In 2018, Pumps & Pipes returned to the Houston Methodist Research Institute in the Texas Medical Center. We welcomed 254 science enthusiasts and innovators from across medical, aerospace, energy, and academic specialties to listen to talks from 28 speakers. Attendees learned how dogs could help ___ sniff out oil spills or mosquito-breeding habitats, saw a live feed from Kennedy Space Center, and learned about an experiment bound for the International Space Station to explore fundamental questions about biofilm formation and microbe-induced corrosion of oil pipelines. Dr. Carol O’Donnell, Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Science Education Center, and Gabriella Rowe, CEO of Station Houston, encouraged attendees to explore new frontiers in education. We took P&P into the operating room, live streaming a heart surgery case from the Houston Methodist operating rooms next door. Between presentations, attendees donned 3D glasses to experience a surgeon’s view of a coronary artery bypass and aortic valve replacement operation in the KARL STORZ 3D Heart Theater and took virtual reality trips inside the human brain and to the International Space Station.
Just upstairs from the main event, 50 high-school students from around Houston took a deep dive an interactive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) program. The students and their mentors (including STEAM professionals from astronauts to physicians) enjoyed their own P&P talks and hands-on activities including the DaVinci Surgical Robotic Arms, a Code Blue demo, a b heart perfusion machine, and a geology/oil and gas exhibit. Students broke up into six teams for the Ideathon Challenge, wherein they had to use simple materials such paper, cardboard, string, tape and straws to solve engineering problems. The challenges included building a water craft able to hold 25 pennies without sinking, a zipline that carried a ping-pong ball from from top to bottom in under four seconds, and a paper table strong enough to hold a heavy book. They worked with their mentors and peers and presented their designs before a panel of 3 judges. The winning teams were led by Dr. Larry DeLucas (Aerospace Corporation) (newspaper table challenge), Dr. Lance Black (TMCX) and Deb Rembert (McKesson) (Zipline challenge), Tom Lindsey and Deborah Mansfield (Watercraft challenge). Between sessions, STEAM students mingled with the P&P attendees, making valuable connections and learning more about careers in science and technology.
The event concluded with a networking reception in the George and Barbara Bush Atrium of Houston Methodist’s new Walter Tower. It was a fun opportunity to strike up conversations and build the connections for future P&P collaborations.