OEDK Student Leaders Program

OEDK – A Hub for Undergraduate Engineering Design...and more!

The OEDK is more than a place where design happens — it is also a hub of activity and a social center that emphasizes creativity and experimentation. The next generation of engineers will face incredible challenges that will require them to have more than a deep understanding of engineering fundamentals — they also must have the ability to work in diverse teams during all phases of the design and technology development process and to effectively communicate ideas. The OEDK offers different leadership opportunities which give the students ability to get a deeper and even more well-rounded design experience.

Lab Assistants

To enhance leadership experiences for student engineers, the OEDK  Student Leaders Program.  For this program the OEDK hires and trains student lab assistants to help enforce OEDK safety practices, as well as being onsite during nights and weekends to assist students with their design challenges to ensure safe use of equipment and tools. These are paid positions.
By participating in the Student Leaders Program, our lab assistants are trained using self-guided training modules on specific equipment.  These modules will be used to better train our lab assistants on how to use equipment properly and safely, as well as build up their own proficiency on the equipment. These modules include overview and how-to videos, as well as written instructions, an assignment to be done on the equipment and a grading rubric to ensure that the student’s proficiency is acceptable for assisting other students on the equipment. These modules are also made public for all of users on the OEDK website, so that any users can better acquaint themselves with the proper procedures for using the equipment safely.
There are between 24 - 30 lab assistant spots open each semester -- of those spots, 6-8 are open for new apprentices.

If interested in applying, please contact the OEDK at oedk@rice.edu. 

Design and Writing Mentors

In order to support the engineering design curriculum, the OEDK hires and trains student mentors to guide teams through the engineering design process. Student mentors provide critical feedback to teams as they tackle hands-on design challenges and prototype solutions for real-world clients. These mentors specifically support the introductory design course, ENGI 120/FWIS 188, but can also be involved with the ENGI 200 and ENGI 210 courses. The design mentor and writing mentor roles are paid, but they vary in job responsibilities and time commitment. For more information on the specific duties of each role, please view the written job descriptions.

If you are interested in enhancing your leadership experience by serving as a Design Mentor or Writing Mentor, please apply here. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Mentor applications are typically reviewed in the 3rd week of April for the following academic year. Follow-up interviews are held during the last week of classes or over dead days. On an as-needed basis, additional applications are reviewed in December for the Spring semester.

OEDK Student Leader Recognition


Deepak Narayan

Lab Assistant Level I

Peter Tizora

FabShops Coordinator

Congratulations to Lab Assistants Deepak Narayan and Peter Tizora who were recognized for their outstanding service at the January 10, 2024 Lab Assistant Welcome Back Meeting!

Deepak's commitment to the Lab Assistant program shines with every task completed, no matter how big or small. He is detail oriented and up for any challenge.

Peter is rockin' as this year's FabShops Coordinator. His cheerful and uplifting personality motivates the team to put in the work for each and every FabShop. Their support as lab assistants are vital to engineering design students' success!


Mary Brady

FabShops Coordinator

Charlie Lockyer

Lab Assistant Level II

Mark Lopatofsky

Lab Assistant Level II

Dan Zislis

Lab Assistant Level II

Congratulations to Lab Assistants Mary Brady, Charlie Lockyer, Mark Lopatofsky, and Dan Zislis who were recognized for their outstanding service at the March 4, 2023 Lab Assistant Meeting. Their contributions to the Lab Assistant program have made a noteworthy difference, and we appreciate everything they do to assist the OEDK team and engineering design students!

2021-2022 Lab Assistant of the Year

Will Coben

Will Coben - Head Lab Assistant

Congratulations Will Coben, Head Lab Assistant, for being named Student Leader of the Year! Will has contributed to the OEDK’s success since 2019.

Will revamped the Lab Assistant program to a whole new level with his take initiative attitude and exceptional organizational skills. This was demonstrated by the creation of tag up and floater forms to document team productivity. Will also created shift flexing to improve Lab Assistant coverage and support for engineering design teams.

Will’s communication between the Lab Assistants and OEDK staff has been transparent and consistent from the get-go. Weekly announcements and reminders were communicated promptly to inform the Lab Assistant team of upcoming deadlines, events, and OEDK updates. In addition, Will communicated Lab Assistant updates and concerns to appropriate OEDK staff in a timely manner.

Will was extremely proactive in the 2021-2022 year close-out. Will provided feedback for next year's team, and with his assistance, Danny Blacker, Engineering Design Supervisor, was able to announce Ishaan Chahal as next year's Head Lab Assistant.  Will helped transition Ishaan into his new role while coordinating a process for a smooth handover of area leads.

March 2022

Zach Driscoll - Laser Cutter Lead

Congratulations to the impressive Zach Driscoll for being named March's Lab Assistant of the Month. As one of our most senior lab assistants, Zach has been a longtime contributor to the OEDK, and below are a few reasons Zach was chosen for LAOTM

Zach is methodical and consistent in his maintenance of the Laser Cutter Room. It is obvious when Zach has worked a shift because the room is always clean and looking well maintained right afterward. This demonstrates that Zach is prioritizing the operability of his space and effectively utilizing his time of shift to maintain it.

Zach swiftly attacks tasks head on. As soon as the new Epilog auto-focus plunger came in, Zach spent his first shift installing and calibrating it. From there, Zach recommended that the team continue to press with manual focus and provided rationale in his suggestion. This underscores that Zach is actively reflecting on how we operate and effectively communicating his valuable ideas to the greater team.

Zach is patient and helpful when assisting users use OEDK equipment. When a senior design team needed assistance with the Injection Molder, a machine that see little use, the team shared that Zach spent a great deal of time patiently assisting them. The top priority of the Lab Assistant role is to help users, and it is clear Zach prioritizes this appropriately.

February 2022

Ishaan Chahal - Maker Bar Shadow

Congratulations to the wonderful and impressive Ishaan Chahal for being named February’s Lab Assistant of the Month! Ishaan has really hit the ground running in his new Maker Bar Shadow role, and below are some specific reasons for Ishaan being named LAOTM:

Mr. Chahal advocates for his own goals and looks to marry them with the OEDK goals. Since last semester, Mr. Chahal has made clear to leadership that his preferred space to support was the Maker Bar. However, the OEDK needed Elec Lab support, so Mr. Chahal stepped up to work in that area. Once Maker Bar support was requested, Mr. Chahal again advocated for his goals and offered his bandwidth, resulting in his transition to Maker Bar Shadow. This shows that Mr. Chahal is actively reflecting on what is best for him while keeping awareness of what is best for the OEDK and subsequently acts in a way that benefits both.

Mr. Chahal has a great worth ethic. Engineer Design Technician Fernando Cruz describes Mr. Chahal as a “work-horse” and gave a few examples where Mr. Chahal supported two complex Prusa maintenance activities, spearheaded the effort the get the Nomad board installed, and assisted in alleviating a fume throughout the OEDK. This shows that Mr. Chahal is a self-starter and uses his time on shift to accomplish action items.

Mr. Chahal has demonstrated that he is great at incorporating feedback. Due to Mr. Chahal’s self-starting work ethic described above, there were instances earlier in the year where he was completing tasks but not pushing statuses to the team, so primary stakeholders were unaware. Once this was brought up to Mr. Chahal, he immediately incorporated the feedback and has been fantastic at pushing communication to the team.

January 2022

Nancy Lindsey - Electronics Lab Lead

Nancy has demonstrated that she is a team player. When Ishaan moved to Maker Bar Shadow, Nancy was asked to step into the Elec Lab Lead role; she eagerly took on the responsibility despite the challenges associated with not having a shadow. In doing so, Nancy has enabled the Elec Lab and Maker Bar to receive the support they need.

Nancy has demonstrated that she is a self-starter. With a two week remote start, the beginning of this semester has been a bit more freelance. Nancy has not used this lack of direction as an excuse, but has instead advocated for and pursued different methods of improving the Elec Lab.

Nancy has demonstrated that she will advocate for her space. After a few weeks in her new role, Nancy messaged the Head Lab Assistant saying that the addition of an Elec Lab Shadow would greatly help Elec Lab operations. Because Nancy pushed her perspective and advocated for her space, we have added an Elec Lab Shadow.

Nancy constantly pushes communication. Whether asked to provide words on her new role, recommendations for new apprentices, or a status on an action, Nancy is timely and proactive in communicating.

November 2021

Doris Xu - FabShops Lead

Ms. Xu has demonstrated that she is proactive and a forward thinker by already establishing a Fabshop plan for next semester. By taking these actions now, Ms. Xu is enabling the Lab Assistant workforce to hit the ground running with Fabshops, allowing more OEDK users to learn how to use various equipment.

Despite a successful semester of Fabshops, Ms. Xu has identified various areas of improvement and has developed plans to take actions to address said areas. This underscores that Ms. Xu is refuses to be complacent and is actively reflecting on how to optimize Fabshop operations.

Ms. Xu epitomizes what it means to take ownership of her role. By taking complete ownership of Fabshop operations, Ms. Xu has enabled other OEDK leaders to sink their increased bandwidth into other areas of the OEDK.

Ms. Xu is great at pushing communication to stakeholders. OEDK leaders are tapped into Fabshop operations and changes with little to no effort due to the fact the Ms. Xu keeps them in the loop without being asked.

When Ms. Xu had a biweekly scheduling conflict with one of her shifts, she provided the Head Lab Assistant with a sensible workaround that allowed for the OEDK to continue to be properly staffed. Additionally, Ms. Xu is very on top of finding swaps/covers when needed.

October 2021

Catherine Kiela - Wet Lab Lead

Ms. Kiela epitomizes what it means to be a self-starter. There have been a wide variety of improvements made to the Wet Lab (useful signage, new powder coating instructions, cleanliness, streamlined Form post-processing, etc.). These changes were motivated by Ms. Kiela’s desire to improve the space, never being instructed by others.

Ms. Kiela underscores what it means to be a team player. Ms. Kiela recognized that the lab assistant team is lacking knowledge on how to use the sewing machines. Even though these machines are not in the Wet Lab, she has taken on the role of teaching this machine to a wide variety of team members, including our Maker Bar Leads and design technicians, revealing Ms. Kiela’s ability to identify key stakeholders.

Ms. Kiela keeps great situational awareness of her calendar. Even as the lab assistant with the most shifts, Ms. Kiela will look for shift changes/swaps multiple days in advance, ensuring the OEDK is appropriately staffed.

September 2021

Jonathan Lloyd - Maker Bar Shadow

When Mr. Lloyd was not going to be able to complete an action by the expected date, he sends the Head Lab Assistant a message with a heads up as well as a date that action would be completed.

When Mr. Lloyd had a unique shift request, he provided multiple options and workarounds, making it easy on the Head Lab Assistant to meet his request as well as OEDK staffing needs.

Mr. Lloyd pushed his own ideas and perspectives to the team by suggesting we use a shared drive. This shows that Mr. Lloyd is not just accepting and adapting to our operations, but taking a step back and looking to improve them.

When asked to provide feedback on the Lab Assistant task list, Mr. Lloyd demonstrated proactivity by going straight into the document and making the changes himself.

Mr. Lloyd has demonstrated a strong ability to be productive and a self-starter while on shift. I have yet to see Mr. Lloyd NOT actively working a task while on shift.

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK

Email: oedk@rice.edu

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