Innovation Education partnerships: Rice University hosted a visit of Olusola Oke, University of Ibadan, Nigeria Design Studio Assistant Manager

Written by Olusola Oke

Contributors: Carrie Noxon, Emily Bull, Ashley Taylor, and Nicole Moreno

Invention Education improves lives through invention by establishing an ecosystem that fosters technical innovation, improves health, and reduces poverty. NEST360, an international multi-institutional alliance rooted at Rice University, uses Invention Education partnerships to sustain innovation and end preventable newborn deaths in African hospitals.

The NEST360 Invention Education partnership includes the Malawi University of Business and Applied Science, the Malawi University of Science and Technology, the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, Rice University, and most recently, the University of Ibadan, the University of Lagos, and Addis Ababa University. Together, these partners have collaborated to develop a scalable model and network for Invention Education that empowers students and faculty to address pressing local and global challenges. The NEST360 Invention Education team dedicates itself to strengthening local innovation capacity by supporting the next generation of innovators in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bidirectional exchanges for students, staff, and faculty are a critical component of the Invention Education model. These exchanges enable knowledge sharing across the collaborative Africa Invention Education Network and provide opportunities to learn best practices from others. For faculty, these exchanges catalyze curricular transformation across universities in Africa, leading to engineering education focused on developing real-world solutions to local and global challenges through hands-on learning. Expansion of the NEST360 design studios in Malawi, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ethiopia has directly benefited from bidirectional exchanges.

Olusola Oke is a NEST360 Invention Education team member and the Design Studio Assistant Manager at the University of Ibadan (UI) in Nigeria. Mr. Oke visited the United States in October 2022 as part of a bidirectional exchange program to meet his colleagues at Rice360 Institute for Global Health Technologies (Rice360) and NEST360. While in the United States, Mr. Oke shared his insights on fostering innovation capacity through the UI design studio, presenting at conferences in San Antonio, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, and providing a guest lecture at Rice University. He shared the following reflections after his engagement in the bidirectional exchange program.

Presenting at BMES and ASTMH Conference

I recently visited the United States to attend both the BMES (Biomedical Engineering Society) Conference on October 12, 2022 in San Antonio, TX, and the ASTMH (American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene) Conference on October 28, 2022 in Seattle, WA. My colleague Padraic Casserly, the University of Ibadan Design Studio Manager, and I were able to present posters on our collaborative work with a non-contact hand washing device and a QR code check-in system, both designed at the University of Ibadan.

During our presentation, we answered questions and listened to feedback. Academics from various backgrounds offered their insights on both the non-contact hand washing device (a rechargeable device that dispenses soap and water) and the QR code check-in system (an online database system). Their comments confirmed the importance of the innovations we presented. And they also provided feedback on ways to improve the designs, which was helpful and motivating.

To have colleagues, including fellow African colleagues, show interest in our designs and make positive comments were inspiring to our product development teams, who had worked on the two prototypes we presented at the conference

Our presence at both conferences also provided the opportunity to check out other research projects as well, thereby generating new research ideas.

Pictured above: Olusola Oke presenting his design and poster

Being a part of the conference was both informative and expository; there were opportunities to meet potential investors who took a keen interest in the research being presented and are excited to share contacts to create connections for immediate or future collaborations. It was exciting to meet graduate and undergraduate students from various universities worldwide. We also met researchers in the medical and healthcare space from around the world and shared the challenges faced during research, our motivations behind our research, and the passion that drives our research. All these encounters were inspiring.

Creating a prototype iteration at the OEDK at Rice University

A highlight of my visit was building a higher-fidelity prototype of our non-contact handwashing device. We got to work on our prototype at the Rice University Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), which was amazing! The OEDK is a design studio equipped with tools and equipment for prototyping, including high-fidelity prototyping equipment, such as machining tools, 3D printers, laser cutters, and electronics prototyping equipment. Using the available resources, Padraic and I made a new quality 3D print of the research project we presented at the Seattle ASTMH Conference. The positive feedback we received from the Rice360 staff on the hand-washing device was nice to receive.

We look forward to having some of the same high-fidelity equipment at our design studio in 2023.

Pictured above: 3D printed non-contact hand washing device prototype, designed by researchers at the UI design studio

The Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) provides a space for undergraduate students majoring in bioengineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, civil and environmental engineering, computational and applied mathematics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, materials science and nanoengineering, mechanical engineering and statistics to design, prototype and deploy solutions to real-world engineering challenges. To create the full circle of real-world experience that has societal impact, interdisciplinary teams tackle problems proposed by industry and partners in the Texas Medical Center and abroad.

Visit to Various Maker Spaces/Design Studios

The four-week visit provided us opportunities to tour various maker spaces and design studios around Houston, Texas, USA: the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) at Rice University, the ION District lab and TXRX Labs maker space in Houston, and the T-Mobile Tech Experience Center in Seattle. Seeing these maker spaces inspires our work at the UI Design Studio.

The Ion

The Ion is a 266,000 sq. ft. creative office building is designed to bring Houston’s entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities into collaborative office spaces and programs, creating a community and home for advancing diverse knowledge, teams, technologies, and products that propel our world forward.


TXRX is Houston’s Non-Profit Makerspace. They seek out opportunities to learn and create a

 diverse network of creators, artists, and inventors coupled with tools and knowledge, enabling dreams to become a reality. They teach people of all ages and backgrounds the skills they need to build a future full of novelty and inspiration.

Photo left: Padraic Casserly, Jasmine Nejad, & Olusola Oke touring maker space at the Ion District

Photo right: Padraic Casserly, Grant Belton, Olusola Oke, Jasmine Nejad, & Ashley Taylor touring the Ion District

Lessons learned during the visit

  • Partnering with industry and faculty is important for the sustainability of the activities of the Design Studio
  • Engaging with clinicians and medical personnel in hospitals helps with understanding their needs and encourages students to design hardware or software to meet those needs
  • Creating a platform where big organizations can serve as patrons for design studio programs
  • Providing a wide variety of tools and prototyping equipment at the laboratory leads to a successful Design Studio

Global Health Course Presentation at Rice University

Padraic and I had an opportunity to present a lecture in Rice’s Global Health Technology Course to a class of about 100 students. We introduced the students to the work we do at the UI Design Studio in Nigeria, how it started, and where we are in its development. We also presented the hand-washing device. The students were fascinated and expressed interest while asking questions at the end of the presentation.

Olusola Oke presenting on University of Ibadan design studio innovations to students at Rice University

Strengthening relationships with colleagues

My visit was also filled with meeting many wonderful colleagues outside of work and visiting some historical sites around San Antonio, Houston, and Seattle. Rice360 is blessed with a pool of hardworking, organized, dedicated, and friendly staff who made our weeklong visit memorable – many of which I had only met previously virtually. All these experiences would not have been possible without the unwavering support of the Rice360 and NEST360 teams both in the US and Nigeria.

Rice360 Global Health Fellows eating lunch with Padraic Casserly and Olusola Oke

I want to drop my pen here by saying Gracias!

– Olusola Oke, Ass. Design Studio Manager, NEST360 Nigeria,
University of Ibadan,