The student team at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering created a seemingly simple but sophisticated system to monitor high intracranial pressure (ICP) within the skulls of infants, a condition that affects more than 400,000 every year. ICP can be caused by trauma to the brain and is a marker for hydrocephalus, a buildup of excess cerebral spinal fluid within the brain’s ventricles.
Their Bend-Aid, created in collaboration with Texas Children’s Hospital doctors at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, combines an old-school adhesive bandage with a sensor that has the potential to replace two current techniques: Palpating the child’s soft spot to get a general sense of pressure, or drilling into the skull to insert an accurate but highly invasive sensor.
Rice senior Sammi Lu attaches a sensor to a mannequin to test a noninvasive system designed to monitor intracranial pressure in infants. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
The non-invasive method created by seniors Sammi Lu, Kiara Reyes Gamas, Tensae Assefa, Patricia Thai and Brett Stern allows clinicians to monitor babies for as long as necessary to build a record of intracranial pressure over time that would be impossible to acquire through occasional palpitation.
“What physicians usually do is feel the soft spot where the skull hasn’t fused together yet,” Thai said. “If it’s tense, that’s a sign of higher pressure. If it’s sunken, it’s low pressure. But it’s really subjective between doctors and previous research showed it’s not very accurate.
“There’s a need for a quantitative and continuous method to measure pressure in the skulls of infants, to see changes in ICP over time,” she said.
The team embedded a soft, ribbon-like sensor with a 2.2-inch working length into a bandage that, when affixed to the baby’s head, reports to a data processor when bent in or out by the changing shape of the soft spot, called the fontanelle. The fontanelle generally closes after 18 months as the skull plates fuse.
“From our literature search, we discovered there is a correlation of ICP levels within the skull space and the bending level of the fontanelle,” Lu said. The team used that data to build a mathematical model that correlates the sensor’s bending angle to standard measures of ICP.
A system developed by Rice engineering students is designed to monitor high intracranial pressure within the skulls of infants, a condition that affects more than 400,000 every year. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
The sensor feeds a processing unit that displays the numerical pressure level on an LCD screen. The system also stores data on an external SD card for later interpretation by other medical professionals.
“In actual cases, prolonged levels of ICP are more problematic than random spikes,” Lu said. “So we’ve built in an alarm system through LED lights and a buzzer.”
The bandages are already in common use to dress wounds, Reyes Gamas said. “We tested it,” she said. “We put it on our arms and it stayed on for nine days. It will not come off unless you use ethanol on it. And we didn’t avoid any activities like exercising or showering; it’s pretty stable.
“We also tested the sensor itself to see if there was any change in accuracy over time in ideal conditions,” she said. “We found it was very consistent throughout.”
Dr. Sandi Lam, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Vijay Ravindra, a pediatric neurosurgery fellow at Texas Children’s Hospital, worked with the team, who were advised by Sabia Abidi, a postdoctoral teaching fellow of bioengineering at Rice.
Rice University senior bioengineering students created a noninvasive device to monitor intracranial pressure in newborns. From left, Tensae Assefa, Sammi Lu, Kiara Reyes Gamas, Brett Stern and Patricia Thai. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
HOUSTON – (April 22, 2019) – Threading a needle is hard, but at least you can see it. Think about how challenging it must be to thread a screw through a rod inside a bone in someone’s leg.
Rice University seniors at the Brown School of Engineering set out to help doctors simplify the process of repairing fractured long bones in an arm or leg by inventing a mechanism that uses magnets to set things right.
The students who call themselves Drill Team Six chose the project pitched by Rice alumnus Dr. Ashvin Dewan, an orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital, to simplify a procedure by which titanium rods are placed inside broken bones to make them functional once more.
For its efforts, the team won the top prize, the Excellence in Engineering Award, at the school’s annual Engineering Design Showcase.
Rice engineering students have created a device to simplify the insertion of screws that secure metal rods to fractured bones in limbs. The device uses magnetic elements in the rod to guide proper placement of the screws. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
The student team — bioengineering majors Babs Ogunbanwo, Takanori Iida, Byung-UK Kang and Hannah Jackson and mechanical engineering majors Will Yarinsky and Ian Frankel — learned from Dewan that surgeons require many X-rays to locate pre-drilled 5 millimeter holes in the rod. The holes allow them to secure the rod to the bone fragments and hold them together.
The surgery typically requires doctors to insert the long rod with a guide wire inside into the end of the bone, drilling through marrow to align the fractured fragments. With that done, they depend on X-rays, their experience and, if necessary, a bit of trial and error to drill long surgical screws through one side of the bone, thread it through the rod and secure it to the other side.
“We want to reduce the amount of X-rays, the surgeon’s time, the operating room time, the setup time, everything,” Yarinsky said.
The Rice team would make the wire adjacent to the holes magnetic, because neither skin nor bone hinder a magnetic field.
Takanori Iida, left, and Byung-UK Kang, senior engineering students at Rice University, work on the electronics test bed used to design the device. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
“That way, the magnets hold their position and we can do the location process,” Frankel said. “Once we’ve found them and secured the rod, we remove the wire and the magnets with it.”
The exterior mechanism is a brace that can be securely attached to the arm or leg with Velcro. A mounted sensor can then be moved along the stiff, 3D-printed carbon-fiber rods or around the limb until it locates the magnet. Then, the angle of the sensor can be adjusted. As each of the three degrees of freedom come into alignment with the target, a “virtual LED” lights up on a graphic display wired to the sensor. Then, the sensor is removed and a drill keyed to the mechanism inserted.
“We do the angular part because the rod is not in the center of the leg, and the hole is not necessarily perpendicular to the surface,” Yarinsky said. “The rod is about 10 to 20 millimeters thick and has a hole on one side and a hole on the other. We don’t want to hit the first hole at an angle where we miss the second and don’t go all the way through.”
Working at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), the team tested its device on a mannequin leg and what it called a “wooden leg,” a frame that allowed for mounting the rod with its magnetized wire and checking the accuracy of their system.
Before it can be used by clinicians, the team said the device will require Food and Drug Administration approval.
Hannah Jackson and Will Yarinsky, senior engineering students at Rice University, make an adjustment to their device to help doctors secure rods that keep fractured bones in alignment as they heal. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
“I’m very impressed with what the team put together,” said Dewan, who earned a bioengineering degree at Rice in 2005. “Where we ended up is completely different from what we imagined, but kudos to these guys. They went through many different proposals and ideas and ended up running with the one that seemed most promising.”
Having been through the senior capstone process at Rice himself, Dewan was particularly impressed with how the program has grown.
“The OEDK got off the ground a few years after I graduated, and at that point, senior design projects were isolated to individual projects,” Dewan said. “I didn’t work with mechanical or other engineering disciplines.
“I love the way they have a multidisciplinary approach to tackling problems,” he said. “I think it’s much more of a real-world experience for them.”
Sabia Abidi, a lecturer in bioengineering, served as the team’s adviser, and it was sponsored by Chuck and Sharon Fox.
Drill Team Six, from left, won the top prize in the Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase for its invention of a device to help doctors secure rods that keep fractured bones in alignment as they heal. From left, Hannah Jackson, Takanori Iida, Will Yarinsky, Babs Ogunbanwo, Ian Frankel and Byung-UK Kang. (
When heavy rains come, as they inevitably do, it will be helpful for homeowners to know when a surge of floodwater is heading their way.
A team of senior engineering students at Rice University is working to make that technology real. They are developing a real-time, web-enabled system to monitor flood levels throughout a municipality like Houston, which has suffered three damaging floods in recent years, topped by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
The students have developed a set of wireless stations that communicate with a base to report on flooding at their locations. The stations have several components: A solar-powered wireless transmitter that can ride high atop a utility pole, with a rubber conduit that stretches down the side and connects the station to a water-level rain gauge and pressure sensor, and software developed by the students that gathers data sent by the remote stations and reports on what they see.
A set of sensors spread throughout a city can provide authorities with the information they need to respond to a flood in progress. Initially, the sensor nodes are set to report local conditions every five minutes, but that can be adjusted as needed, according to the team.
Naturally, Houston is interested. For that reason, the Houston Solutions Lab, a partnership between Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the city of Houston, is sponsoring the initiative being developed as a senior capstone project at the university’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Rice alumna Joan Gurasich ’68 is also a sponsor.
The students will demonstrate their work at the annual George R. Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase, at which more than 80 teams will compete for thousands of dollars in prizes. The event will be open to the public from 4:30 to 7 p.m. April 11 at Rice’s Tudor Fieldhouse.
Alfonso Morera, an electrical and computer engineering senior at Rice University, wires a control box at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The box is one component of a wireless flood monitoring system designed and built by students in collaboration with the City of Houston. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Senior members of the team – Alexandra Du, Alex Kaplan, Neil Seoni, Alfonso Morera and Kevin Wu – are all electrical and computer engineering majors, and are being advised by Gary Woods, a Rice professor in the practice of computer technology and electrical and computer engineering.
To some degree, Du said, the system mimics that developed by Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education & Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center to monitor flood levels along Houston’s bayous, but with much less expensive, off-the-shelf components.
Along with the software, the students designed and built several simple PC boards to connect sensors and solar cells to battery packs and a wireless transmitter. But in total, each station shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars, including waterproof casing to protect the electronics – and less if the product is someday made in bulk quantities.
“The individual sensors store and send information to a central location using radio, and that location will then parse through and send the data off through a cellular connection,” Du said. “We can then get that from any web interface.”
Du has a personal stake in the project, as her family’s home in Katy, Texas, was flooded during Harvey.
“Our goal is not so much to measure rainfall, because that’s tracked a lot,” she said. “We are much more interested in water levels on the streets and the movement of that water.”
“We hope this will help tell first responders where there’s the most need and how to allocate their resources effectively,” Morera added.
Woods said the project started when two Rice professors, civil engineer Leonardo Dueñas-Osorio and computer scientist Devika Subramanian, looked in vain for commercial versions of what the students have developed for their own projects. “That’s when we decided to make this a senior design project,” he said.
A team of Rice University students have developed an inexpensive flood monitoring system that can be deployed around a city to help first responders anticipate trouble spots during extreme weather. Members are, from left, adviser Gary Woods and students Justin Bryant, Alexandra Du, Alfonso Morera, Neil Seoni, Alexander Kaplan, Nicholas Lester, Jerry Lin and Kevin Wu. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Woods said there’s no reason the proof-of-concept can’t be scaled up. “Houston might want to have thousands of these,” he said. “This is all based on ‘internet of things‘ technology, which is getting cheaper all the time.”
The students plan to have a small set of sensors set up around campus by the end of the spring semester, and hope to deploy a larger set in a Houston neighborhood prone to flooding, like Meyerland, over the summer.
The project won’t end there, Woods said. It’s important enough to Rice’s Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade to rise to the level of a Vertically Integrated Project (VIP), signifying projects that require several years to complete and allow for mentorship between faculty, seniors and underclassmen. Accordingly, the three underclassmen who are part of the project — sophomore Nicholas Lester, Jerry Lin and Justin Bryant — will be expected to carry it forward over the next few years.
What if, in an emergency, you reach for your epinephrine shot and it’s not there? It would be if you were wearing it.
Rice University students have designed a small, foldable epinephrine delivery device meant to be worn on a wrist, like a watch, or elsewhere on the body by a person at risk of an allergic reaction that requires an immediate response.
The trifold device they call EpiWear has a unique, spring-activated injection system that would provide a full dose of the drug to a person experiencing an allergic reaction.
The team – junior bioengineering majors Albert Han, Alex Li, Jacob Mattia and Justin Tang, and freshman Callum Parks – said the device is intended for all but small children, and could be a good alternative to other delivery systems on the market.
Rice University engineering students have prototyped a wearable epinephrine delivery device for people at risk of serious allergic reactions that require a quick shot. The trifold device, seen in a larger version here, will make it easier for people to keep with them if needed quickly. Photo by Brandon Martin
“The idea came from me, because I suffer peanut allergies,” said Tang, who worked on the device at the Brown School of Engineering’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen with adviser and Rice lecturer Deirdre Hunter. “I’m very self-aware and worried about my life, but it was always difficult for me to bring something as bulky and obtrusive as this when going to dinner with friends or just going out at night.”
Tang held up the penlike syringe he carries in case of emergency. Such pens were the focus of controversy a few years ago when Congress held a hearing on the sharply rising price of the devices.
The Rice team hopes its creation will lead to a delivery device that is less expensive, more stylish and thus more likely to be worn by users.
“We designed the optimal device to house the minimal amount of epinephrine necessary for injection,” Mattia said, holding a scaled-up prototype.
EpiWear is designed to inject a dose of 0.3 milliliters of epinephrine, the same as commercial devices that contain more of the drug.
“They actually only inject a fraction of what they hold,” Li said.
When unfolded, the hinged device will be about the same length as the epinephrine pens on the market now, with the dose in the middle section and a strong spring in the top. Releasing a safety lever will allow the user to push a cap on top that, in the prototype, cuts a line and releases the spring, plunging the syringe into the user’s thigh.
Along with the lever, Li said the nature of the trifold is itself a safety feature.
A breakdown shows the internal mechanism of an epinephrine delivery device prototyped by Rice University engineering students. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
“None of the compartments are linear, so the needle would be in one compartment while the spring is in another,” he said. “Even if the spring were to go off accidentally, it wouldn’t be able to push the needle.
“We also plan to have a case that goes around the whole device that will prevent the button from hitting anything and allow you to wear it comfortably without risk of triggering it accidently,” Li said.
They realize, too, that a fashionable EpiWear is more likely to be worn.
“There has been research on which patients carry pens and which don’t,” Mattia said. “We’ve been focusing on the mechanism itself, but some of the ideas we’ve thought about are designing it with cool colors or integrating a watch to make it a dual-purpose device.
“If it’s something that’s going to save your life, we think that would be enough to persuade people to maintain it on their bodies,” Li said. “At the end of the day, it’s better to have it on you.”
Team EpiWear, from left: Alex Li, Justin Tang, Jacob Mattia, Albert Han and Callum Parks. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Drill Team Six won the top prize in the Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase. From left, adviser and bioengineering lecturer Sabia Abidi, Hannah Jackson, Takanori Iida, Will Yarinsky, Ian Frankel, Babs Ogunbanwo, Byung-UK Kang and Matthew Elliott, a lecturer in mechanical engineering. Photo by An Le/Luxe Studio Productions
Drill Team Six won the top prize in the George R. Brown Engineering Design Showcase held April 11 at Rice University’s Tudor Fieldhouse. The Excellence in Engineering Award includes a prize of $5,000.
The team has created a device to simplify the placement of screws that secure metal rods to fractured bones in limbs. The process could cut the time, effort and number of X-rays necessary to complete the procedure.
“I don’t think any of us were really expecting it, so it’s an incredibly pleasant surprise,” said team member Ian Frankel. “A lot of hard work is paying off right now.”
“The prizes we were shooting for would be best medical technology or medical device, or the popular vote,” he said. “I mean, we’re a team of six people, and that’s six people with friends. Or possibly innovation in design because what we’re doing, nothing has been done like it before. But I don’t think we were expecting this.”
Photos by Jeff Fitlow
Willy Revolution Award for Outstanding Innovation ($3,500): BuoyBOTS.
Willy Revolution Award for Outstanding Innovation ($1,500): Take a Breather.
Willy Revolution Award for Outstanding Innovation ($500): UV Chamber.
Excellence in Capstone Engineering Design Award ($1,000): M&M.
Excellence in Capstone Engineering Design Award ($1,000): EasyScope.
Excellence in Independent, Multi-year or Club Engineering Design Award ($1,000): OxyMon.
Excellence in Freshman Engineering Design Award ($1,000): EquestriCAN.
Best Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Award ($750): Take A Breather.
Best Conceptual or Computational Modeling Engineering Design Award ($500): PIONEER.
Best Technology for Low-Resource Settings Design Award ($500): Clean Machine.
Best Energy-Related Engineering Design Award ($500): M&M and Crossing Streams.
Best Robotic Technology Award ($500): Mechatron.
Best Medical Technology Award ($500): Lapras.
Best Environment and Sustainability Engineering Design Award ($500): Flood.
Best Gaming, Creative or Innovative Technology Award ($500): Vignette.
Best Aerospace or Transportation Technology Award ($500): Club Rice Eclipse-Luna.
People’s Choice Award ($500): Biofuels Production Group.
The annual public event put on by the Brown School of Engineering and the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen features senior capstone design and other projects by Rice undergraduates. Read about all the participating teams at http://oedk.rice.edu/showcase.
HOUSTON — (March 25, 2019) — Rice University bioengineer Maria Oden has been elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows.
Oden is a teaching professor of bioengineering, director of Rice’s award-winning Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) and co-director of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.
She is one of 156 new fellows elected this year by peers and members of the college for her “seminal contributions to the advancement and acceleration of medical and global health technologies through programs in invention education and training.”
A formal induction ceremony for Oden and the 2019 class of AIMBE fellows will take place today at the AIMBE Annual Event at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.
AIMBE is an organization of leaders in medical and biological engineering that consists of academic, industrial, professional society councils and elected fellows who communicate with and respond to U.S. and state government agencies and lawmakers to advocate science and contribute to policymaking that benefits the public.
Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer, with AIMBE fellows comprising the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers. College membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering and medicine research, practice or education” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education.”
Oden earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering from Tulane University and served as both a postdoctoral fellow and instructor at Harvard Medical School, as a senior research associate at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and as a faculty member at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston prior to joining Rice in 2004.
As the founding director of the OEDK, a 20,000-square-foot design studio used by more than 200 undergraduate student teams each year, Oden collaborates with Rice faculty members to develop and implement engineering design and innovation curriculum programs. Her previous honors include the American Society for Engineering Education’s 2012 Fred Merryfield Design Award, the Lemelson Foundation’s 2013 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation, Science magazine’s 2012 Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction, and Rice’s George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in both 2012 and 2016.
As a leader in biomedical engineering and design education, Oden was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s 2012 Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium, is deeply involved with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the Biomedical Engineering-Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Alliance, and has served as a AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Lemelson Foundation. She is a fellow of Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence and a founding member of NEST360°, an international initiative between Rice 360° and partners on three continents that aims to enable African hospitals to provide comprehensive newborn care.
The Rice Board of Trustees recently recognized the staff of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) for 10 years of providing transformative undergraduate education, a tenant of the university’s Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade (V2C2).
Honored for their impact at the board’s Feb. 28 meeting were Amy Kavalewitz, executive director; Danny Blacker, engineering design supervisor; Marilee Dizon, department administrator; Fernando Cruz, engineering design technician; Sukaina Ahmed, accounting specialist; Lea Aden Lueck, engineering design coordinator; and Sondra Hernandez, purchasing assistant. The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Joe Gesenhues, department technician and shop manager, was also recognized for providing invaluable assistance to OEDK teams.
Maria Oden, director of the OEDK and a full teaching professor of bioengineering, commended the staff for making the kitchen a success for the more than 1,200 students who use it annually.
“This group of people is willing to put in their all, go the extra mile, work as a well-oiled team – all for the benefit of Rice, our students and our faculty,” Oden said.
The world’s first design kitchen, the OEDK was established in a building that was literally Rice’s campus kitchen, before separate serveries fed the residential colleges.
The OEDK facility fosters collaboration between Rice students and industry professionals, physicians at the Texas Medical Center and globally, and entrepreneurs and community partners developing solutions to problems with potential societal impact.
“When our students receive their dream jobs at SpaceX, Tesla, GE Healthcare … or are accepted into their dream graduate school and they tell us the main topic of their interview was the projects and experiences at OEDK, we can point to these staff members for making that possible,” Oden said.
Custom laser-cut coasters greeted partygoers at the OEDK event. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Hundreds of Rice students, faculty, staff and friends came out for the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen’s 10th anniversary bash on Feb. 22. The two-stage event began with a gathering of the facility’s backers at the OEDK and then moved to the North Lot for a public party featuring food and drink, an engineering art competition and ’80s music by the Spazmatics.
Rice President David Leebron, speaking at the early event, said of the return on investment on money the university has spent over the last 10 years, “nowhere has it been better than where we are standing right now.”
Read more about the OEDK’s early days here: http://news.rice.edu/2019/02/18/the-kitchen-at-10-is-really-cooking-now/
Reginald DesRoches, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, left, get a high-five from his predecessor, Ned Thomas, at the OEDK party. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
OEDK Director Maria Oden gives early attendees a taste of what’s to come at the kitchen in the years to come. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
A crowd grooves to the Spazmatics in the large tent outside the OEDK.
Fernanda Lago’s “Generating an Idea,” first place winner in the Engineering Art competition. Photo by An Le/Luxe Studio Productions
A sophisticated sample of laser-cut wood sculpture was among the entries in a student art contest. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Winners of the OEDK engineering art competition, from left: Scout Kan for “Gears of Inspiration,” third place; Braden Perryman and Maggie Webb for “Natural Reflections,” second place, and Fernanda Lago for “Generating an Idea,” first place. Photo by An Le/Luxe Studio Productions
Video by An Le/Luxe Studio Productions
SAVE THE DATE!
Friday, February 22, 2019
5:00pm - 10:00pm
Parking Lot Party @ the OEDK
Mark your calendars for a very special day!
The OEDK will be turning 10 and we are going to celebrate BIG!
More Details to come...
Special Guest Performance!
You won't want to miss this!
By Holly Beretto
Special to the Rice News
Vegetables are part of a healthy diet, but urban apartment dwellers in some places around the world don’t have regular access to them. A group of Rice University senior engineering students set out to remedy that for their capstone design project.
Team Växthus — mechanical engineering students Mary Bao, Mike Hua, Jack Kaplan, Harrison Lin and Colin Losey and electrical engineering student Lingbo Chen – has developed an automated, modular, indoor greenhouse to provide high-throughput food growth aimed at young professionals in urban settings.
“This allows them to grow fresh produce, everything from leafy greens to herbs to root vegetables,” Lin said.
Växthus (Swedish for greenhouse) was developed for the HSB Living Lab at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The lab is a residential community of 29 apartments for students and visiting researchers, all of whom are involved in finding solutions for more sustainable living. The Living Lab partnered with Rice on a previous project to develop a device to simplify composting at home.
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