High Fidelity Fun

Another week in beautiful Costa Rica. Call me crazy, but I think the weather here is leagues better than Houston. That and the “se vende” signs in front of houses have gotten me googling on how to buy a home in Costa Rica. I wonder what’s stopping me…


But I digress.

This week was a short course in association with CINDE and Fundación Don Omar. We worked with Costa Rican students from many universities to develop engineering design skills. Taught by three (!) Rice professors, it was a combination of fun and hard work. In addition to having a newfound appreciation for decision matrices, I brushed up my presentation skills and grew my engineering design prowess.

For example, we learned low-fidelity prototyping. On the surface, it looks like arts and crafts, mostly because it kind of is, being a way to envision a future product. You can’t always make injection molded medical devices overnight, so Styrofoam and fabric help get key ideas across and serve as a model for future, more hi-tech iterations.

One of the demonstrations of this was designing a zipline bajaj to protect the safety of its ping pong passengers.


I think our bajaj is beautiful. Some people would disagree. Those people would be wrong. The design of our bajaj can be seen as an early stage design for a bajaj that would keep more human-shaped passengers in their seats.

My team was tasked with developing a way to ensure handwashing compliance among peritoneal dialysis patients performing the procedure at home. Unclean hands touching the dialysis port that goes straight into the abdomen is a recipe for serious illness and possibly death. Taking five minutes to wash hands can help these patients avoid serious risks, but these patients are new to this as well as live in simple homes. Our solution needed to be affordable, easy to use, and effective.

We had some productive brainstorming, but we quickly found out that having a bracelet design could allow bacteria to hunker down in the crevices of the device. Oh, what to do…

(Demo. Do not try at home. The glue is supposed to be soap. )

We wound up using magic object recognition in our prototype. This low fidelity prototype would involve installing an affordable Android phone into the home of the patient, with a timer for hand-washing and dialysis that is triggered by the patient presenting the soap to the camera of the phone for it to recognize it. The patient can focus on following instructions and being cognizant about proper technique and timing.

Wrapping up with a presentation was nerve-wracking, but it was gratifying to present our idea to industry representatives.

With this week behind me, next week is the beginning of my internship! Gonna have to dust off the work clothes and be prepared to make a difference!

Quarterly Purrformance reviews

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