University competition provides opportunity for Engineers to increase skills


Photo courtesy of Austin Chan

Engineering students perfect their presentation skills at SpeakUP!, an engineering speaking competition.

By Jessica Bursztynsky

SpeakUP! held their annual engineering speaking competition on April 1.  Engineering Ambassadors, a professional outreach program sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Programs in the College of Engineering, hosted the event.

The competition aims to improve and highlight communication skills among students in the engineering program, where much of the curriculum is focused on mathematics and science.

“The purpose of this speaking competition is to break the stereotype that engineers aren’t good speakers and to show that we can communicate our ideas and research very well and effectively,” said Jessica Cook, sophomore in Engineering and the event’s lead organizer.

During the competition, students presented a seven-minute speech to a board that consisted of four judges: Dr. Jennifer Amos, biological engineering professor and Engineering Ambassadors adviser; Marie-Christine Brunet, College of Engineering assistant dean; Chris Migotsky, College of Engineering academic advisor and coordinator of faculty teaching programs within the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education; and Jason Smith, Monsanto representative.

Because the competition’s sponsor, Monsanto, is a sustainable agriculture company, this year’s prompt was “Engineering a more sustainable future.”

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Monsanto focuses on creating new sustainable ways of providing food so that healthy meals are available to everyone.

“It is an important topic, as we move towards the future, one thing engineers have to deal with is limiting factors,” said Joshua Bi, sophomore in Engineering. “One issue that is contentious is how we, engineers and scientists, will work using limited resources.”

Prior to the competition, Engineering Ambassadors hosted a public speaking workshop that focused on speech organization and presentation slide organization. Students were also introduced to the ambassadors’ assertion-evidence approach, which focuses on including a photo and statement on each presentation slide, intended to help guide the audience.

All of the attendees who completed the workshop were presented with a communication certificate from the College of Engineering.

“Each of us (judges) is going to be filling out an evaluation form. We will award points based on surrounding content, visual aide and presentation delivery,” Amos said. “We look for things like stories, making it more personal and using relatable analogies rather than technical jargon.”

All five engineering students competed to win the competition’s $200 cash prize. The competitors were sophomore Sai Komaragiri, freshman Emilio Rivera, junior Aashay Patel, junior Michael Neal and sophomore Jennifer Marten.

Rivera won the $200 first place prize. His presentation was entitled “Analyzing the benefits of satellite imagery in assuring crop productivity.”

“I thought this was a really cool thing to do,” Rivera said. “I like being able to speak about topics that are actually related to what I’m doing as a student.”

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