100% Chance of Brainstorming

Rainy season is no joke in Costa Rica. It has rained every day, be it a drizzle or downpour, but that didn’t stop us from having a busy, successful week. We participated in the fourth annual Medical Device Innovation Short Course, a weeklong class where teams consisting of 4-5 engineering students from Rice GMI and universities around Costa Rica collaborate to research, brainstorm, prototype, investigate IP and manufacturing costs, and present a project. As a former Rice undergrad, much of the lecture content was a review of senior design. However, the experience of working on the project was unique, a sentiment that I expect will recur for any project I am a part of.

I recently learned that I am a “divergent thinker”, so it makes sense that my favorite parts of the design process are brainstorming and prototyping. My personal favorite method of brainstorming so far has been the paper slip method, where you write or draw ideas on post-it notes within a set amount of time, and then discuss them with your team. I like this method because not much time is spent on one aspect. It’s an uninhibited flow of ideas with fast documentation, and sharing ideas is safe and easily collaborative. After the initial idea dump, the sticky notes can be combined, categorized, removed, and more.

As mentioned in last week’s blog, my team’s need statement was “a way to facilitate flossing in elderly in order to improve gum care”. We took full advantage of the combination aspect of the paper slip method when developing our final low-fidelity prototype. We began by sorting our ideas into categories like “retainer-like”, “water pick-like”, and “floss pick-like”. Then, we assessed pros and cons of each using 5-point scales and screening and scoring Pugh matrices based on our design criteria. We settled on an idea that was a hybrid of at least four of our major ideas: a “sink-adaptable guiding water flosser”.

Team FlossBoss

I’ll spare you the details of our design, but I think it is important to note that not every final prototype is such an amalgam. I was glad that every member of our team had an idea addressed in the final product, not that that’s entirely necessary for the success of a project. Regardless, it was still neat to present a prototype so reflective of each member’s interest and the group dynamics that it propelled as a result. Every project is unique, a result of creative work where there’s not one “right answer”, but many possible ideas.

My two-month-long internship doing R&D at Establishment Labs begins this week, and it’ll be my first internship experience. I’m excited to push my capabilities beyond my current biochemistry comfort zone and get a taste of working at a real medical device company.

Three weekend adventures:

  • Downtown San José – We visited the beautiful Catedral Metropolitana, the vibrant Mercado Municipal de Artesanías, and the Jade Museum. The bustling streets filled with vendors, pigeons, and crazy drivers were exciting to wander.
  • Espadilla Beach in Quepos –Swimming, sunbathing, and snow cones: a perfect beach day!
  • Manuel Antonio National Park – Sand and pouring rain made hiking a little challenging, but that didn’t stop us from seeing monkeys, a sloth, deer, agoutis, and more.


Bonus: Week 2 Exotic Fruit Bingo: Granadilla (sweet passionfruit): Neither a granada nor a passionfruit, this fruit is a sweeter version of its passionfruit cousin. It has the same slimy pulp and flavor, but the pulp is clear and its outer rind is yellow. Crunching on the seeds threw me off, but it certainly made for a delicious, sweet snack.

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