Three cheers for a treehouse

A mighty treehouse goes up around a mighty oak outside Rice's Ryon Lab.

A mighty treehouse goes up around a mighty oak outside Rice’s Ryon Lab. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Rice freshmen design and build treehouse outside Ryon Lab

The most unique student engineering project of the year may also be the easiest to see: a treehouse built by freshmen just outside Ryon Lab.

The structure came together in the first full week of April when, with all the pieces prepared and all the approvals granted, the team finished what it had started in the fall.

The students — Kevin Trejo, Jordan Wheeler, Philip King, Nathalie Phillips and Nikhil Rajesh — were following through on an idea first generated by an engineering student several years ago.

“The idea to build a treehouse came up when we were in a drought, so we waited,” said Ann Saterbak, a professor in the practice of bioengineering education who advised the team with engineering lecturer Matthew Wettergreen. “Basically it’s been an idea on our master list of projects for many years.”

Students rigged for safety work at the treehouse site.

A students rigged for safety works at the treehouse site.

With guidelines on regions to avoid from Facilities Engineering and Planning, the team walked the campus last fall to choose candidate trees and decided on an oak not far from the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK). “It turned out that the relation between the tree and the OEDK was tantamount to getting it done because we had to get all our tools and supplies back and forth,” Saterbak said. “It’s probably the nicest tree closest to the OEDK.”

“The point was to make it a fun place for students to be,” she said. “We’ll know we succeeded when we see students begin to use it.”



About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.