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SuperbOwl Team from Rice University

12 teams came to compete at the Stanley Black & Decker Makerspace in Towson, MD.  This season teams are an exclusive group of talented and gifted college students from around the country.  With majors ranging from Architecture to Electrical Engineering to Interactive Arts, the teams all had the same goal…. To create and design a brand new product in 48 hours. 

The team of future engineers from Rice University used skill sets that complimented each other’s in the 48 hour competition.  Using their experience at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) Makerspace,  Thomas, Mikaela, Nathalie and Gentry are incredibly grateful for all of the OEDK staff involved during the entire process.


What made you want to be a part of Make48? 

We love building things. All of us are involved in some capacity at Rice’s makerspace/the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK). This joke has probably been made dozens of times before, but rushing through an entire project in the two days before it’s due is pretty much just the college experience for everyone except Nathalie, so we figured we could meet new makers and learn things on the way.

What was it like working as a team? Was it what you expected? 

For the most part, yeah! Although Make48 was the debut of this particular permutation of our fearsome four, most of us have worked with one another in group projects in the past, and we’ve all been on team-based engineering projects at Rice, so communication and role delegation came pretty naturally. One really exciting thing was seeing people’s talents pushed to the forefront in ways we hadn’t expected — Gentry pulled out some clutch video editing at the last minute, for example, and Thomas’s electrical engineering skills really got their time to shine.

How did you go about putting your team together? 

Rice is a bit unconventional, so to speak — when offered the opportunity to stay up for two days straight to try to compress one semester of senior design into a weekend, we actually had way more than 4 people sign up. Our teachers at the OEDK ended up having to organize a mini-Make48 to narrow down the field!

What advantages did each of you bring to the team?

Our skillsets ended up complimenting one another’s very well. 

  • Gentry’s got a huge background in robotics and organizes several clubs at Rice, so he was really good at keeping people on track and making sure that things got done, as well as identifying the people we needed to talk to. He also plays a pretty mean guitar. 
  • Nathalie’s a really talented mechancial engineer who handled our 3D printing and electronics housings, and kept us all on a good time schedule. Also, she has a great voice for video narration and made sure we didn’t overdo the Red Bull/coffee. 
  • Thomas is a brilliant electrical engineer and handled the circuitry and coding pretty much single-handedly, and knows the exact ratio of caffeine:sleep required to stay up for three days. 
  • Mikaela has a strong grasp on design and prototyping, and actually works in product development now, so she was great at understanding what steps we’d need to take to get our design from an idea to reality and spearheaded the CAD/hardware design; additionally, she can identify optimal vertical and/or horizontal surfaces for hanging a hammock.

We know that this is a question meant to focus on the four competitors, but we’re incredibly grateful for all of the OEDK staff involved in getting us to and from the competition in one piece, and for their support and pride throughout the weekend and beyond.

What was the most difficult part about the competition? Roadblocks, setbacks? What came easier for your team? 

We may have accidentally brought four engineers to a marketing fight. At the end of the day, engineering is rewarding and a ton of fun, but it’s not exactly flashy or eye-catching. One thing that we’d vastly underestimated in the product design process was how critical the marketing and appeal of a device is to its overall success: one of the most important things is understanding your target audience.  

Ironically, both the “make” and the “48” came really naturally to us. All four of us have pulled all-nighters in the OEDK trying to make a project come together at the last second, so the time crunch and the task at hand wasn’t as intimidating to us as it could’ve been.

What did you learn from the Make48 event? Looking back, anything you would’ve done different?

As far as actual performance and work put in, absolutely not. One thing that definitely would have helped was doing a bit of research on the judging criteria and past seasons to understand why and how winning products get selected but overall we are incredibly proud of our team’s performance from start to finish, and even knowing what we do now, we would’ve still chosen the design that we did.

Overall what was the best part of the Make48 experience? 

Meeting other makers! Getting to see how other people express themselves via creating is always a great experience, and in this case we got a double-whammy of meeting other makers our age (the other teams), as well as learning from the pros (the Tool Techs). It’s most exciting of all to see how other people will perform in a similar situation to you, and to see the new and surprising ways they’ll take the same materials/prompts you were given.

I don’t think we were very good competitors in that sense — some of the most memorable parts of the competition were staying up in the wee hours of the night with the other teams, working together to put forth our best effort, laughing, and exchanging crunch-time music playlists. We loved being able to see how other students around the country follow their drive to create things, and watching everyone in their own element was unforgettable. The Tool Techs were an incredible resource as well, and being able to learn firsthand from people who are so talented at making things is pretty much what brought our team together in the first place!


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