Helping students at Rice University
cook up real-world projects at OEDK
When Maria Oden started at Rice University as a bioengineering professor in 2004, senior students in the capstone class sketched out their engineering projects on paper. Now, freshmen new to the campus develop their ideas in three dimensions, actually building their real-world, applicable projects by hand in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The Kitchen, one of the first of its kind, is revolutionizing how engineering is taught and what an engineering curriculum includes.
“People go into engineering because they want to use their love of math and science to solve real-world problems,” said Oden, who is now director of the OEDK and professor of the Global Health Design Challenges capstone class.
In the recently expanded, 17,000-square-foot lab, students get to do that by working on projects brought to them by companies looking for solutions, by Oden or another faculty member — or by their own creativity. Many of the projects address third-world needs or are for NASA, the Houston Arboretum, Houston Zoo or Shriners – a wide range of projects.
The traditional engineering school model requires students to spend their early years studying physics, chemistry, calculus, computer programming and other similar classes where there’s one right answer to a problem before getting into core engineering courses.