News and Announcements

  • Monday, November 16, 2015 2:40 PM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    Speak Easy team delivers top pitch

    Speak Easy team

    The Speak Easy team of Zichao Wang and Abhipray Sahoo accepts the top prize in the Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition. From left, Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship Managing Director Brad Burke, Wang, Sahoo and OEDK Director Maria Oden. Photo by Marilee Dizon

    Seniors win Undergraduate Elevator Pitch competition

    The inventors of a software-based personal trainer to help people prepare for public speaking won the $1,500 first prize in the Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition sponsored by Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship Nov. 12.

    The Speak Easy team of Zichao Wang and Abhipray Sahoo, both electrical and computer engineering seniors, combined high-tech tools to analyze body language, facial expressions and voice control and simulate a real-world scenario in virtual reality for users.

    Cash prizes went to six teams in all. The second-place prize of $1,000 went to Comfortably Numb: bioengineering students Andy Zhang and Akhil Surapaneni, mechanical engineering majors Matthew O’Gorman and Mike Hua and computer science major Greg Allison.

    The third-place prize of $750 went to Tube Much: bioengineering majors Lisa Sampson, Erin Anderson, Corin Peterson and Ronal Infante.

    Fourth place, for $500, went to OutSENTing: mechanical engineering majors Jon Chen, Valeria Pinillos, Margaret Watkins and Eric Yin, and mechanical engineering major Allen Zhao.

    Fifth place, for $250, went to revIVe: bioengineering majors Joao Ascensao, William Zhu, Paulina Popek and Gabrielle Fatora and kinesiology major Katie Powers.

    The “Most Investable” prize of $750 went to Shell Shock: mechanical engineering majors Courtney Hesse, Jared Elinger, Michael Donatti and Nick Frederking.

  • Tuesday, September 08, 2015 2:45 PM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    A bigger, better OEDK


    The Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen introduced its new look at an open house Sept. 2. The facility that opened in 2009 has become so popular that a second expansion was needed over the summer; about 2,000 square feet of space in the basement formerly occupied by Facilities Engineering and Planning was used to add 15 more tables for student projects, as well as new offices and the “innovation lounge” for students. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)


    About Mike Williams

    Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.
  • Wednesday, May 20, 2015 2:47 PM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    Rice engineers design car seat accessory to save children left in dangerously hot cars

    It’s a tragedy that happens multiple times every year: An average of 38 children die each year after being left in hot cars. Five recent Rice University graduates have designed a new car seat accessory that can not only protect infants accidentally left in hot cars but can also notify caregivers and emergency personnel.

    Rice engineers pose with their car seat accessory, Infant SOS.

    Rice engineers pose with their car seat accessory, Infant SOS. Photo credit: Jeff Fitlow.

    Audrey Clayton, Rachel Wang, Jason Fang, Ralph LaFrance and Ge You, who graduated from Rice May 16, spent the past year working at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen to develop Infant SOS, a car seat accessory to protect infants left in potentially lethal hot cars. The device is fitted into standard car seats and can issue auditory, visual and text alerts when it senses that the infant is in danger. It also features a passive cooling system designed to keep an infant’s core temperature below a critical point (heat stroke begins at 104 degrees Fahrenheit) until emergency responders arrive.

    Clayton said it’s no surprise that most of the tragic incidents involving children left in cars occur in the summer months.

    “It works out to about a child every two to three days, which is a shocking statistic,” she said. “Our hope is that our device can prevent this from happening.”

    The alert system is the accessory’s primary means of protection and includes sensors to detect if the car is moving, if the child is still in the seat and if the temperature in the vehicle begins to rise. If the device detects that the car is parked with the child still in its seat, the device’s alert responses will be activated after 30 seconds, beginning with visual and auditory alerts. The visual alert is a flashing row of red LED lights that lines the car seat and the audio alert is an alarm. After five minutes, if the infant has not been removed from the seat, text alerts are sent out. The device can be programmed to send texting alerts to up to 10 people, including emergency responders.

    “The system is designed to do as much as it can to get to as many people as possible,” Fang said. “And hopefully, passersby can see the LED lights and can respond as well.”

    The Infant SOS device installed in a car with visual alerts flashing.

    The Infant SOS device installed in a car with visual alerts flashing. Photo credit: Brandon Martin.

    In case of delayed responses, the cooling system can act as an emergency backup to extend the infant’s chance of survival. A heat-triggered material acts as a main heat absorber to keep the infant’s core temperature at a safe level for as long as possible.

    “The benefit of our project is not only the alert system, but also the cooling system,” Wang said. “The best way to keep a child alive is to completely remove them from the car seat inside a hot car. However, if the parents do not immediately return to the car, we need to ensure that the baby stays cool until help arrives. The device actually absorbs heat from the environment and the baby and is able to keep the baby cool longer, giving extra time for the parent to return or for someone to notice the flashing lights and see that a baby is trapped in the car.”

    An example of an Infant SOS text alert.

    An example of an Infant SOS text alert. Photo credit: Brandon Martin.

    The project was funded by Dr. Susan Baldwin ’82 through her company, Mamoru Enterprises LLC. She proposed the senior design project after learning that the child of one of her patients had nearly died in an overheated car.

    A past Design Kitchen team originally developed the project in fall 2013, but the current team has worked to include the cooling system and improve the alert component. Another team will work to streamline the device’s alert system during the 2015-2016 academic year. The students’ ultimate goal is to make the removable accessory easy to use and accessible to a large market. The students expect the device to cost approximately $150.

    “The reason I chose engineering in the first place is to be able to make a difference and be able to build a product that would be able to help people,” Wang said. “I really appreciate the opportunity of being able to work on something that could potentially save infant lives in the future.”

    About Amy McCaig

    Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.
  • Wednesday, May 06, 2015 12:08 PM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    AmbuLink strengthens connections between doctors, ambulance crews

    Editor’s note: Links to images for download appear at the end of this release.

    David Ruth

    Mike Williams

    Christy Brunton

    Rice University, Texas Children’s Hospital system aims to eliminate cell-service gaps

    HOUSTON – (May 6, 2015) – Rice University engineering students are helping a Houston hospital develop a more reliable way to keep in contact with inbound ambulance crews.

    The AmbuLink team worked closely with Texas Children’s Hospital over the past year on a system that bridges gaps between cellular service signals and streams audio and, when necessary, video, from the ambulance to doctors and dispatchers.

    The students, senior electrical engineering majors Adam Bloom, Christopher Buck, Supreeth Mannava and Chase Stewart, have assembled laptops, cellular modems, a camera and wireless headsets into a suite that allows emergency medical technicians to keep their hands free while communicating important information back to base.

    Brent Kaziny, a Texas Children’s doctor specializing in emergency medicine, said occasional but ongoing frustration over gaps in communications prompted him and colleague Benjamin Choi, also an emergency room doctor at Texas Children’s, to brainstorm. Kaziny and Choi are also assistant professors at Baylor College of Medicine and co-directors of knowledge management and innovations for the section of pediatric emergency medicine at Texas Children’s.

    “There are often times where the quality is poor and it’s difficult to make out what’s going on,” Kaziny said of communicating with ambulance crews. “Providers are in a hectic, stressful environment, trying to do 10 things at once in addition to relaying information to you. We were looking for a way to improve the quality of that call to relay vital information.”

    The students’ primary challenge was to write, refine and test the software that allows all the pieces to work seamlessly and synchronize signals from three cellular providers. They see AmbuLink as a multiyear project that will ultimately feed data about a patient’s vital signs directly into a hospital’s health database, where doctors can access all the essentials before the patient arrives.

    “If you’re in a hospital bed, you’re probably attached to a medical monitor that collects your heart rate information and information from whatever instruments are hooked up to you,” Bloom said. “That’s all getting logged and, without any intervention, ending up in your patient chart. If doctors need to make a medical decision, they can see your baseline and how things have been trending.”

    Texas Children’s in-house ambulance service, known as the Kangaroo Crew, moves patients as necessary from hospitals across the globe 24 hours a day, seven days a week and performs more than 1,500 transports by ground or air every year. The transport team comprises an emergency medical technician, registered nurse and respiratory therapist. When the child is critically ill, the crew is joined by a neonatal nurse practitioner or an intensive-care physician. The crew keeps an electronic record of vital signs but the AmbuLink system should someday allow data to stream continuously from the ambulance while en route.

    It’s the “continuously” part that has been the greatest challenge for the Kangaroo Crew. Because cell service can be spotty between cities, the Rice team aims to eliminate gaps in coverage by combining the signals of three providers.

    “We were using a lot of cellphone and radio to communicate very vital information that needs to be acted on in a timely manner,” Choi said. “That was a problem we brought to the Rice engineering team.”

    “What we’re shooting for is 100 percent up time,” said Andrew Peterman, a systems architect at Texas Children’s.

    “One thing that differentiates this project is that the concept was brought to Rice by Texas Children’s,” Bloom said. He noted others have suggested systems with costly bells and whistles that hospitals don’t need. “Live streaming video from the ambulance would be nice, but doctors have told us they wouldn’t use it,” he said.

    Instead, the Rice team incorporated a mounted camera that can be activated for 10 seconds at the press of a button. The video would be sent automatically to the hospital. Emergency medical technicians communicate with the hospital through a wireless, hands-free headset.

    “We gained a lot by having conversations with doctors at Texas Children’s and a lot of folks over there in information services and the ambulance crew,” Mannava said. “We were plugged into the issues that they face on a daily basis. The advantage we have over other people who attempted to find a solution for this problem is that we had the backing of medical professionals who outlined what they actually need.”

    “Enabling reliable connectivity is something we thought was a difficult problem to tackle and didn’t think was glamorous,” Peterman said. “But these guys just got it from day one, ran with it and knocked it out of the park.”


    Watch a video about the project at

    Kangaroo Crew is a registered trademark of Texas Children’s Hospital.

    Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

    Related Materials:


    Texas Children’s Hospital:

    George R. Brown School of Engineering:

    Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen:

    Images for download:


    Senior engineering students at Rice University, working with doctors and staff at Texas Children’s Hospital, have created a system to assure easy and reliable communications between doctors and ambulance crews. From left: Chase Stewart, Supreeth Mannava, Christopher Buck and Adam Bloom. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)


    Chase Stewart, left, and Supreeth Mannava man the base unit in a test of the AmbuLink team’s communication system. The team of Rice University engineering students, in collaboration with Texas Children’s Hospital, created a system for reliable communications between doctors and the crews of the hospital’s ambulance service. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)


    Rice University senior engineering student Christopher Buck communicates with home base during a test of the AmbuLink system. Rice students, in collaboration with Texas Children’s Hospital, created a system for reliable communications between doctors and the crews of the hospital’s ambulance service. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)


    Members of the AmbuLink team — from left, Christopher Buck, Chase Stewart, Supreeth Mannava and Adam Bloom — test their system at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The students developed the system in collaboration with Texas Children’s Hospital to assure reliable communications between doctors and the crews of the hospital’s ambulance service. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

  • Wednesday, May 06, 2015 12:05 PM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    Monkey see puzzle, monkey do, monkey eat

    Editor’s note: Links to images for download appear at the end of this release.

    David Ruth

    Mike Williams

     Rice engineering students develop enrichment device for Houston Zoo primates

    HOUSTON – (May 5, 2015) – Naku grabs the box hanging from a line and turns and shakes and turns and shakes. He has to work for his food, at least the good stuff.

  • Wednesday, May 06, 2015 11:57 AM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

     Rice University students produce energy from movement of leg brace

    Editor’s note: Links to images for download appear at the end of this release.

    David Ruth

    Mike Williams

    HOUSTON – (April 30, 2015) – Rice University engineering students have created an energy-generating knee brace that they hope may someday help power artificial hearts.

    The device is a modified medical brace that generates power with every bend of the knee. The electricity produced by a motor attached to the joint of the brace is funneled into a battery, but someday may go straight back into one’s body.

    The brace produces 4 watts of energy as the wearer walks and feeds it to a lithium-ion battery pack.

    That’s not quite enough power for the artificial heart being developed by the students’ sponsors, Omar Kabir and John Bartos of Houston company Cameron International, which brought the energy-harvesting project to Rice. But the team collectively known as Farmers, the third to take on the multiyear project that started with a shoe-based generator, has pushed the technology significantly forward.

    “We added a power conversion and storage system that was not present in the device at the beginning of this year,” said Hutson Chilton, a bioengineering major who also studies sustainability issues. “So we’re getting about the same power output, but we’re also able to convert it to direct current and store that into something useful.”

    She was joined by an electrical engineering major, Taylor Vaughn, and three mechanical engineering majors, Adrian Bizzaro, Sean LaBaw and Chase Gensheimer. LaBaw is a junior; the others are seniors.

    The brace is comfortable enough to wear for long periods, said Gensheimer, who has done most of the road testing, including stretches on a treadmill. “We had a previous design to build on, but we tried to make it lighter and easier to wear and move in.”

    “We went through a very long process to get where we are today,” Vaughn added.

    LaBaw said it was a challenge to reduce the mechanism and its casing to reasonable proportions while also reducing friction from the moving parts. “We didn’t want somebody walking with a motor 6 inches off the knee and running into tables,” he said.

    The team expects a future version to supply energy wirelessly to medical devices.

    The team’s adviser is Steven Rickman, an adjunct professor of mechanical engineering, with assistance from course professors Gary Woods, a Rice professor in the practice of computer technology and electrical and computer engineering; Fathi Ghorbel, professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering; and Eric Richardson, a lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering.


    Watch a video about the project at

    Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

    Related Materials:

    Farmers website:

    George R. Brown School of Engineering:

    Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen:

    Prototype provides pedestrian power:

    Images for download:

    The energy-harvesting device invented by Rice University students amplifies the motion of a knee as it bends. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)


    The Farmers team of Rice University engineering students, from left: Taylor Vaughn, Sean LaBaw, Chase Gensheimer, Hutson Chilton and Adrian Bizzaro. The students worked on the development of a leg brace that captures energy from human motion. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)


    Rice University engineering student Chase Gensheimer takes a walk with a power-generating knee brace. The invention by Rice students charges a battery pack but they hope it will lead to a device that will charge artificial hearts. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)


    The energy-harvesting device invented by Rice University students amplifies the motion of a knee as it bends. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

  • Wednesday, April 29, 2015 9:27 AM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    Students use smarts for damaged hearts

    Mike Williams
    April 29, 2015Posted in: Current News

    Rice University seniors create smartphone app to connect heart patient, pump, doctor

    A smartphone app created by students at Rice University may someday serve as the ultimate remote to help control the flow of blood through human hearts.

    The Flowtastic team of Rice senior engineering students created a combined software-hardware interface that works with an Android app to monitor and even control a high-tech pump that resides in the aorta and regulates the flow of blood.

    The circulatory assist pump called Aortix was invented by Houston-based Procyrion, which is is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use it as a minimally invasive solution for heart-failure patients.

    “It’s for that in-between phase when medication might not be enough and you don’t want to go and get a super-invasive surgery where they have to cut your chest open,” said Rice bioengineering student Benjamin Lopez. “We don’t want you to get to that very severe state and there’s nothing really out there for you right now.” As many as 2.6 million patients could benefit from such a device, according to the company.

    Smartphone-enabled controls to a heart assist pump

    Rice University engineering students have added smartphone-enabled controls to a heart assist pump developed by a Houston medical device company. The Flowtastic team's software and hardware would allow doctors to monitor their patients remotely and even adjust the pump speed. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    The six-member Rice team also includes bioengineering students Alex Bisberg and Joshua Choi and electrical engineering students Tracy Fu, Navaneeth Ravindranath and Ernest Chan. Their advisers are Gary Woods, a professor in the practice of computer technology and electrical and computer engineering, and Eric Richardson, a lecturer in bioengineering. They are also working with Tanner Songkakul, a product development engineer at Procyrion who earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice in 2014.

    The students have been working at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen with a Procyrion prototype, a stent attached to a tiny but powerful pump that can be inserted into the patient’s aortic vessel to assure that blood keeps flowing at the proper rate to the heart.

    The Rice team’s contribution gives doctors a way to monitor the device’s performance and make adjustments when necessary, reducing the heart’s workload and helping it heal.

    “Our goal has been to make a holistic and integrated system that allows the patient to connect with the doctor and also connect with their device,” Bisberg said. The Rice team built hardware that plugs into the Procyrion controller and also communicates wirelessly with the Android app. They expect the company will combine the hardware components into a single unit that the patient will carry.

    Standing from left: Navaneeth Ravindranath, Ernest Chan, Alex Bisberg and Benjamin Lopez, and seated, Tracy Fu and Joshua Choi

    The Flowtastic team, standing from left, Navaneeth Ravindranath, Ernest Chan, Alex Bisberg and Benjamin Lopez, and seated, Tracy Fu and Joshua Choi. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Bisberg said patients will be asked to enter their weight into the app every day. That information will automatically go to the doctor’s database. “Weight is a key factor in managing heart failure,” he said. “When the heart isn’t working well, the patient’s body tends to retain fluid.

    “We want to be able to get a higher fluid-clearance rate from their bodies by accelerating blood flow to the kidneys and getting the liquid out of their systems.”

    If a patient gains too much weight too quickly, the app would notify the doctor, according to team members. They expect the doctor will be able to adjust the pump as necessary either remotely or by plugging directly into the external electronics.

    “A change in weight would trigger an email to tell the doctor what’s going on,” Chan said. “That way the doctor only has to look at that data when needed.”

    Unique electronics

    The students' unique electronics plug into the heart assist pump controller. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    “We spoke to a lot of cardiologists at the Texas Heart Institute and a lot of them said this technology’s great, but it would be really nice if they could only be notified when there’s really a need for them to go in and check,” Choi said.

    The system should be a great help to people who can still lead an active lifestyle, he said. “They’re not sedentary,” Chan said. “They can go out and live their lives and we can hold back the progression of the disease and prevent bad things from happening.”

    While the team members will leave their project behind when they graduate in May, they said what they’ve invented may be adapted to work with hardware that monitors glucose levels or pacemakers.

  • Tuesday, April 28, 2015 9:30 AM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    Rice concrete canoe team finishes seventh


    The Rice University concrete canoe team finished seventh in a field of 17 in the regional Texas-Mexico leg of the National Concrete Canoe Competition (NCCC), sponsored annually by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).  

    “We placed fourth in oral presentation. Our team had the fewest members out of all the teams. Next year we want to practice more, and I think we’ll end up doing better. Sagittarius did pretty well,” said team co-captain Jackie Zhao, a junior in civil and environmental engineering (CEE), referring to the name of the team’s canoe.

    concretecanoe01 The competition was held April 24-25 at Lamar University in Beaumont. The first-place finisher was the team from Texas A&M University, which will move to the national finals June 20-22 at Clemson University, June 20-22, in Clemson, S.C. The winner of the NCCC finals will receive a $5,000 scholarship and a trophy.

    concretecanoe03The other Rice team members are Jason Bui and Ricky Chen, undeclared freshmen; Ray Buttgen, freshman in CEE; Lori Ding, team co-captain and sophomore in CEE; and Thais Merlo, Thais Milhomem and Zoe Wu, seniors in CEE.

    concretecanoe02Since last August, the team has met at least once a week in the Ryon Engineering Lab. Their faculty adviser is Jamie Padgett, associate professor of CEE, and the team received assistance from Daniel Neumann, the CEE staff technician.

    In 2010, after more than 10 years of non-participation, the Rice team placed second in the regional competition. The national winner last year was the team from the University of Nevada at Reno.

    –Patrick Kurp, Engineering Communications

  • Friday, April 24, 2015 9:34 AM | Amy Kavalewitz (Administrator)

    Junior and senior classes honor engineering’s Ann Saterbak with Salgo Award

    Arie Passwaters – April 24, 2015Posted in: Current News

    Rice’s junior and senior classes have named Ann Saterbak a favorite professor, bestowing upon her Rice’s oldest teaching award: the Nicolas Salgo Distinguished Teacher Award. Created in 1966, the award is funded by the Salgo-Noren Foundation.

    Ann Saterbak

    Ann Saterbak

    Saterbak, associate dean of engineering education and a professor in the practice of bioengineering education, has won national and university recognition for her innovative and effective classroom approaches to problem-solving and engineering design..

    For 16 years, she has developed and taught undergraduate engineering courses. In 2011, she launched Introduction to Engineering Design, a popular design course for freshmen that challenges them to come up with practical solutions to real-world problems.  She often she hears student say they signed up for the course because they want to use power tools and other equipment in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK).

    “I think there is some truth to that, because the resources at the OEDK are really fantastic,” Saterbak said. “However, I also think that engineering students are looking for opportunities to work on authentic and meaningful projects.”

    Since it is a client-based course, students are working to create a design solution for community members with a real need, she explained.

    “To solve these challenges, students apply their STEM knowledge in creative ways,” said Saterbak. “That’s fun!”

    The Salgo Award holds special significance for Saterbak. Since most of her students are freshmen and sophomores, it means they valued their experiences enough to recall them as voting juniors and seniors.

    Similarly, Saterbak’s most resonating teaching moments are when students make a breakthrough in understanding a system.

    “This could look like having an ‘aha!’ moment, getting something to work or realizing that something won’t work,” she said. “In Bioengineering Fundamentals, breakthroughs can be a revision of a model; in Introduction to Engineering Design, breakthroughs can look like getting a critical component in the design to work or realizing that a different solution is needed.”

    Saterbak said she also “deeply” enjoys working with teams who commit to finishing projects.

    “Through these experiences, I see students develop grit and resilience, which I feel are important skills in life,” Saterbak said. “Also, I am able to really get to know these students in a long-term mentoring relationship.”

    In February, Saterbak was elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s College of Fellows for her significant contributions to biomedical engineering education. She is also a fellow of the American Society of Engineering Educators and a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

    Saterbak has received the Robert G. Quinn Award (2007) and the Theo Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award (2013) from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2011) and the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (2013) and the Department of Bioengineering Teaching Award (2012).

    inShareEmail Tags: awards, Teaching

    About Arie Passwaters

    Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs. - See more at:

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