Rice’s junior and senior classes have named Ann Saterbak a favorite professor, bestowing upon her Rice’s oldest teaching award: the Nicolas Salgo Distinguished Teacher Award. Created in 1966, the award is funded by the Salgo-Noren Foundation.
Saterbak, associate dean of engineering education and a professor in the practice of bioengineering education, has won national and university recognition for her innovative and effective classroom approaches to problem-solving and engineering design..
For 16 years, she has developed and taught undergraduate engineering courses. In 2011, she launched Introduction to Engineering Design, a popular design course for freshmen that challenges them to come up with practical solutions to real-world problems. She often she hears student say they signed up for the course because they want to use power tools and other equipment in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK).
“I think there is some truth to that, because the resources at the OEDK are really fantastic,” Saterbak said. “However, I also think that engineering students are looking for opportunities to work on authentic and meaningful projects.”
Since it is a client-based course, students are working to create a design solution for community members with a real need, she explained.
“To solve these challenges, students apply their STEM knowledge in creative ways,” said Saterbak. “That’s fun!”
The Salgo Award holds special significance for Saterbak. Since most of her students are freshmen and sophomores, it means they valued their experiences enough to recall them as voting juniors and seniors.
Similarly, Saterbak’s most resonating teaching moments are when students make a breakthrough in understanding a system.
“This could look like having an ‘aha!’ moment, getting something to work or realizing that something won’t work,” she said. “In Bioengineering Fundamentals, breakthroughs can be a revision of a model; in Introduction to Engineering Design, breakthroughs can look like getting a critical component in the design to work or realizing that a different solution is needed.”
Saterbak said she also “deeply” enjoys working with teams who commit to finishing projects.
“Through these experiences, I see students develop grit and resilience, which I feel are important skills in life,” Saterbak said. “Also, I am able to really get to know these students in a long-term mentoring relationship.”
In February, Saterbak was elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s College of Fellows for her significant contributions to biomedical engineering education. She is also a fellow of the American Society of Engineering Educators and a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society.
Saterbak has received the Robert G. Quinn Award (2007) and the Theo Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award (2013) from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2011) and the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (2013) and the Department of Bioengineering Teaching Award (2012).
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