Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

Is it time for another blog post already? It seems like I just wrote one last week. I guess it’s because I’ve been pretty busy, but in a good way. Time flies when you are having fun. And we did some flying and had a lot of fun this past week on a networking trip in the Bay Area.

On Sunday night a group of seven GMI students, some undergrad bioengineers, and a few faculty members set off for California. We were only there until Tuesday afternoon, but we jam packed a bunch into two days and it ended up being an incredible trip. Monday morning started off with an amazing tour at Intuitive Surgical, the company that makes the da Vinci surgical robot. At Intuitive, we not only got to tour the assembly line, but test out the da Vinci ourselves! I had seen the da Vinci at work in an OR at Texas Children’s Hospital last semester while doing needs finding, but actually getting to practice on the robot was an experience. The movements were actually really “intuitive,” which may be why it’s called Intuitive Surgical. It was also eye-opening because we had just talked about surgical robots in our Medical Human Factors course. I just love it when everything comes together, when real life and learning mix!

After Intuitive we were off to GE where we met with a GMI alum who gave us a tour of the office, some amazing snacks (their kitchen and break areas were impressive), and a very insightful talk. She explained how she had grown while at GE and gave us numerous pieces of advice as we begin our careers. After GE we were off to our final tour of the day at IDEO, a design consulting firm in Palo Alto focused on human-centered design. They are responsible for helping design devices such as the Apple computer mouse and Willow, the first wearable breast pump. Here, again, learning and real life collided. IDEO uses many of the design processes and principles we have been learning this year, from ethnography and needs finding to rapid prototyping and testing. Monday was a long day, but it was certainly worth it.

Golden Gate

Tuesday began with a tour of Medtronic in Santa Rosa. We had the opportunity to tour the facility and hear one of their program directors speak about his work and how the Medtronic mission has impacted his own life which was really neat. We also saw demos of a few of the stents that Medtronic makes. The tiny coronary stents are the result of some pretty impressive engineering.

After our Medtronic tour, it was time to head back to the airport and make our way back to Houston. Little did we know, though, that our excitement for the day was not over yet. As Chandler, Josh, Karlee, and I were sitting down in the airport eating some lunch, I spotted a guy in some Olympic gear that looked oddly familiar. I recognized him. He was an Olympic bobsledder…. Wait! I looked it up on my phone. My suspicions were right. He was the Olympic bobsledder named Sam McGuffie that attended Rice University. Then, lo and behold as we were waiting at our gate, he walked up. He was on the same flight as us coming back from South Korea and recognized us as a group of Rice students. Once we arrived back in Houston, a bunch of news reporters and an entire welcoming committee were waiting for him. What a wild coincidence!

Testing out some VR before the animal study

In addition to the Bay Area trip, the other major occurrence this past month was Tasha’s animal study. While I have seen human surgeries in the OR and have also viewed procedures done on mice and a few rats, I have never before observed a porcine study. It was oddly like a human surgery as I only got to enter after the animal had been prepped and draped. It was interesting, however, to see the prototypes being tested, our hard work put on the line.


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