Students present engineering solutions to societal problems at speaking contest

Tine Liu
September 12, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On Wednesday, Sept. 7, more than 200 people gathered together in Kern Auditorium for the College of Engineering’s fall 2016 Leonhard Center Speaking Contest.

The biannual contest provides a platform for undergraduate engineering students to present their solutions to societal problems. It is also a perfect opportunity for students to showcase their professional public speaking and communication skills.

Eight student finalists presented about topics such as eye disease treatment (retinitis pigmentosa), rocket science development, ecosystem maintenance and skyscraper construction.

Among the contestants who gave original and well-executed presentations, Adam Cheskey, a junior in aerospace engineering, took first place with his talk on rocket science advancement. His professional delivery and great sense of humor stood out from other contestants and got him the most votes.

“Presenting my work to people who are not in my field is definitely one of the biggest challenges. You have to keep a balance between the cool fun parts about the project and the super in-depth technical part,” said Cheskey.

Additional standouts in the competition included second place winners, biomedical engineering sophomore Constance Gerstle and chemical engineering junior Faizan Siddiquie, and People’s Choice winner Chengsi Chen, a senior in civil and environmental engineering.

“It is really good practice,” said Gerstle, “especially knowing that when you go out into the real world, you will be giving presentations to business people, investors, etc. You have to get used to giving ideas to a variety of different audiences.”

Throughout the semester, all the contestants went through one-on-one mentorship with Undergraduate Teaching and Research Experiences in Engineering (Utree) members to improve their delivery skills.

For many students, the contest helped them gain a lot more confidence while delivering speeches. They also saw a significant increase in their professionalism after going through detailed training under Utree mentorship.

“I learned that it’s really important to not look at the audience as a whole, but to pick some of them out individually. That helps you to relax and not over exaggerate things in your head, because most of the time nobody notices your nervousness, except you,” said contestant Elena Gowdy, a junior in architectural engineering.

Other presenters included electrical engineering junior Basmah Alzayer, chemical engineering junior Seth Dugan and biomedical engineering junior Meghan Glaviano.

The fall 2016 Leonhard Center Speaking Contest was sponsored by Oshkosh Corporation, a subsidiary of JLG Industries that designs and builds the world’s toughest specialty truck bodies, military vehicle, airport fire apparatus and access equipment.

  • Chengsi Chen presents during the Leonhard Center Speaking Contest

    Chengsi Chen delivers a presentation during the fall 2016 Leonhard Center Speaking Contest, held Sept. 7 in Kern Auditorium.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated September 14, 2016