News and Announcements

  • Thursday, March 31, 2016 9:38 AM | Amy Kavalewitz Dern (Administrator)

    Unconventional students at Rice: Claire O’Malley

    The Rice campus has been a fertile landscape of opportunities for Baker College senior Claire O’Malley. The San Francisco native, a double major in mechanical engineering and visual and dramatic arts, has made her mark from the art studios of Sewall Hall to the shop floors of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK).

    “I was really excited about coming to Rice and being able to study studio arts and engineering, and to marry those two and do something interesting with that,” said O’ Malley, who is serving as the co-director of the student-run Matchbox Gallery in Sewall Hall. “I’ve always had a super-intense creative impulse. When I came to Rice, my idea of art was spun 180 degrees. I was exposed to diverse types of art. I interacted with people who think of art differently than I did.” O’Malley said during her four years at Rice, her understanding of the importance of art and her impulse to make art have changed.

    Wearing her mechanical engineering hat, she is currently in the final stages of a yearlong design project to create an articulating arm that assists with wastewater cleanup in Houston’s bayous. The arm will help people who clean the bayous to collect 20 garbage trucks’ worth of plastic bags per year, O’Malley said. “We are trying to design this arm that helps people collect this trash a lot more easily just because there’s way too much of it.”

    After Rice, O’Malley is planning to pursue a career in product design. “Something that I would like to design tackles the drought issues in California,” she said. “It’s basically to make this pump that recycles wastewater in peoples’ homes so they can reuse water they’ve barely used.”

    About Brandon Martin

    Greetings, I am a video producer at Rice University in the Office of Public Affairs. I became a Rice Owl in June 2011. Before that, I was at KPRC-TV in Houston as a special projects photojournalist for seven years, where I covered everything from hurricanes to sports. Southeast Texas has been my home my entire life. I am lucky to have a wonderful wife and two of the cutest girls I have ever seen. Go Owls!
  • Thursday, March 31, 2016 9:36 AM | Amy Kavalewitz Dern (Administrator)

    It’s a horse, of course … but better

    The Hippo Riders team of Rice engineering students has created a horse simulator for use by hippotherapy patients. From left: Amy Ryu, Erik Hansen, Jaime Gomez and Brett Berger.

    The Hippo Riders team of Rice engineering students has created a horse simulator for use by hippotherapy patients. From left: Amy Ryu, Erik Hansen, Jaime Gomez and Brett Berger. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Rice University engineering students create equine simulator for hippotherapy

    Some patients who could benefit from hippotherapy might not have access to a horse, due to geographic location, weather or affordability. Rice University engineering students have developed an alternative with their horse simulator, a robotic steed that can be ridden indoors anytime.

    A team of students calling themselves the Hippo Riders created their device as a senior capstone design project at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The device will be demonstrated at the university’s annual Engineering Design Showcase April 14.

    The simulator could give patients who use hippotherapy – also known as equine-assisted therapy — more opportunities to follow a regimen intended to help those with neurological or physical disorders like autism, arthritis, cerebral palsy and other ailments. The rhythmic, swinging motion is thought to enhance balance, coordination and motor development.

    “It really does engage your core muscles and the ability to balance, and that’s what helps people,” said Amy Ryu, a mechanical engineering major.

    “And it’s fun,” added teammate Jaime Gomez, also a mechanical engineer, after five minutes in the saddle.

    Jaime Gomez tests the horse simulator

    Jaime Gomez tests the horse simulator. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    The robust prototype built with $1,200 in parts and a lot of labor began with help from Conroe-area physical therapist Janis Wells, who found her way to Rice through her work with team sponsors Harrell and Carolyn Huff. Carolyn is a Rice alumna.

    “Janis was my physical therapist,” Harrell Huff said. “One day we were talking and I said, ‘Isn’t it expensive to have a horse and all this stuff? Why don’t y’all go to a bar and borrow one of those bucking broncos?’

    “She said they can’t do that, so I said, ‘Would it be to your advantage to have a mechanical device that would substitute for a horse?’ I told her I knew a group that could probably design one.”

    Wells told the team she wanted a way for patients to ride indoors during inclement weather or when the cost of reserving a horse was a factor. Ryu said physical therapy sessions with a horse can cost up to $150 an hour.

    The resulting device differs from mechanical bulls and kiddie rides at supermarkets in the degree of control offered by three motors that can be programmed to operate independently and simulate a variety of gentle gaits.

    “We can control the voltage and current output,” said Brett Berger, also a mechanical engineering major. “That lets us run a complicated control program for different motions.

    “In the ride outside a grocery store, you put a quarter in and it moves back and forth a little bit,” he said. “But in our device, we can control the speed, the intensity and the type of gait, all routed through a microcontroller.”

    “Because the motors are independently controllable, we can exert a huge degree of control over how the horse is moving,” added Erik Hansen, the team’s lone bioengineering major.

    Amy Ryu and Erik Hansen make an adjustment to their robotic horse.

    Amy Ryu and Erik Hansen make an adjustment to their robotic horse. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    The simulator can safely hold patients weighing up to 250 pounds, said the team members, who were advised by Rice engineering lecturer Matthew Elliott. “We designed it statically to hold much more than 250 pounds, and it won’t break until it goes up to 1,000-plus pounds,” Berger said. “But at 250 pounds, the motors stall. It’s just going to stop moving. The machine won’t continue, but it won’t break down.”

    Motorized scissor lifts control the saddle height for each rider.

    The students expect a new team of electrical engineering and computer science students will pick up the project next year and advance the control system to a more sophisticated level.

    “We had to learn on the job how to weld, how to machine and how to build,” Berger said, noting that some computer programming was required as well. “But we don’t have the level of controllability we think our device is capable of. Moving forward, we expect another team will take it to the next level so that a physical therapist can use it in a clinic.”

    “That’s going to require a more sophisticated control scheme than we have had time to learn how to do,” Hansen added. “A future team could get it to be like a horse walking through different kinds of obstacles or terrain.”

    But the decorative, neighing hobby-horse head had better stay. Installing it was just too hard for the team to resist.


    About Mike Williams

    Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.

  • Monday, March 28, 2016 9:34 AM | Amy Kavalewitz Dern (Administrator)

    Waste not, grow more food

    Rice University engineering students’ device makes composting easier

    It’s good for crops, it’s good for water and, in the end, it’s good for people and the planet. Why would anyone not turn food waste into compost?

    Rice University engineering students asked that question at the start of the school year and have spent the months since refining their answer.

    The team known as (com)post-haste invented a device that sits under one’s sink and takes macerated food waste produced by a standard garbage disposal and sends it in one direction while liquid waste (including water) goes in another. Effectively, it simplifies the process of recycling garbage into a useful product while helping to protect water supplies.

    The students make up one of more than 80 capstone design teams at Rice. Most senior engineering students are required to complete a project to graduate and are presented with a host of possibilities when they begin their classes in August.

    For all the members of (com)post-haste, developing the device they call The BioBlend was a natural.

    “I think for all of us this was the top choice,” said Kavana Gowda, who like all of her teammates is a senior mechanical engineering student. Other members are Christina Petlowany, Andrew Miller, Edgar Silva, Mitch Torczon and Ryan Yeh.

    Rice University engineering students have invented a device to separate compostable materials from food waste processed by a garbage disposal. From left, Ryan Yeh, Christina Petlowany, Edgar Silva, Andrew Miller, Mitch Torczon and Kavana Gowda.

    Rice University engineering students have invented a device to separate compostable materials from food waste processed by a garbage disposal. From left, Ryan Yeh, Christina Petlowany, Edgar Silva, Andrew Miller, Mitch Torczon and Kavana Gowda. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    The students have spent much of the last eight months working in the basement of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, where they have installed an actual research kitchen – or at least the sink part.

    The project is a partnership with NASA, which has an interest in such devices for outposts on the moon, Mars and beyond, and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, which pitched Rice on the project and intends to install The BioBlend at its Living Lab, where it will be tested alongside other emerging household technologies. Rice lecturer Matthew Elliott is the team’s faculty adviser.

    “I think one of the major barriers to being eco-friendly in a variety of ways in the United States is people aren’t willing to put in any effort,” said Torczon of the device. “This doesn’t require users to change their behaviors. They can continue putting food down the garbage disposal, and once every couple of days take it out, just like taking out their trash.”

    The difference is The BioBlend produces a moist, finely chopped form of waste that takes less time to turn to compost than regular garbage. Alternately, it can be used to generate biogas.

    “One of the things our sponsors want to see is if they can make the device large enough to put in the basement of an apartment complex or a grocery store or restaurant, places with a ton of food waste,” Torczon said. “They could create a lot of biogas they could then turn around and sell or, if they’re in a restaurant, use themselves.”

    “I think a family of four, using a biogas generator with their waste, would be able to make enough for them to cook with,” Gowda added.

    Mechanical engineering student Andrew Miller makes an adjustment to a prototype of The BioBlend.

    Mechanical engineering student Andrew Miller makes an adjustment to The BioBlend prototype. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Whether it’s used for compost or biogas production, the key to The BioBlend’s success will be its ability to keep garbage out of wastewater treatment plants, where it’s not only useless but also costly and complicated to remove.

    The team’s research into separation techniques spanned sewage plants to hand-cranked tabletop devices for making jellies and tomato sauce. What they had in common was a circular strainer with a large screw in the middle that pushes solid waste along while allowing liquid to escape. Their own motor-driven, spring-loaded version has a failsafe to keep unwanted solids like ice from jamming the system.

    A weight sensor tracks how full the bin is, a cutoff switch automatically trips before it overflows and a carbon filter helps quash odors and keep flies away from the compost.

    The team has not ruled out giving The BioBlend Wi-Fi powers to alert users to its status via the Internet, Torczon said. They could just make it beep when full, but the students are wary that annoyed users would simply disconnect it rather than keep with the program.

    The teammates had no problem finding a way to feed their creation. “One of the cool things about the project was digging once a week through the trash in the Rice serveries,” Yeh said.

    “It’s caused me to reevaluate how much food I’m throwing away,” Torczon added. “Our sponsors said at the beginning they hoped it influenced our behavior.”


    About Mike Williams

    Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.
  • Wednesday, March 23, 2016 9:29 AM | Amy Kavalewitz Dern (Administrator)

    Sterile Box offers safer surgeries

    Rice team’s mobile container can sterilize surgical instruments in low-resource settings

    Rice University students and their mentors have created a sterilization station for surgical instruments that can help minimize risk of infections to patients anywhere in the world.

    The station built into a standard 20-foot steel shipping container houses all the equipment necessary to prepare surgical instruments for safe reuse, including a water system for decontamination and a solar-powered autoclave for steam sterilization. Autoclaves are standard in modern hospitals but badly needed in low-resource settings.

    After months of design and construction, Douglas Schuler, an associate professor of business and public policy in Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, and his team published an article in the open-access journal PLoS ONE detailing trials to validate what they call the Sterile Box.

    They reported the system’s performance was nearly perfect over 61 trials in 2015 to sterilize and prepare a set of instruments for return to the operating room.

    Rice University professors Maria Oden, second from right, and Douglas Schuler, right, give visitors a tour of the Sterile Box prototype. The unit was designed to sterilize and process surgical instruments in low-resource settings.

    Rice University professors Maria Oden, second from right, and Douglas Schuler, right, give visitors a tour of the Sterile Box prototype. The unit was designed to sterilize and process surgical instruments in low-resource settings. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    The researchers cited studies that show about a third of patients in low-resource settings suffer surgical-site infections, a number nine times higher than in developed countries. These infections are frequently the result of care providers using medical instruments that carry traces of microorganisms or biological material from previous patients.

    Surgical-site infections can lengthen hospital stays and even lead to death, the researchers wrote.

    Schuler and his students have been working to sterilize instruments with sunlight for years. Their first design used a mobile A-frame solar-thermal device, the Capteur Soleil, that focused sunlight to heat a stand-alone autoclave. But the team decided to design a more comprehensive platform in which instruments could be processed day and night.

    Rice Professor Maria Oden, director of the university’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and a co-author of the article, said rural areas and small cities in developing countries often have medical facilities with improperly maintained or malfunctioning sterilization equipment or no equipment at all. Unreliable power and inadequate quality control over sterilization are also issues, she said.

    “Infection control in the surgical suite really is a big challenge in the developing world,” said Oden, who has seen the challenges firsthand while traveling as part of the Rice 360˚: Institute for Global Health. “I was shocked to learn how many surgeries end up with patients developing some manner of infection.”

    She said the fact that the Sterile Box is a complete drop-in system is significant.

    Rice University Professor Douglas Schuler holds a steam-activated autoclave used to sterilize surgical instruments in the Sterile Box developed at Rice for use in low-resource settings.

    Rice University Professor Douglas Schuler holds a steam-activated autoclave used to sterilize surgical instruments in the Sterile Box developed at Rice for use in low-resource settings. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    “The box looks at the problem from a complete system level and makes it easy to implement,” she said. “It’s not just a simple device to clean and sterilize the tools, but a way to manage the process.”

    “We tried to really think hard about social context,” Schuler said. “We laid out the elements to minimize human error and water and energy requirements to the extent that we can. I really like that about our design.”

    The Rice team added solar panels and electrical storage to the container, as well as water distribution from two tanks, one on the ground that has a hand pump to move water to a 50-gallon tank on the roof. The interior has two rooms: a foyer that separates the sterile processing area from outsiders and the elements and a main area with a small window to pass instruments in and out.

    Processing is divided into four stations. At the first station technicians decontaminate instruments in a three-basin sink, removing debris and then soaking them in an enzymatic detergent and scrubbing with nylon brushes before a final rinse. At the second station an electric hotplate heats the steam autoclave that sterilizes the instruments. At the third the instruments are dried on wire racks and then moved to the fourth, a storage cabinet where they await the next surgery.

    To keep technicians comfortable, the team incorporated radiant barrier insulation and reflective paint outside and maximized air flow inside with mesh screens over the door and windows, floor vents and two wind-powered turbine fans in the ceiling. A battery pack tied to the solar panels powers outlets for fans and cellphone charging.

    The next step will be to test the Sterile Box in a clinical setting. Schuler is working with Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy, director of Baylor Global Initiatives at Baylor College of Medicine, to incorporate the box into the planned deployment of its Smart Pod, a mobile surgical suite also to be housed in a modified shipping container. Baylor expects to test its unit near the Malawi capital of Lilongwe in 2017.

    Schuler said the Sterile Box may be suitable for other medical situations, including maternal and neonatal care, oral health care and postdisaster relief.

    Co-authors of the article are Jean Boubour of Association Soleil-Vapeur, Evreux, France; Rice alumna Katherine Jenson, a research coordinator at Baylor College of Medicine; and Rice undergraduate students Hannah Richter and Josiah Yarbrough.

    About Mike Williams

    Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.
  • Wednesday, January 06, 2016 1:01 PM | Amy Kavalewitz Dern (Administrator)

    Congratulations Team ParkIt!

    The team has been selected by Jaguar Land Rover to company’s inaugural group of about six to receive up to $250K and work from its startup tech incubator in Portland!

    CES 2016: Jaguar Land Rover announces inaugural startups selected for tech incubator
    A capstone project designed by 2015 Rice engineering graduates at Rice's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen called “ParkiT” is one of the first 3 startups selected to be housed in the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator in Oregon. “ParkiT” is an app that uses sensors and existing security camera infrastructure to alert drivers to open parking spaces.

    Read more on Forbes

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

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Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
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Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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