People who compulsively pull their hair – suffering from an affliction known as trichotillomania – could find relief with a device created by Rice University students.
Seniors at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering are developing a glove-based sensor that tracks hand motion and flexing, combined with a smartphone app that tracks behavior over time. The glove incorporates a flex and other sensors along with a gyroscope that sense when a hair-pull has happened. The glove sends data to the app, which keeps track of “no-pull” streaks.
“The reward for every week you don’t pull your hair could be monetary or something as simple as a congratulations on the app,” said Linda Liu.
The team was among dozens demonstrating their capstone projects, required of graduating seniors in engineering, at the school’s Engineering Design Showcase.
Members of the trichotillomania team, which calls itself TRICH or Treat, are bioengineering majors Liu, Saideep Narendrula, Jack Wilson and Thomas Zhang, and electrical engineering majors Zach Alvear, Joshua Bae, Anirudh Kuchibhatla and Fredy Martinez.
Rice engineering student Linda Liu models the prototype glove to help reward the positive behaviors of people with trichotillomania, the compulsive pulling of hair. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Their advisers are Rice’s Sabia Abidi, a lecturer in bioengineering, and Gary Woods, a professor in the practice of electrical and computer engineering, and Dr. Eric Storch, a professor and vice chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.
Trichotillomania is a mental disorder often considered among the obsessive compulsive and related disorders. Those with the disorder often remove hair to a noticeable, and even painful, degree.
“One of our challenges is that we need to get treatment even more effective,” Storch said. “We want to increase the awareness people have when they’re pulling their hair out in a more effective manner.
“The products out there now are great, but they fire without sensitivity or specificity,” he said. “You reach up and it goes off, so you learn pretty quickly to ignore it.”
The students would normally work at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen but gathered mostly online during the pandemic. Online resources also helped them get a sense of the real-world issues and how they could be addressed through browsing a Reddit feed dedicated to trichotillomania. “We saw that something just as easy as applause or awareness of your successes are things we can incorporate into the gamification side,” Liu said.
“Our Baylor sponsor had a system in mind that would use gamification as a model, providing rewards for users to condition them not to pull their hair,” she added.
Rice engineering student Zach Alvear tests the prototype glove developed to monitor the hand motions of people with trichotillomania, the compulsive pulling of hair, to help them modify their behavior. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
With that knowledge, the team shifted its focus to technology that would provide accurate detection. Liu also noted motion-tracking wristbands currently marketed as devices for trichotillomania patients return “a lot of false positives.”
The team’s rough prototype is a regular work glove with sensors that run up the fingers and feed data to a microcontroller that communicates wirelessly to a phone app. “The glove allows us to have electrical tape, wires and everything attached to it and still function and feel comfortable,” Narendrula said.
“The sensors look at the flexing of fingers you’re going to use for pinching movements as well as your hand movements,” he said. “We know not only when you’re pulling your hair but also when you’re about to pull your hair. Having this information easily accessible to a patient is really where our device shines.”
They hope teams that pick up the project in future years will make the glove sleek — and fashionable.
“It’s not the prettiest design right now, since we’re still in the prototyping phase,” Liu said.
“We really want to focus on showing real results through identification of the motions,” Narendrula added. “But one of our suggestions for moving forward is to have a nice, well-designed glove with maybe an ounce of fashion. That’s outside our expertise, but with our current design, everything can be hidden inside the glove.”
TRICH or Treat team members, clockwise from top left, are Saideep Narendrula, Zachary Alvear, Linda Liu, Jack Wilson, Joshua Bae and Thomas Zhang. Missing from the photo but present via phone are Fredy Martinez, left, and Anirudh Kuchibhatla. Photo by Jeff Fitlowosh
The Brain Drain team, from left: Haafiz Hashim, Bill Wang, Patrick Bi, Irene Kwon, Samuel Brehm and Cooper Lueck. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
A student-designed implantable pump to help relieve pressure on the brains of patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus or idiopathic intracranial hypertension has won the top prize in this year’s Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase.
The Brain Drain team, recently featured in Rice News, won the $5,000 Woods Leazar Innovation Award for Excellence in Engineering presented by sponsors Linda and John Leazar and Maria Oden, director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, a teaching professor of bioengineering and co-director of the Rice 360˚ Institute for Global Health.
The team of mechanical engineering major Samuel Brehm and bioengineering majors Cooper Lueck, Patrick Bi, Haafiz Hashim, Irene Kwon and Bill Wang prototyped a battery-operated piezoelectric membrane pump that can be wirelessly charged via an electromagnetic field and communicate with external devices via Bluetooth.
They were advised by Dr. Daniel Curry, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, and faculty adviser Sabia Abidi, a lecturer in bioengineering.
Yeah Buoy won this year’s Willy Revolution Award for Outstanding Innovation, with its design of a buoyance control device for automated underwater vehicles. That prize is also for $3,000.
The showcase returned this year in a virtual format, with 59 teams competing for cash prizes. Instead of personal demonstrations filling the floor at Tudor Fieldhouse, each team produced a video demonstration and posted it to an online gallery for judges to view. (Click the team names to see the videos, and watch the virtual award ceremony here.)
Excellence in Capstone Engineering ($1,000): SmartAid.
Excellence in Capstone Engineering ($1,000): Cool Fluid Dudes.
Excellence in Underclassman, Multi-year or Club Engineering ($1,000) Coral REliEF.
Best Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Award ($750): AeroPuff.
Best Aerospace or Transportation Technology ($500): Rice Eclipse Rocketry Team – ARCA.
Best Conceptual or Computational Modeling Engineering ($500): iDoc.
Best Energy-Related Engineering ($500): Mystery Box.
Best Environment and Sustainability Engineering ($500): IPyAy.
Best Gaming, Creative or Innovative Technology ($500): Castaways II.
Best Medical Device Technology ($500): Smartdrain.
Best Technology for Low-Resource Settings ($500): Let’s Get This Breath.
HOUSTON – (April 29, 2021) – Wind power has a bright future, but what happens when wind turbines power down? A worn blade the length of a football field isn’t easy to recycle.
Rice University engineering students are working on environmentally sensitive strategies to process decommissioned blades for recycling or disposal. The Bladecycle project, based at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, requires them to think big.
With thousands of wind turbines planned for deployment in the coming years, the team — mechanical engineering majors Joshua Brandel, Brittany Bui, Anthony Charletta, Wyatt Crider and Alejandro Moyano — was charged with figuring out how to deal with blades as they come back down.
“Our project is different from most senior designs in that we’re not tasked with building a specific prototype,” Moyano said. “One of our projects is to build a code that will optimize the amount of blades we can put in a truck to minimize transportation costs.”
“Hopefully as the wind industry grows, we’ll see an increase in demand for ground-up blades for insulation, concrete mix-ins or other applications,” Crider said.
Rice engineering student Alejandro Moyano adjusts the drum of a grinder being tested at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Moyano and his teammates are working on strategies to break down and recycle decommissioned wind turbine blades. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
The team mentored by sponsor Stewart & Stevenson and faculty adviser and lecturer Matthew Elliott will be one of dozens competing for cash prizes in the Brown School of Engineering’s Engineering Design Showcase, a virtual event this year on April 29.
“The first wind turbines were built 20-25 years ago, which is exactly the lifecycle of the blades,” Moyano said of the project’s urgent nature. “As the first generation is being retired, there’s a huge demand for decommissioning. There are landfills filled with turbine blades, and it’s already creating a problem.”
“Over the next five years, there should be about 720,000 tons of blades scheduled for decommissioning,” Bui added. “Each one weighs about 36 tons.”
The team is progressing along two paths: easing transportation and simplifying the process of recycling blades made of fiberglass or composites that may also incorporate metal and balsa wood into other products.
“Transporting these blades is such a production,” Crider said. “Sometimes you have to block highways and accrue escort charges, and the charges associated with transporting an entire turbine blade based on its size and weight. We’re trying to make that process a little less impressive.”
Cutting blades on-site with a wire saw like those used to slice concrete would allow bigger loads to be packed onto a flatbed. “We want to get all of this mass onto a single standard-size truck to avoid all these extra charges,” Crider said.
A prototype grinder crushes cereal as a stand-in for something much larger: pieces of decommissioned wind turbines. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
The students are also thinking smaller. “We’re working on a grinder that will basically chip the blades on-site,” Charletta said. “Then you can put them in a dumpster. It’s much better than our first solution, but it’s also a much bigger investment.”
They said industrial grinders that could handle the job are generally too large to transport. “But if the nearest recycling center is 300 miles away and you’re paying by the mile, it doesn’t make sense to take the blade all the way there,” Crider said. “We’re looking to take that 300 miles out of the equation by making this grinder something that can be used on-site.”
They would connect the components with a feeder mechanism that leads the blade from saw to grinder to truck.
Ultimately, they said, better blades with longer life spans will help, but decommissioning will never not be an issue. “With 60,000 towers active now, we need a short-term solution,” Moyano said. “Whether or not we increase the life span of future blades, they will all eventually have to be decommissioned.”
Rice University engineering students are tackling the problem of recycling decommissioned wind power turbine blades. From left: Anthony Charletta, Alejandro Moyano, Wyatt Crider, Brittany Bui and Joshua Brandel. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Pressure from excess cerebrospinal fluid on the brain is often relieved by surgically installing a shunt that carries the fluid to a reservoir. But when pressure in the reservoir itself is too high, the shunt needs a little help.
Seniors at Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering are working on a solution: an implantable shunt pump that senses elevated intracranial pressures and pulls fluid away from the brains of patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus or idiopathic intracranial hypertension, even when reservoir pressures are high.
The “Brain Drain” team designed a negative-pressure pump system that gently lowers pressure when necessary, pulling fluid toward a reservoir in the peritoneal cavity, pleural cavity or the right atrium of the heart.
“It seemed like the project with the most unmet need, and one that we could approach with a year’s worth of work,” said team member Cooper Lueck. “And it seemed like something that could do a lot of good for people who really need it.”
Rice University bioengineering student Irene Kwon works on the prototype of a negative-pressure shunt pump designed to help regulate excess fluid in the brains of patients with hydrocephalus and idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
The team based at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen will demonstrate its work during this year’s Engineering Design Showcase, an annual event with cash prizes for winners in a variety of categories. The showcase will be virtual this year, beginning at 4:30 p.m. April 29.
The members — mechanical engineering student Samuel Brehm and bioengineering students Lueck, Patrick Bi, Haafiz Hashim, Irene Kwon and Bill Wang — are collaborating with Dr. Daniel Curry, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, and faculty adviser Sabia Abidi, a lecturer in bioengineering.
The system will provide data via a pair of sensors, Bi said. “One will be intracranial, and it will communicate with another sensor that measures the pressure in the peritoneum,” he said.
“We toyed with the idea of having them be separate (unwired) units for ease of transmission, but we found the power consumption of any sort of measurement device as well as Bluetooth in the head was too great to justify it,” Lueck said.
“So we’re running a set of wires parallel to the cerebrospinal fluid tubing to a device that is just underneath the skin right behind the ear,” he said. “That will link up to the brain catheter to measure the pressure.”
The battery-operated piezoelectric membrane pump can be wirelessly charged via an electromagnetic field and will communicate with external devices via Bluetooth.
An implantable shunt pump designed by engineering student at Rice University would be wirelessly charged via an electromagnetic field and communicate with external devices via Bluetooth. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
The pump configuration is key, Brehm said. “We were going to design something custom, but then we found a really cool micropump that was membrane-based,” he said. “We wanted it to be super low power and be able to generate enough of a negative pressure differential, as well as to allow cerebrospinal fluid to flow through while it was powered off.
“Certain pump designs have rollers that impede the path of the fluid when you turn them off, but we wanted it to act like a normal shunt even when it was off,” Brehm said. “This one flexes and pulls fluid in, and then it becomes stiff again and the fluid goes out the other valve. It works similarly to the valves and chambers of the heart.”
In their final days before graduation, the students are miniaturizing the components to fit into a smaller casing more appropriate for implantation.
COVID-19 restrictions slowed but never stopped the team. “It was somewhat difficult at first getting things organized, especially last semester,” Hashim said. “I don’t think we met in person all at the same time once. But this semester we’re mostly in Houston. Splitting the work into hardware and software teams helped a lot, along with staying on top of communications so everyone was on the same page with the components.”
“We were able to adapt to the current situation really well,” Kwon said.
Rice University engineering students are developing a negative-pressure shunt pump to help regulate excess fluid in the brains of patients with hydrocephalus and idiopathic intracranial hypertension. From left: Haafiz Hashim, Bill Wang, Patrick Bi, Irene Kwon, Samuel Brehm and Cooper Lueck. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Getting around during the pandemic often requires getting your temperature taken to check for COVID-19. A team of seniors at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering wants to make that practice more practical for facilities around the world.
The low-cost temperature-at-a-distance device designed at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen uses infrared (IR) light to read a user’s forehead without contact and give instant feedback on an LED readout. The simple device costs about $75 to produce now, but the team is working to design a production model that will cost about $40.
The team calling itself “Hot Mess” will demonstrate the device during this year’s Engineering Design Showcase, an annual event with cash prizes for the top teams. The showcase will be virtual this year, beginning at 4:30 p.m. April 29.
Sanjana Krishnan, left, and Kyla Barnwell adjust the prototype lift device that holds the infrared sensor at the proper height. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
“Fever is such a big symptom for a lot of airborne diseases that we figured we could make something that would be applicable now, but also for other diseases and pandemics in the future,” said team member Caterina Grasso Goebel. “A lot of people use IR guns that don’t create enough distance between the person taking the screening and the person being screened.”
Of course, “simple devices” are never as simple as they seem. The students — bioengineering majors Grasso Goebel, Keaton Blazer and Diego Gonzalez, cognitive science major Kyla Barnwell, psychology major Sanjana Krishnan and sports medicine and exercise science major Michael Ngan — had to design and build not only the circuitry and software to deliver a result but also the mechanism that would allow users to set the sensor at the right height and trigger the reading from a short distance.
That involved rigging a scissor-lift mechanism that can be raised and lowered with dowels manipulated by foot. The sensor on their prototype can be raised to 5 feet, 11 inches, or lowered to 4’2″. “Our No. 1 goal for the next couple weeks is making sure it’s user-friendly enough,” Barnwell said, noting they hope to develop a shorter prototype for children or those using wheelchairs as well.
The ability to gang multiple sensors offers the opportunity to put them at various heights in an existing structure like a doorway, said Blazer, who focused on the electronics.
Diego Gonzalez and Caterina Grasso Goebel make an adjustment to the temperature readout, attached by a long cable to the sensor to keep people at a distance. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
“All of the IR sensors out there basically do the same thing,” he said. “So one goal was to configure everything with a really low cost and adequate accuracy for the environment. We built our circuitry to process the data properly to account for ambient temperatures and all the rest.”
Working with the Rice 360˚ Institute for Global Health, the device incorporates components the members expect will be available in low-resource settings to make repairs more practical. Barnwell, who spent the summer of 2019 in Malawi with Rice 360˚, got a sense of what is available by scouring local stores there.
“I also got to see the environments where a lot of these technologies will be implemented,” said Barnwell, who visited marketplaces, hospitals and other locations where a temperature sensor would be most useful.
The sensor is battery powered, Grasso Goebel said, to alleviate concerns over steady power supplies in developing countries.
The team’s faculty advisers are Andrea Gobin, director of invention education at Rice 360˚, and Gary Woods, a professor in the practice of electrical and computer engineering, with additional mentoring by graduate student Rushika Mitbander.
Rice University engineering students are developing a low-cost device to read temperatures from a distance. Clockwise from top left: Sanjana Krishnan, Kyla Barnwell, Michael Ngan, Keaton Blazer, Diego Gonzalez and Caterina Grasso Goebel. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
For one Rice University classroom that is all about the hands-on experience, the fall of 2020 was a test. It appears to have passed.
The Brown School of Engineering’s Introduction to Engineering Design gives freshmen a taste of what’s to come during their college careers. As part of the course, they are expected to conceptualize, design and build a project by the semester’s end.
That was clearly going to be a social-distancing challenge for students taking the class at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen as well as for those forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to dial in from elsewhere.
It was a lot for Deirdre Hunter to handle as well. The engineering lecturer, in her fourth year of teaching the class, was able to begin serious planning when Rice decided in mid-summer that in-person education would be possible with some limitations.
“This class works really well for us when we can have a critical mass of students,” she said. “That’s close to 40 students. So when we were told that in-person class sizes were limited to 25, it was, ‘How do we do that?’”
The solution made possible by the OEDK’s physical layout was “upstairs downstairs” for the two classes, totaling 70 students. “We went to what we call an extended classroom,” Hunter said. “We have class sizes of 35, half in the upstairs classroom and half down here in the basement. We set up a projector down here and a mic and a webcam to capture the whole classroom.”
That also allowed the few remote students to dial in and participate in the lectures, which were occasionally remote for the entire class. “For some lectures, we didn’t need to have everyone there in person, so we’d just decide it would be an online day,” Hunter said.
“It’s not perfect,” she said, describing ongoing issues with microphones and connections. The classroom itself turned into an engineering problem, with solutions coming in bits over the course of the semester, both for the technology and for the teacher.
“The methods to engage people online are different from how I engage people in the classroom, so having to do both at the same time has had a learning curve,” Hunter said.
Students demonstrate their work — from a distance — for engineering lecture Deidre Hunter, far left, and assistant Christina Rincon, far right. Photo by Brandon Martin
It helped to have an able assistant in Christina Rincon, a recent Rice engineering graduate who managed classes upstairs while Hunter was downstairs, or vice versa. Later in the semester, the entire class moved downstairs, with 13 teams spread out among workbenches to build their prototypes. Remote students (except for one dialing in from Saudi Arabia) received prototype parts by post so they could mirror the work of their on-site teammates. In fact, the duplicate process helped verify results for the various devices.
Part of this year’s lesson plan turned out to be learning how to work under challenging circumstances, Hunter said. “We encouraged students to have that conversation: ‘How are y’all going to interact with each other in ways that take safety provisions into account? What is everyone comfortable with?’ And I think they’ve done a very good job.
“Whenever I’ve had a student say ‘I have to quarantine or isolate,’ I’ve asked them if they’ve communicated with their teams, and they have,” she said. “They’ve been really upfront and honest with their teammates.
“Overall, I’m happy with the outcome,” Hunter said. “We did all this planning up front, and we’re constantly tweaking and modifying and changing, but I do feel more confident going into January.”
By Patrick Kurp
Special to the Rice News
A team of Rice undergraduates took home first prize and $10,000 in the 2020 Collegiate Inventors Competition, an initiative of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) sponsored by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Arrow Electronics.
At Your Cervix won the undergraduate division for its device, the UFO (Universally Friendly Obturator), which helps guide needles carrying radiation seeds directly to late-stage cervical tumors. Team members are recent graduates Elisa Arango, psychology; Susannah Dittmar and Krithika Kumar, bioengineering, and Sanika Rane and Lauren Payne, kinesiology.
Members of the award-winning “At Your Cervix” team, from left: Krithika Kumar, Elisa Arango, Sanika Rane, Susannah Dittmar and Lauren Payne.
The current standard of treatment does not involve the device. Instead, physicians place needles through tissue and risk puncturing blood vessels, nerves and vital organs. The UFO avoids these risks and complications, and simplifies reaching previously inaccessible regions with accuracy.
The team’s advisers were Dr. Michelle Ludwig and Dr. Alexander Hanania at Baylor College of Medicine, and Matthew Wettergreen, an associate teaching professor in bioengineering at Rice. The team also worked in collaboration with the Harris County Health System and Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.
Cervical cancer kills more than 300,000 women around the world each year. Brachytherapy, a form of radiation therapy, is the only curative treatment for late-stage cases but because of its complexity it’s used infrequently. The UFO is a customizable device that would simplify the procedure and lowers patient morbidity and mortality.
The UFO project is continuing in the Rice Global Medical Innovation program, with the original team members moving the device toward pilot patient trials.
In the final round of the Collegiate Inventors Competition Oct. 28, five teams of undergraduates and five teams of graduate students from nine U.S. colleges and universities presented their inventions virtually to a panel of judges that included NIHF inductees and officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
At Your Cervix was also awarded second prize in the Rice 360˚ Undergraduate Global Health Technologies Design Competition and the grand prize in the University of Minnesota Design of Medical Devices competition. The project received the $15,000 Healthcare Technologies for Low-Resource Settings Prize in the DEBUT challenge from the National Institutes of Health, and a $10,000 grant as a Maternal and Newborn Health finalist in the MIT Virtual Solve Challenge.
Maria Oden, director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), co-director of the Rice 360˚ Institute for Global Health and a teaching professor of bioengineering, has been named to the 2020 Class of Fellows by the Biomedical Engineering Society.
This year’s 27 new members “have demonstrated exceptional achievements and have made significant contributions within the biomedical engineering field,” according to the society. All will be honored at the organization’s virtual meeting in October.
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. She collaborates with faculty and universities worldwide to develop academic design studios and to incorporate engineering design education into their curricula. 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 Venture Well and the Biomedical Engineering Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Alliance; and has served as an AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Lemelson Foundation. She was named a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering last year.
She is a fellow of Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence and a founding leader of NEST360°, an international initiative between Rice 360° and partners on three continents that aims to enable African hospitals to provide comprehensive newborn care.
HOUSTON – (Aug. 4, 2020) – An enhanced version of the ApolloBVM designed by Rice University engineers has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an emergency resuscitator for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An enhanced version of the bag valve mask-based ventilator designed by Rice University engineers has won federal approval as an emergency resuscitator for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Stewart & Stevenson
The device, as further developed by the Houston manufacturer Stewart & Stevenson Healthcare Technologies LLC, a subsidiary of Kirby Corporation, is designed to deliver air to the lungs of adult patients who require ventilation while they await the availability of a full ventilator.
The manufactured version, dubbed Apollo ABVM, is a sturdy and portable system the company believes can be rapidly deployed in emergencies during the EUA period.
Open-source plans for Rice’s ApolloBVM remain online and available to the maker community. The plans have been downloaded by nearly 3,000 registered participants in 115 countries.
“The COVID-19 pandemic pushed staff, students and clinical partners to complete a novel design for the ApolloBVM in the weeks following the initial local cases,” said Maria Oden, a teaching professor of bioengineering at Rice and director of the OEDK. “We are thrilled that the device has received FDA Emergency Use Authorization.”
Apollo ABVM can squeeze a standard bag valve mask for hours on end to deliver air to the lungs of patients awaiting availability of a full ventilator. Photo courtesy of Stewart & Stevenson
Development began in 2018 when a Houston emergency physician, Rohith Malya, brought his idea for a bag valve mask automation device to students at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering. The students designed and built a device that would squeeze a standard bag for hours on end, potentially saving the lives of people like those in Thailand, where Malya serves as a hospital’s director of emergency services and where he watched patients needlessly die for lack of sustained ventilation.
A video produced by Rice as the students neared graduation in 2019 caught the attention of health professionals around the world last March, spurring a Rice team of staff engineers and one student, along with Malya, to revisit the “Take A Breather” device.
Working around the clock for weeks, the small team, alone in the OEDK during the initial pandemic lockdown, toughened the device and added safety features for use in a medical setting, a process continued by Stewart & Stevenson, which licensed ApolloBVM in April.
Members of the Rice University team that developed 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
“The FDA authorization represents an important milestone achievement for the Apollo ABVM program,” said Joe Reniers, president of Kirby Distribution and Services. “We can now commence manufacturing and distribution of this low-cost device to the front lines, providing health care professionals with a sturdy and portable ventilation device for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Reniers said several manufacturing sites supported the effort, including manufacturing plants in Oklahoma City and Houston. “It is a testimony to the flexibility of our people and our manufacturing facilities that we are able to readily utilize operations to support COVID-19 related needs,” he said.
A team of Rice University engineering students won the grand prize in the student design showcase at the Design of Medical Devices Conference for an invention to simplify treatment of late-stage cervical cancer, especially in low-resource settings.
The “At Your Cervix” team — recent alumni Elisa Arango, Susannah Dittmar, Krithika Kumar, Sanika Rane and rising senior Lauren Payne — developed its novel brachytherapy applicator at the Brown School of Engineering’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen over the past year. They were advised by Andrea Gobin, director of invention education at the Rice 360˚ Institute for Global Health.
Their video entry for the annual conference at the University of Minnesota — held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — was judged the best of 11 participants. Their presentation was judged by a panel of medical professionals.
The team’s device, the Universally Friendly Obturator (UFO), helps guide needles that carry radiation seeds directly to the tumor spanning up to nine centimeters. Without the device, physicians would place needles through tissue and risk puncturing blood vessels, nerves and vital organs. The UFO not only circumvents these risks and complications but also provides opportunities to reach tumor regions that were previously inaccessible.
The team worked in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, the Harris County Health System and Rice 360˚. Baylor described the project in depth in a February blog.
The team also was awarded second prize i
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