Ingenuity 2019 Captures the Spirit of Innovation

Keynote speaker Jennifer Leuer shares five “ingenuity” lessons.

June 17, 2019 - The idea of innovation often conjures up images of a light bulb going off in someone’s head, but not for Jennifer Leuer, president of Partner Solutions at Experian Consumer Services. In delivering the keynote address at Ingenuity 2019, she explained that ingenuity is more about iterations than epiphanies. This was the first of five lessons she shared at the seventh annual celebration of influential alumni and innovative students from UCI’s Samueli School of Engineering and Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). As she discussed efforts to create a “culture for ingenuity” at Experian, she outlined the need for incrementalism, team work, diversity, customer outreach and curiosity.

After talking about “the grit of working through the iterative cycle of innovation,” she turned to the importance of teamwork. “A committed team will always outperform an individual genius,” she asserted. She also noted the value of building diversity into that team: “Diversity of thought, background, gender, ethnicity, communication style… different viewpoints create a richer environment.” Another significant viewpoint is that of the customer. Leuer challenged people to meet with their clients, because it leads to better product ideas and helps you fill a need. Finally, she pressed people to be inquisitive. “The power is in the question,” she said, explaining that you don’t have to have all of the answers. In fact, she concluded by reminding everyone that “we are always constantly learning” and invited people to later share their own thoughts on ingenuity with her.

Dean Marios Papaefthymiou and ICS Ingenuity Award winner Vince Steckler ’80.

ICS Dean Marios Papaefthymiou then took the stage to introduce the Ingenuity Awards, given to dedicated and influential individuals who have had a tremendous impact on the Schools of ICS and Engineering. Papaefthymiou presented the 2019 ICS Ingenuity Award to Vince Steckler, who received his B.S. in both math and ICS. The ICS Hall of Fame inductee is CEO of Avast, a company he helped transform from a sub-$20 million regional business into a $750 million full-service global security provider seeking to make the internet safe from cyberattacks.

Dean Gregory Washington and Engineering Ingenuity Award winner Jai Hakhu.

Gregory Washington, dean of the Samueli School of Engineering, then presented the 2019 Engineering Ingenuity Award to Jai Hakhu, an Engineering Hall of Fame inductee. Hakhu is the executive corporate officer, chairman and CEO of HORIBA Instruments Inc. of United States of America and France and is the executive corporate officer of HORIBA Ltd. in Japan. HORIBA is a worldwide manufacturer of diagnostic and test instrumentation.

Informatics Professor Hadar Ziv, who has been teaching the capstone project class for more than a decade and is also a proud UCI alumnus, then introduced the student projects, which he noted represented a diverse range of topics. He explained that the selected presentations cover everything from “very serious engineering projects, potentially affecting life and death situations” to “fun and educational games” and other software and mobile applications.

A student representative from each team gave a brief project presentation. The ICS teams were as follows:

The ICS Rogue Two team with their web-based mobile application.
  • Cyrano.UCI created an interactive demo to showcase the capabilities of Cyrano, a company that uses natural language processing and sentiment analysis to provide organizations with key actionable metrics they can use to help foster meaningful conversations with their clients (Nessa Valentine Scott, Samantha Paige Rollins, David Daniel Brown, Tayler Nielsen, Thoamas Huang and Sean Victory).
  • Not Fast Just Furious developed Zivbase, a public website to improve recruitment efforts and to showcase projects for the capstone courses and a web application that acts as a centralized archive for information about the teams, projects and interactions with contacts (William Khaine, Mike Pare, Jacky Luo and Nick Yu).
  • Rogue Two designed a web-based mobile application for remote management of ID TECH proprietary payment processing devices, for use by ID TECH clients to track and troubleshoot their deployed devices (Carlos Cortes-Gutierrez, Claudia Cota, Ramon Garcia, Parker Scott and Lindsey Whisler).
  • Seal Team Six created an interactive rehabilitation application/game for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (Ara Matthew Ghiulezian, Edwin Geovanny Lopez, Daniel Shigeru Nakasone and Shen Peng).
  • Taylor and the Swifts developed a graphical change management system that handles bounced emails for SendGrid to ensure accountability and traceability (Kristen DeVore, Joseph Bustamante, Cody Han, Khuong Tiet, Gevorg Gabrielyan and Kenny Matsudo).
  • Team DZYN worked on Project Izza, an online registration system created for Camp Izza, a summer daycare camp (Jose E. Farias, Noah Kenji Khrihara, Jessica Hieu Nguyen, Willy Saronamihardja and Ryan Zahrae).

The Engineering teams were as follows:

Engineering’s collegiate rocketry team.
  • CenSyn developed wireless brain-monitoring systems for instant assessment of neurological disorders (Ayushi Patel, Trevor Silence, Quinn Korematsu, Hengji Chen and Anirudh Bhushan).
  • HemaDycamics created a patent-pending product that will be the first handheld device capable of providing much-desired information to physicians to aid in blood-flow visualization at a reduced cost (Adrian Bahani, Emil Lundqvist, Steven Chang, Stephanie Pascua, Natasha Palamuttam and Dian Song).
  • Multi-Wing Rotary Propulsion Engine (MWRPE) came up with an innovative design that uses a fluid mechanism discovered through the observation of flapping wings to maximize thrust through a fluid medium (Nathan Cabezut and Fernando Pablo Quevedo).
  • Sign Language Translator designed a glove that translates sign language into text and speech in real time (Brandon Lo, Harshithaa Mohanraj, Brandon Ngo and Daniel Phan).
  • UCI Rocket Project is a collegiate rocketry team that is developing liquid propellant rockets (Brian Fox, Srinath Gopalakrishnan Myriam Khalil, Sergio Sandoval, Matthew Polcyn, Caitlyn Copeland, Ching-Hao Yu, Simon Atkins, Jorge Karam, Amy Yee, Mariam McCloskey and Jonathan Palafoutas).

After the presentations, students conducted demos during a reception set up on the outside patio of the Beckman Center (additional photos are available online). Attendees were treated to a hands-on experience of ingenuity, with iterative teamwork and diversity on display and plenty of time for both attendees and team members to ask questions.

— Shani Murray 

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