices in space or on Mars or the moon. (Credit: Live Long and Printer/Rice University)
Joshi noted the ISS is already printing parts. “They have a database, but it’s missing a lot of information, such as part drawings, part names, dimensions and information like how you would post-process these and use filaments other than plastic,” she said. “So part of our job is to create a larger, more robust database that’s easy to fill in with new projects and is still maintained, searchable and usable, even if it has hundreds of parts.”
“It’s all about making it very easy to use because astronauts aren’t going to have time to train to use a database,” Vankawala said. “They have other priorities. We’re also giving them the opportunity to design the parts they want and add those into the database.”
The “Space Stuff” team put much of its effort into the functionality of its database, especially its simplified interface.
An entry in a database developed by Rice University students for 3D printing in space shows a wrench with a modified gyroid internal lattice and a Courtesy of Live Long and Printer
“Though we were both tasked with creating a database, theirs was created in Microsoft Access and ours is in two parts,” Fisher said. “We have a back-end SQL database and on the front we built a Windows Visual Studio user interface. By using two programs, we were able to focus more on the user experience with a high level of customization that might not be available in one program.”
“The most satisfying part of the experience for me,” Abidi said, “was to watch the teams exploit their unique strengths, take ownership and create two different but competitive solutions to a real-world problem.”
Though COVID-19 curtailed their time on campus, both teams completed and presented their projects to X-Hab and were invited to participate in the online teaching opportunity alongside NASA aerospace engineer Tracie Prater. “The Rice students went above and beyond in sharing their work and I know that they influenced some high school students to pursue engineering,” Prater said.
Joshi was happy to spread the word. She said she treasured her time working with NASA and, like Vankawala, will eventually apply to the astronaut corps. “I’ve always been really interested in space exploration and NASA, and part of the reason I picked Rice was for that NASA connection and hopefully to intern there,” she said. “And that sort of happened because of this project.”
Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.
Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen: http://oedk.rice.edu
George R. Brown School of Engineering: https://engineering.rice.edu
Images for download:
Team Live Long and Printer, from left: Colin Nyhus, Victoria Joshi, NASA project sponsor Mike Fiske, Oliver Lopez and Paraksh Vankawala. (Credit: Photo by Sabia Abidi/Rice University)
The Space Stuff team, from left: Nicolas Terrazas, Chad Fisher and Sang Bum Lee. (Credit: Rice University)
An entry in a database developed by Rice University students for 3D printing in space shows a wrench with a modified gyroid internal lattice and a solid shell exterior. (Credit: Live Long and Printer/Rice University)
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
HOUSTON – (April 3, 2020) – The plans for Rice University’s ApolloBVM, an open-source emergency ventilator design that could help patients in treatment for COVID-19, are now online and freely available to everyone in the world.
The project first developed by students as a senior design project in 2019 has been brought up to medical grade by Rice engineers and one student, with the help of Texas Medical Center doctors. The device costs less than $300 in parts and can squeeze a common bag valve mask for hours on end.
Danny Blacker, left, and Fernando Cruz, staffers at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, assemble a prototype of the ApolloBVM bag valve mask automation device. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Visitors to the ApolloBVM website will be asked to register before they can download the do-it-yourself plans so they can be kept up to date as the project progresses.
With the novel coronavirus gaining steam and a shortage of ventilators not only in the United States but around the world, ApolloBVM could help COVID-19 patients who are less-critically ill while they await availability of a standard hospital ventilator.
“This is going to make a difference in hospitals that run out of ventilators,” said Dr. Rohith Malya, adviser to the Rice engineering team. “Those that have relationships with a production facility that can quickly produce them should seek FDA emergency use authorization. We’re working locally to get that done.
“I want to emphasize that this is for use only when there is no ventilator available,” he said. “We don’t intend for this to be the primary device. We are still working towards the exact clinical use scenario as the situation demands it, nationally and globally.”
Rice University has released open-source plans for ApolloBVM, a bag valve mask automation device meant for emergency use when patients, including those with COVID-19, need assistance to breathe. Click on the image for a larger version. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Malya is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, an adjunct assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice and associate of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.
Rice announced the team’s completion of a new prototype on March 27, and interest from clinicians, engineers, manufacturers and do-it-yourselfers was immediate. More than 500 people from more than 50 countries have requested information about the project through the ApolloBVM website.
At the same time, more than a quarter-million people have now viewed the original “Take A Breather” and the current ApolloBVM videos on YouTube.
In lab tests with an artificial lung this week, the latest prototype delivered nonstop air for 24 hours, until the device was turned off.
“We have been working long hours, but if we are able to make at least one COVID-19 patient more comfortable, it will be all worth it,” said Amy Kavalewitz, executive director of Rice’ Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, where prototypes are being built using the facility’s 3D printers and laser cutters.
The next steps are testing with human patients and manufacturing. Tests with a Texas Medical Center partner are imminent, according to the team.
Rice is also working with manufacturers seeking to ramp up production of a hospital-grade device as soon as possible to address current needs.
Members of the Rice University team developing the ApolloBVM bag valve mask automation device, from left: Rice staffer Fernando Cruz, project director Amy Kavalewitz, project engineer Danny Blacker, associate teaching professor Matthew Wettergreen, and senior Thomas Herring. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Rice University and Canadian global health design firm Metric Technologies have developed an automated bag valve mask ventilation unit that can be built for less than $300 worth of parts and help patients in treatment for COVID-19. The collaboration expects to share the plans for the ventilator by making them freely available online to anyone in the world.
Faculty and students went into overdrive several weeks ago when requests began pouring into the university seeking plans for an early prototype developed in 2019 by Rice engineering seniors.
That now-alumni team of Madison Nasteff, Carolina De Santiago, Aravind Sundaramraj, Natalie Dickman, Tim Nonet and Karen Vasquez Ruiz, calling themselves Take a Breather, designed and built a programmable device able to squeeze a bag valve mask. These masks are typically carried by emergency medical personnel to help get air into the lungs of people having difficulty breathing on their own. But the masks are difficult to squeeze by hand for more than a few minutes at a time.
Rice University’s Danny Blacker holds a laser-cut part of the ApolloBVM unit created at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The automated bag valve mask ventilator could help critically ill COVID-19 patients. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Dr. Rohith Malya, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, an adjunct assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice and associate of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health and a principal at Metric Technologies, recognized the need to automate the masks not only for emergencies where hospital ventilators are in short supply but also for developing nations where such equipment is not available at all.
The first criterion certainly applies now, with a global shortage of ventilators threatening the population as the novel coronavirus spreads.
Rice administrators, staff and students gathered to see how quickly they could develop a more robust prototype built primarily of 3D-printed and laser-cut parts. Their solution, designed and prototyped within a week, is a reconfiguration of the original rack-and-pinion device and designed to be not only medical grade, but also inexpensive enough to be considered disposable.
The small team worked in the Brown School of Engineering’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), where the original project came together last spring. The OEDK is usually hopping at this time of year as Rice senior engineering students race to finish their capstone design requirements. With students hunkered down and taking their classes online, the facility provided a quiet refuge for the ApolloBVM team as it worked around the clock to build the device.
The Department of Defense is one of the groups interested in ApolloBVM. The U.S. Navy invited several institutions to submit proposals to develop a low-cost, mechanical ventilation support system that can be rapidly produced with widely available resources.
“This is as simple as it can get, with all readily available parts,” said Danny Blacker, the OEDK’s engineering design supervisor.
Rice University staff, students and partners have developed an automated bag valve mask ventilator unit. Working at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, from left: Dr. Rohith Malya, engineering design technician Fernando Cruz and supervisor Danny Blacker. Photo by Brandon Martin
The prototype uses an Arduino board to facilitate programming that allows users to adjust the rate of air delivery to the lungs of patients depending on their conditions, but the team expects a custom integrated circuit will eventually be available to replace the board at a lower cost. The device will also employ feedback sensors that help fine-tune the flow of air to the lungs, as well as motors of the same type that power 3D printers for hours on end.
In its documentation, the team characterizes ApolloBVM as a “high-acuity limited-operability (HALO) ventilator solution with an a priori design to produce volume- and pressure-cycled ventilation that includes positive end-expiratory pressure and the inclusion of enriched oxygen sources.”
Malya inspired the Rice project two years ago after seeing families try to keep critically ill loved ones at the Kwai River Christian Hospital in Thailand alive by bag-ventilating them for hours on end. He expects the new ApolloBVM to serve that purpose eventually, but the need is now worldwide.
Rice University staffer Fernando Cruz holds a bag valve mask. Rice staff, students and partners have developed an automated bag valve mask ventilator unit that can be built for less than $300 in parts and helps critically ill COVID-19 patients. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
“This is a clinician-informed end-to-end design that repurposes the existing BVM global inventory toward widespread and safe access to mechanical ventilation,” Malya said, noting that more than 100 million bag valve masks are manufactured around the world each year.
“The immediate goal is a device that works well enough to keep noncritical COVID-19 patients stable and frees up larger ventilators for more critical patients,” added Amy Kavalewitz, executive director of the OEDK.
Malya said the name is a tribute to Rice’s history with NASA and President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech kicking off the nation’s efforts to go to the moon.
“This project appeals to our ingenuity, it’s a Rice-based project and it’s for all of humanity,” he said. “And we’re on an urgent timescale. We decided to throw it all on the table and see how far we go.”
Up-to-date details about the project, dubbed the ApolloBVM, and its progress are available here:
When Kathryn Cavender won the 53rd annual Terlingua International Chili Championship last November, she took home two things in addition to eternal bragging rights: a triumphantly red jacket trimmed in gold — if Terlingua is the Masters of chili competitions, this is its green jacket — and a 26-pound bronze trophy of a globe in the shape of a giant jalapeño.
Rice’s own Kathryn Cavender won the CASI Terlingua International Chili Champion — and a 26-pound bronze trophy of a jalapeño. The OEDK made a 3D-printed version that’s only 3 pounds. (Photos by Jeff Fitlow)
The jacket is easy to transport; Cavender, Rice’s longtime director of environmental health and safety, simply wears it to the dozens of competitions she’s participating in this year as the reigning Terlingua champion.
The trophy, on the other hand, had to be packed into a bulky plastic clamshell that added even more mass to the already-hefty jalapeño. Lugging it to competitions in Texas was one thing — Cavender just made the drive northeast to Lindale for a recent cook-off — but out-of-state competitions would mean flying with the trophy. Cavender didn’t want to struggle with hefting the case into overhead bins, nor did she want to check the priceless trophy.
“So the very first thing I did was I called the OEDK and I said, ‘Can you make me a 3D print of it?’” Cavender said.
A 3D scanner and printer are just two of the pieces of tech to be found inside Rice’s two-story Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, or OEDK, which contains everything one might need for design projects, from laser cutters and soldering stations to a wet lab and a wood shop.
But creating a portable plastic model of the trophy would be easier said than done.
Not only was the jalapeño shape a challenge for the 3D scanner to capture due to its many overhangs and curves, the bronze surface was shiny and reflective in areas, making it difficult for the scanner’s lasers to capture those parts. Engineering design supervisor Danny Blacker and engineering design technician Fernando Cruz kept at it, determined to solve the problem.
“It just didn’t work at all,” Blacker said.
Engineering design technician Fernando Cruz (at left) and engineering design supervisor Danny Blacker (at right) worked with Cavender to replicate a lightweight trophy she could travel with to chili competitions across the U.S.
Eventually, they realized they’d have to create dozens of smaller scans of the trophy and then line them up manually, stitching them together in the computer like skilled surgeons.
“It was a digital puzzle,” Cruz said.
The scans — 30 in total — took hours to complete. And then there was the new puzzle of how to print the finished piece, which would take six days. Once again, the multiple overhangs made it difficult for the 3D printer to render the underside of the trophy.
“It looked like melted plastic,” Cruz said.
Then, an idea: They had stitched together the trophy digitally. They could do the same with the plastic version.
“So I decided to cut it in half,” Blacker said. “And we printed it in two different halves.”
Blacker carefully joined the two pieces and Cruz smoothed the plastic to a fine buff that hid the bifurcation, then primed and painted it to look just like the original.
The second version of the trophy was a success. At only three pounds, it was one-eighth of the original trophy’s weight, mounted on a wooden base Cavender had carved. The rendering process had even captured such fine details as the “CASI” engraving on one side — the Chili Appreciation Society International has hosted the Terlingua cook-off since 1967 — and the artist’s signature on the bottom.
The entire process took a little over two months.
The original trophy has reflective surfaces and multiple overhangs, which made scanning difficult.
“I never had any idea what it was going to entail,” Cavender said, marveling at the end result one recent morning at the OEDK.
Blacker laughed. “Yeah, it seemed easier in our head,” he said.
Throughout the process, however, Rice students were able to watch and learn from the design technicians as they brainstormed in the big, open lab space. The engineers learned a few things too, which they’ve already been able to put to use.
“We rarely used the 3D scanner until this point, and we’ve learned so much just by making this chili pepper,” Cruz said.
One student, in fact, was working on a design project that involved needing to create a clip that fit atop a sonogram instrument. It had to fit perfectly. So Blacker applied the same techniques to creating a 3D model of the clip as he had the chili pepper.
“Had we not done (the trophy), we wouldn’t have been well-versed enough in the 3D scanner to help him, so it really worked out,” Blacker said.
Now, when she’s able to, Cavender travels with both trophies: the portable, lightweight version and the real one that’s eight times heavier. She enjoys sharing what Rice’s unconventional wisdom can produce almost as much as she enjoys sharing her prize-winning chili.
Want the recipe? Cavender is happy to share that too.
<< PRINT RECIPE
By Patrick Kurp
Special to the Rice News
OwlSat, a small research satellite designed by Rice University students to monitor ultraviolet radiation, is set to launch into orbit in 2022.
And the students building OwlSat want everyone at Rice to get behind the project.
“We think of it as a Rice community project,” said Ryan Udell, a junior in mechanical engineering and president of the Rice chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS). “We want the students and faculty to know it’s not just about the group of us who are building the satellite, but about everybody at Rice.”
OwlSat is one of 18 CubeSats selected by NASA to serve as auxiliary payloads on rockets launching from 2021-2023. OwlSat was proposed by the Rice chapter of SEDS and is tentatively slated for liftoff in January 2022.
The satellite will contain sensors to monitor the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation emitted by the sun. Such emissions become more intense during periods of solar flaring and can alter the path of satellites in low-Earth orbit. In the words of the Rice proposal, OwlSat will also monitor the satellite’s orbital velocity and altitude “to characterize how varying EUV values modulate the orbital decay rate of a Low Earth Orbit CubeSat over time.”
“Space is getting crowded,” Udell said. “About 2,200 satellites are already up there. It’s important that we learn where all the space junk is. We don’t want it hitting anyone. UV radiation can have an impact on orbital decay.”
NASA reported that the data collected by OwlSat “will allow for more comprehensive predictions for orbiting bodies, such as space debris and small satellites.” OwlSat will have no propulsion system. Its orbit will decay after roughly one year, and it will burn up when it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.
The satellite must conform to NASA’s CubeSat specifications and measure 10 centimeters on all sides and weigh no more than 0.987 kilograms, about 2.5 pounds. Construction of the satellite is expected to begin this semester.
The project will cost an estimated $45,000, and the Rice SEDS chapter plans a fundraising campaign. Some funding has already come from the George R. Brown School of Engineering, Wiess School of Natural Sciences, Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Rice Space Institute and Rice Engineering Alumni. NASA will cover the cost of the launch.
Rice students, alumni, faculty and staff can obtain a “Boarding Pass” and their names will be included onboard OwlSat.
SEDS is already planning for the future. Udell expects to graduate next year, and new project leads have taken over. Doug Steinbach, a first-year doctoral student in materials science and nanoengineering, and Eric Yang, a freshman in computer science, are now project leads. Paul Glensky, a sophomore in electrical and computer engineering, had led the team until recently and is largely responsible for the CubeSat Launch Initiative selection.
“You don’t have to be in a STEM field to support the project,” Udell said. “If you’re a history major you can pitch in too.”
– Patrick Kurp is a science writer in the George R. Brown School of Engineering.
Malawi’s national adoption of affordable, rugged, neonatal CPAP technology as a part of routine hospital care resulted in sustained improvements in the survival of babies with respiratory illness, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.
Malawi, in southeast Africa, has the world’s highest preterm birth rate, with almost 1 in 5 babies born premature. A study conducted at 26 Malawi government hospitals found that the national adoption of rugged, low-cost, neonatal “continuous positive airway pressure” (CPAP) devices improved survival rates from 49% to 55% for newborns admitted with breathing problems. For newborns with severe breathing problems, survival improved from 40% to 48%.
“For babies that had respiratory distress syndrome — these are the tiniest babies that have some of the biggest challenges with breathing — we saw a nearly a 10% improvement in survival after CPAP was available,” said Rice University engineering professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the study’s corresponding author and co-director of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.
The study involved 2,457 babies born at government hospitals from 2013 to 2016 and was conducted by researchers from the Malawi Ministry of Health, Malawi’s leading medical school and its teaching hospital, and Rice 360°.
Neonatal nurse Florence Mwenifumbo monitors a newborn that is receiving bubble CPAP treatment at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. (Photo courtesy of Rice 360°/Rice University)
Rice 360° developed the Pumani CPAP machine used in the study and supported the national rollout via a transition-to-scale grant from Saving Lives at Birth, a joint undertaking by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Korea.
Rice 360° co-director Maria Oden said most sub-Saharan hospitals can’t afford to bring on extra nurses or technicians, so it was important to monitor patient outcomes and see if CPAP gains were sustained over years as part of routine hospital care.
“The Malawi rollout was a nurse-led, quality improvement initiative that was directed and sustained by the Malawi Ministry of Health,” Oden said. “They have shown that a low-income country can scale CPAP nationally and see dramatic and lasting improvements in newborn outcomes.”
Lead author Jennifer Carns, a Rice 360° bioengineer and research scientist in Rice’s Brown School of Engineering, said the study also found that babies did not get the full benefit of CPAP if they were too cold.
Rice University bioengineers Maria Oden (second from left) and Rebecca Richards-Kortum (second from right) observe as Malawi College of Medicine pediatrician Josephine Langton (left) speaks with the mother of a baby receiving CPAP therapy at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi in 2016. Oden and Richards-Kortum co-founded the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, which developed the rugged, low-cost neonatal CPAP machine used at the hospital. (Photo by Brandon Martin/Rice University)
“For infants with normal body temperatures, survival rates were 66% — more than 25% higher than those who were too cold,” Carns said.
While respiratory distress is common among premature babies, so are other conditions like hyperthermia.
“There’s more work to be done,” Richards-Kortum said. “We know for CPAP to have its full potential, it needs to be introduced as part of a quality program that focuses on improving essential newborn care.”
Richards-Kortum is Rice’s Malcolm Gillis University Professor and a 2018 State Department U.S. science envoy for health security. Oden is the director of Rice’s award-winning Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Richards-Kortum and Oden are each bioengineering professors in Rice’s Brown School of Engineering and co-founders of NEST360°, an international campaign to end preventable newborn deaths in Africa.
Additional co-authors include Sara Liaghati-Mobarhan, Aba Asibon and M.K. Quinn, all of Rice; Alfred Chalira and Norman Lufesi, both of the Malawi Ministry of Health; and Kondwani Kawaza and Elizabeth Molyneux, both of the University of Malawi College of Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.
HOUSTON – (Aug. 19, 2019) – Why do so few women pursue careers in engineering? A new study from a Rice University researcher will seek to find out by examining their everyday work experiences in the profession.
The project, titled “A Two-Part Project Examining Team Discrimination by Gender in STEM Teams and a Way Forward,” will be funded with a $375,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
“Gender issues and discrimination are prevalent topics in our world today and particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers,” said Eduardo Salas, a professor specializing in industrial and organizational psychology at Rice and the principal investigator on the study. “Engineering has particularly low numbers of women. We want to find out what factors play a role in this occurrence.”
Rice University researchers will study why so few women pursue careers in engineering by examining their everyday work experiences in the profession. Photo by 123rf.com
Myriad reasons for this problem have already been investigated, Salas said, including pay and promotion opportunities and family-related constraints. Workplace discrimination has also been studied, with research showing women in STEM fields are more likely to face discrimination than women in non-STEM disciplines, he said. But few researchers have focused their attention on the day-to-day experiences of women in engineering.
“While many of the existing studies on workplace discrimination have focused on the individual or the organization, we think that teams may play an overlooked role in women’s experiences in engineering,” Salas said.
Taking a team-centric approach, Salas and his fellow researchers will examine interpersonal discrimination and its impact on how both individuals and teams do their jobs. The project is designed to complete the following three objectives:
The subjects of the study will be college students in an engineering design course. Over the course of a year, the students will fill out regular surveys and performance ratings of their fellow team members. The researchers will evaluate the impact of discrimination on the daily lives and long-term career aspirations of these women.
“In our field, longitudinal, team-level data examining feelings about discrimination doesn’t really exist,” Salas said. “We will change that with this study, as we seek to better understand how team experiences shape the career paths for women in STEM.”
Ultimately, Salas hopes the study will help STEM fields nurture and retain more women.
The research team will include Maria Oden, full teaching professor in the Department of Bioengineering; Matthew Wettergreen, associate teaching professor at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen; Gary Woods, professor in the practice in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Christina Lacerenza, a Rice Psychological Sciences graduate and assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Allison Traylor and Denise Reyes, graduate students in the Rice Department of Psychological Sciences.
Rice University students who invented a device to give patients with intractable epilepsy more freedom to move have won first prize in a student competition at the IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems in Sapporo, Japan.
The Axon Mobile team was invited to compete against four others after being named winner of the North American division. The members — junior Aidan Curtis and seniors Sophia D’Amico, Andres Gomez, Benjamin Klimko and Zhiyang Zhang, all electrical and computer engineering majors at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering — developed an instrument to gather signals from a patient’s brain and send them wirelessly for analysis.
Rice University engineering students who developed a wireless recorder for intracranial epileptic seizure monitoring won the top prize at the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society student design competition in Sapporo, Japan. From left are students Andres Gomez, Aidan Curtis, Benjamin Klimko, Sophia D’Amico, and Zhiyang Zhang, and Joe Cavallaro, a Rice professor of electrical and computer engineering and of computer science. Photo courtesy of Joe Cavallaro
Their goal is to untether patients who, while being monitored for seizures, must now remain bound to a computer that collects data from wires implanted in their brains. Because these patients are not helped by medication, they sometimes have small parts of the brain where seizures originate surgically removed. Data taken during seizures helps doctors pinpoint the location, but the process can take weeks.
Competing teams were from China, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Brazil.
The Rice team was nominated for the Circuits and Systems Society regional competition by faculty members Joseph Cavallaro, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of computer science, and Gary Woods, a professor in the practice of computer technology and electrical and computer engineering. Cavallaro chairs the Houston chapter of the society and was in Japan with the team.
The students were advised by Dr. Nitin Tandon, a professor of neurosurgery at the McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), and Caleb Kemere, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice. Tracy Volz, a Rice professor in the practice and director of the Engineering Communications Program, coached the team on its presentation.
Cavallaro said the IEEE, Dean Reginald DesRoches, the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Bybee Travel Fund and Tandon funded the students’ travel.
Their presentation was broadcast via Facebook and remains available for viewing here: https://www.facebook.com/ieeecas/videos/336696273709955/
Despite heavy rain, more than 120 people gathered May 7 at the Cohen House to honor retiring Senior Associate Dean of Engineering Bart Sinclair ’73, who has studied, taught or worked at Rice since enrolling as a freshman in 1969.
Rice President David Leebron thanked Bart Sinclair, saying Rice “would not be what it is today” without Sinclair’s dedicated service.
“I feel like I’ve wandered into science fiction,” Rice President David Leebron said to the audience. “Fifty years ago, Bart came to Rice and never emerged. If you’ve seen ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ you know exactly what I’m talking about. But of course, it’s not quite the same, because Bart had such an enormous effect on this university.”
Sinclair earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering in 1973, 1974 and 1979, respectively. He joined the electrical engineering faculty in 1978 and served as associate dean for 20 years, handling responsibilities that at times have included finance, operations, planning, academic affairs and faculty recruitment. Rice’s Board of Trustees twice honored Sinclair’s service, first in 2007 and with its 2017 Distinguished Service Award. He was the inaugural recipient of the Rice Engineering Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2012 and is a two-time recipient of distinguished faculty associate honors from Brown College.
Leebron said Mechanical Engineering’s Marcia O’Malley aptly described Sinclair in five words: He’s everywhere and knows everything.
“To which I would add: is liked by everybody,” Leebron said. “To really put all of those three things together, and get things done, is extraordinary.”
“Only Bart could bring out this crowd in this kind of weather,” said Sidney Burrus ’65, a lifelong friend and colleague who, like Sinclair, earned three degrees from Rice and spent his entire career teaching and serving in both the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Brown School of Engineering.
Bart Sinclair ’73 (second from left) said he looks for forward to spending more time with his family after he retires June 30. Since arriving at Rice in 1969, Sinclair earned three degrees, met and married his wife, Diane ’73 (second from right), raised two sons, Stuart ’04 (right) and Andrew ’08 (left), taught for 20 years in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and served 20 years as associate dean of the Brown School of Engineering.
Burrus, one of four deans of engineering for whom Sinclair served as associate dean, said, “His dedication to higher education in general, and to Rice’s version of higher education, in particular, is wonderful. Bart is a great administrator. He has helped many, many faculty in this room achieve things they wanted to achieve.”
Reginald DesRoches, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, said Sinclair’s experience, wisdom and counsel were invaluable when DesRoches arrived at Rice two years ago.
“One of the hardest things to do in Bart’s position is to transition from one leader to another,” DesRoches said. “You have to learn a new style. You have to adapt to new priorities. You have to educate a new person coming into Rice. Bart did this wonderfully, three times for three different deans, and he played a very critical role in making the transition between deans as seamless as possible.”
DesRoches and others noted Sinclair’s dedication to meeting with prospective students and their families.
“Bart has conducted information sessions for over 6,200 prospective engineering students at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen,” DesRoches said.
OEDK Executive Director Amy Kavalewicz presented Sinclair two unique, hand-made mementos from her staff: a custom luggage tag and a framed photo of the OEDK staff on the building’s green roof, which Sinclair often visited and had been known to hand-water at times.
Glasscock School of Continuing Studies Dean Robert Bruce showed his appreciation with an offer of free classes. “Call it a hunch, but I think you like this place. So we’re going to set it up so you can take some free classes and continue to hang out here. And when you’re ready, come back and teach for us.”
More than 120 people braved heavy rains May 7 to gather at the Cohen House in honor of Bart Sinclair ’73, who is retiring after a 40-year academic career in the Brown School of Engineering.
Vice President for Finance Kathy Collins lauded Sinclair’s attention to detail and thanked him for the fairness and integrity with which he worked to advance the Brown School’s goals.
“Bart is brainy and admired,” she said, quoting from a list of adjectives that Sinclair’s colleagues and co-workers used to describe him. “Bart is responsive. He’s respectful. He’s thoughtful and thorough. But beyond that, Bart is and was unflappable. I have never ever seen him lose his calm and reason and cool.”
Leebron said Sinclair’s dedication and service both define and embody the Rice spirit.
“At the end of the day, there just aren’t words that can express our appreciation for your contribution,” Leebron said. “The mass of people here for this occasion, I think, is an attempt to convey that. But on behalf of the entire university, past, present and future, I want to express our enormous appreciation and recognition that this university would not be what it is today without you. We are immensely glad that it has taken you 50 years to re-emerge from that place you disappeared. Thank you very, very much.”
Sinclair said the task of cleaning out old files recently reminded him “how fortunate I have been to work with some of the greatest people that I can imagine. Rice is a beautiful campus. It’s got a wonderful reputation. I love the location. But it all comes down to the people that I leave here. And that’s the students, staff, faculty and administration. It has been a joyful ride.”
Sinclair said that in addition to traveling and spending more time with his family, he looks forward to taking Glasscock School classes.
“We’re not moving,” he said. “I look forward to checking in.”
Natalie Dickman squeezed the bag again and again in an effort to revive a victim of cardiac arrest. After a mere 3 minutes, she could squeeze no more.
“The patient had been down for 30 minutes and there wasn’t much hope, unfortunately,” said the Rice University student, a soon-to-be graduate of the Brown School of Engineering, who was covering a shift with Houston EMS as required by a Rice class in emergency medical techniques. “I was allowed to bag, but they make you switch in EMS settings because they know you won’t be as accurate once you hit that 2-to-3-minute mark. You get really tired.”
She thought about that often over the last year when she and her senior teammates worked at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) to perfect a cost-effective device that automates the compression of manual bag valve masks, which feed fresh air to the lungs of intubated patients.
The senior capstone design team — bioengineering students Dickman, Carolina De Santiago, Karen Vasquez Ruiz and Aravind Sundaramraj, mechanical engineering and computational and applied mathematics student Tim Nonet and mechanical engineering student Madison Nasteff — is known as “Take a Breather.”
Engineering students Natalie Dickman and Aravind Sundaramraj adjust their automated bag valve mask device at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
The team has developed a system that compresses the bags for hours, rather than minutes, with settings to feed the right amount of air to adults, children and infants. The device seems simple — a box with paddles that rhythmically squeeze the bulb a programmed amount — but the engineering behind it is not.
The students used a $25, off-the-shelf motor and $5 microcontroller to power and program the rack-and-pinion device made primarily of plastic parts 3D-printed at the OEDK. They hope their use of inexpensive materials and the growing availability of 3D printers will make their machines easy to repair on-site.
They anticipate the device, which cost them $117 in parts to build, will be most useful in low-resource hospitals or during emergencies when there aren’t enough portable ventilators to meet the need.
Dr. Rohith Malya, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, brought the problem to the OEDK after witnessing family members at the Kwai River Christian Hospital in Thailand, where he is director of emergency medical services, squeezing intubation bags for hours on end to keep loved ones alive.
The adjustable bag valve mask device developed by Rice University engineering students has proven able to pump air unassisted for hours on end. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
“There is no reliable ventilation,” said Malya, who spends a month at the hospital every year. “Once we intubate somebody, the family has to bag the patient. But the family will get tired after a day and say, ‘They’re not getting better right now, just pull the tube and see what happens.’ And then the patient dies.”
Malya previously worked with Rice engineering students to develop a syringe regulating pump, and did not hesitate to bring a new idea to the OEDK.
“The bag mask is ubiquitous, like the syringe,” he said. “Nothing has challenged it for 80 years. It’s stood the test of time, it’s reliable and it’s simple. And now we’re adding a modification to the original device so families don’t have to make those decisions.
“This will broaden the access to mechanical ventilation to a tremendous part of the world that doesn’t have typical ventilators,” said Malya, who plans to take the proof-of-concept device to Thailand for field testing next spring.
The device is much smaller than the sophisticated ventilators found in American hospitals and portable versions used in emergency situations. Critically, it has to be able to operate for long stretches. In its most recent test, the team ran the device for more than 11 hours without human intervention.
The students expect another Rice team will build a more robust version next year, and hope it will eventually be manufactured for use in low-resource and emergency settings. They anticipate a better-sealed and filtered box will be more suitable for hot, dusty environments, and said future designs should include more sophisticated controls.
Rice University engineering students developed a bag valve mask compressor to automate the difficult task of feeding fresh air to patients’ lungs, often for hours at a time. From left: Madison Nasteff, Carolina De Santiago, Aravind Sundaramraj, Natalie Dickman, Tim Nonet and Karen Vasquez Ruiz. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
For its efforts this year, the team won two prizes at the school’s annual Engineering Design Showcase, the Willy Revolution Award for Outstanding Innovation and the best interdisciplinary engineering design award. But the real payoff would be seeing the device further developed and deployed around the world.
“If they can get it working fully in that kind of environment, this will be saving lives,” Nasteff said.
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