Elevator Pitch for CCE Fellows Presentation

When it comes to conserving art, prevention is key. Rather than focusing on the restoration of art pieces, today’s museums keep damage from happening in the first place by strictly controlling the artwork’s environment and safely handling pieces.

Given the increasing transit of art pieces between different museums and private collections, as well as the typical flow of objects between archive and exhibit spaces, storage within the museum is becoming ever more dynamic. As artwork arrives and departs, conservators and preparators are forced to move pieces within and between storage facilities frequently. Intra-museum transport is of greater concern than ever, since every occasion in which a piece is handled represents a risk of damage.

At the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, preparators protect two-dimensional artwork during short-distance transport through the use of travel frames that follow a basic, universal structure and design: the art object appears to be floating in a shallow wooden box, attached such that nothing touches the surface or edges of the piece.

However, because travel frames must be custom-fabricated for each piece and are made of non-reusable materials, they are effectively single-use objects.  While empty travel frames could be stored for future use, they take up too much of the already limited space at the museum’s storage facilities, so they often have to be discarded. Furthermore, it takes a significant amount of time for museum preparators to build a travel frame and secure an art piece to it. Unfortunately, these factors make for an inefficient and ultimately wasteful system.

Hence the challenge posed to us by the MFAH: how can we redesign travel frames so as to optimize resources, space, labor, and time? Using a multidisciplinary and design-based approach, our team, under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Wettergreen,  has developed working prototypes of solutions that can be implemented not only at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, but throughout the museum industry.

2010 Summer Internship – Call for Applications

An exciting fellowship is being offered in the summer of 2010 for Rice Undergraduates of any discipline. The program, The Engineering and Design for Art and Artifact Conservation Program, provides an opportunity to spend the summer working in a multi-disciplinary team applying the design process to a pressing problem in the art world. This program is a collaboration between the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, the Center for Civic Engagement, Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, Rice Alliance and the Museum of Fine Arts – Houston.

Student will work closely with the Museum of Fine Arts to develop custom archival storage solutions for priceless antiquities and modern works of art.  The summer fellowship will include class instruction, collaborative and individual design work. Over the course of the summer, students will write and present a business plan and a research poster describing the work. Students will learn a problem solving design approach informed by the humanities and engineering, rapid prototyping, entrepreneurship, and online collaboration and archive methods.

Undergraduate students in any discipline or department are eligible and invited to apply. This is a full-time 9 week summer program commencing in June providing a $4,000 stipend and a designation as Fellow in the Center for Civic Engagements Summer Fellows Program and Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.

To apply for this internship, please email a resume, transcripts, the names of 2 references and a brief statement of why this internship is of interest to mattheww@rice.edu. Applications are due May 1st. For more information, please contact mattheww@rice.edu.

EDAAC Call for Summer Fellowship Applications

The Engineering and Design for Art and Artifact Conservation Program will be announcing their call for fellowship applications soon. Please check back to learn about 2010’s collaborative fellowship.
The Engineering and Design for Art and Artifact Conservation (EDAAC) program is a multi-disciplinary intensive summer program for Rice undergraduates in arts/humanities and engineering/sciences. Students work closely with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to develop custom solutions for pressing problems in the art world, specifically the preservation and storage of priceless antiquities to pieces of modern art. This program demonstrates a curricular and mindset shift at Rice University and in the community, one that acknowledges the contributions that disparate fields can make in projects with shared goals. Fittingly, this program is a collaborative project from the School of Engineering, School of Humanities, the Center for Civic Engagement and Rice Alliance.

ENGI/HUMA 240: Engineering and Design for Art Conservation

Rice University – School of Engineering / School of Humanities
Fall 2009, Humanities 119, TR 9:25 – 10:40 AM
Instructor: Dr. Matthew Wettergreen
Email: mwettergreen@rice.edu
Office: OEDK
Office Phone: 713.825.4613
Office Hours: TR 12:00 – 4:00pm and by appointment

Course Description
The objective of this course is to apply the engineering design process to pressing problems in art conservation. One half of this course will focus on the history and practices of art conservation at modern museums.  The other half of this course will utilize the engineering design process to apply the art conservation knowledge to develop innovative storage solutions for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Each week, students will be briefed on a specific issue relating to the art conservation world, starting with the history of conservation leading up through modern times. Students will be given a unique and private insight to the inner workings of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, including behind-the-scenes access to their storage and conservation facilities. Museum officials will discuss the hidden portions of the museum and the day-to-day of the modern museum. Art storage experts will address the handling and storage of our cultural heritage. Students will learn the properties of materials used in art and the properties of materials used in its storage and preservation. Local conservators will guest lecture, providing unique perspectives on conservation principles in practice. A living artist will provide a perspective of their background, creative process and conservation concerns for their art. Finally, students will learn preventive conservation in long-term art ownership and cultural heritage disaster and damage preparation.

Each week’s art conservation topic corresponds with a step in the Engineering Design Process, a decision based system for developing new products or solutions. One case study will be presented per week that highlights the relationships between the art world and the engineering world. The art conservation lectures and the case study will provide the framework for a semester-long project where student teams will address their own unique conservation issue. Each team will select a piece from the MFAH’s private collection and then develop an innovative storage solution for that piece, culminating in a product design presented at the end of the semester. Through the engineering design process student teams will gain an understanding the problem in context, learn the current solutions, develop design criteria, brainstorm solutions and develop a product. In class activities that foster increased creativity and non-traditional thinking will help to arrive at unique solutions for the semester project.

Students will apply a digital workflow over the course of the semester, resting upon web 2.0 tools to transparently document and research the topic of conservation. Students will have their own blog where they will post recaps of the week’s information, progress reports for their semester long project and relevant information pertaining to art conservation.

Rice Alliance Life Science Technology Venture Forum Discussion Recap

Our team recap of the Rice Alliance Life Science Technology Venture Forum generated several discussion points. Here’s a brief transcript that highlights the personal observations about the Technology Venture Forum.

What was one thing you learned from attending the Rice Alliance Life Science Technology Venture Forum?

Caleb Brown: Venture Capital (VC) firms fund companies at different stages of the growth process. Finding the right VC is important including knowing what types of deals they are interested in or ones they would not waste their time/capital on.

Rhodes Coffey: I learned what an angel is: a venture capitalist individual or group that supports start-ups that are in their very early stages of development. One such example is the Houston Angel Network that supports start-up companies.

What distinguished the good companies from the bad?

Kristi Day: One of the best companies was iShoe because I actually remember the name, what the company does, and the presentation. The name suggests what the product pertains to, so it’s not vague and forgettable. The presentation was easy to listen to, and kept my attention.

The worst? I don’t remember. I completely forgot the name, their product, their service, etc. They blended in, seemed the same as all the others.

Nicole Garcia: iShoe was definitely the best company that presented. She mentioned everything in a fast, clear and knowledgeable manner, as well as display the confidence in her presentation which represents the confidence that her company has in their product.

What new perspective did you gain about business plans/elevator pitches or creating a business?

Rhodes Coffey: New perspective about business plan/elevator pitch: Presentation matters more than content, time is of the essence, Present the most important things now and discuss later—capture the VC’s interest and elaborate later

Kristi Day: I realized that being able to relate to what they were talking about, or get a visual picture of how it works, was really important. If I had some type of mental picture of what it was or who would use it, I felt like I actually understood it to an extent.

Independent of a grasp over the technological aspects of a company, how could a pitch pique your interest?

Caleb Brown: Making slides that are visually appealing and accessible to audience members of all educational backgrounds—not just life sciences.

Kristi Day: If a clear, widespread need or demand for it was demonstrated. If it was unique and new and different, not just a slight improvement to something else.

Nicole Garcia: If the audience does not know anything about what you are selling, to make it more interesting you should simply cut the jargon.

After seeing these examples, if this summer’s program developed into a real company, what must be taken into account when pitching the company?

Caleb Brown: Let the audience know what sets your company apart from all other similar products on the market and how could your product impact the market.

Rhodes Coffey: Emphasize how this is a breakthrough technology and would gear to the available market. Discuss how this is better than previous technology, project how much money would be needed to make this profitable, discuss the marketing team in place and for the future, gear toward certain VC’s, emphasize how archaic and time-consuming the storage solutions are now and how our technology would change art conservation and storage for good.

Kristi Day: I think a wide application would need to be demonstrated. When I think of “museums” that doesn’t seem like a very large market. It would somehow have to be solving a problem that seemed like a big, widespread problem, or made it seem like people would really want it.

Nicole Garcia: For our specific project, I believe it would be best to make it a product that is needed. Emphasize the current problems in the museums, and the possible damage that no solution would lead to, as well as how this problem would effect everyone.

Rice Alliance Life Science Technology Venture Forum

Today we attended Rice Alliance’s Life Science Technology Venture Forum. The Life Science Technology Venture Forum provides a learning atmosphere where burgeoning companies could present a progress report to investors and to explore funding options. This is a prestigious event to be included in as Rice Alliance goes out of its way to select a top list of companies doing business in the sector as well as the leading venture capital firms. In the morning we saw business plans from companies like Microtransponder and Nano3D Biosciences. In the afternoon we saw multiple elevator pitches by companies like iShoe, Lono Medical Systems, Respiratory Research Inc. and Thrombovision.

The forum provided the EDAAC team a great opportunity to shift our focus from one of engineering and design to exercising our business minds. Both the business plan presentations and the elevator pitches were enlightening to the group and without a firm grasp of the technologies involved we were able to assess each presentation simply upon its merit as a presentation itself. The criteria that merged as most important was: presenter’s energy, focal points, flow, and opening/closing.

The highlight of the conference were the two keynote speakers: Leighton Read, MD of Alloy Ventures and in the afternoon Alex Suh of California Technology Ventures. Both provided perspectives paramount to getting in and out of the funding cycle provided by Venture Capital and also how to think like an entrepreneur.

Dr. Read’s presentation could have been entitled “How to run your business on the Cowboy Code” as he went through the steps of being a cowboy and tied that to business actions. His tip of “do what has to be done” provided a nice segue to discuss the importance of identifying and acting on trends, waves and constants in business services and investing. His note  “ride for the brand” addressed how loyalty can affect your career, both positively and negatively.

Alex Suh’s presentation peeled back the mystique of running a VC firm leaving a realistic cut-and-dry view of the relationship between startups and VCs. In his top ten list of “Reasons a VC says “no” to funding a company” he criticized the lack of preparation of some companies in both their business plans and background research. Several other points alluded to naivete that can cloud the projections of startups, for example, statements like “we will be profitable in two years” or “we don’t have competition we’re so superior” that demonstrate a lack of experience and realism.

We followed up the Forum with a frank discussion of what we learned and how we would act in a professional . Our personal observations were nothing surprising, mainly that companies spent too little time on their presentations which manifested itself in many ways. First, vague presentations left viewers with a dim idea of the strengths of the companies technology, market strengths and financial model. Overly technical presentations obscured the brilliance of the company, bewildering the audience and leaving them wondering why the company was superior. Too many presentations suffered from laconic or low-energy delivery. Our final conclusion was that speech writers should at least be consulted because there seems to be a low correlation between business acumen and presentation skills.

Return tomorrow for a recap discussion of our individual impressions of the Life Science Technology Venture Forum.