The Write Stuff: Four Undergraduate Engineering Students Win Writing Contest

Esmeralda Martinez, Briana Peterson, Abigail Rosas and Alina Vizcaya Reyes

May 23, 2022 – Four UC Irvine engineering undergraduate students won the 2021-2022 UCI Undergraduate Writing Contest for Upper Division Writing: Best Public or Professional Writing. Sponsored by the UCI Office of the Campus Writing & Communication Coordinator, the Composition Program, Humanities Core and Department of English, the contest honors excellent writing across the UCI campus. The winners were celebrated at an event on May 12 in Humanities Gateway 1030.

The award-winning engineering students, all seniors, are Esmeralda Martinez, civil engineering; Briana Peterson, biomedical engineering; Abigail Rosas, chemical engineering; and Alina Vizcaya Reyes, materials science and engineering.

Samueli School lecturer Patrick Hong taught the students in his course ENGR190W Communications in the Professional World. The assignment was to plan, research, write and present a collaborative proposal for a technical solution that solves a real-world problem. The proposed technology needed to fall into the wearable, portable or Internet of Things categories and be completely new or make improvements on an existing product.

“While the technical proposal demonstrated writing excellence, it is even more remarkable considering this project was completed by a team in which each member is from a different engineering discipline: biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, and materials science and engineering,” noted Hong.

Patrick Hong

“To produce one technical proposal of such detail where every part of the content is cohesively aligned from the beginning to the end is already challenging for one person, let alone from a group of students with different majors and time commitments. Each member in this project has demonstrated their respective substantive contributions and excellence in teamwork, additional learning outcomes assessed for the course, and essential soft skills needed for success in the professional world.”

The winning paper, titled “EzBreathe,” proposed an inhaler attachment and integrated smartphone app designed to help people manage their asthma more effectively. “We chose to address asthma because it’s a condition that many people suffer from, including some of our group members,” said Peterson. “After doing initial research into common treatments, it was clear that the current solutions were inadequate.”

Martinez added, “We understood that technologies to help with asthma management are minimal, so we investigated what could be developed. We came up with a design of an inhaler attachment, which connects to a phone application, that completes assessments of the user's asthma and guides the patient through better use of the inhaler.”

By integrating a spirometer and nitric oxide level measurements, patients would be able to regularly assess their lung function and any indication of airway swelling using the user-friendly app. The app would also include clear and concise results, tips for correct breathing techniques to inhale the prescribed amount of medicine, and reminders to help patients stay consistent with treatment and assessment. The Asthma Therapy Assessment Questionnaire (ATAQ), a standard self-administered test for asthma patients, would also be integrated into the app to evaluate patients’ asthma control and management.

Esmeralda Martinez, Alina Vizcaya Reyes, Briana Peterson and Abigail Rosas and  hold their award for 2021-2022 UCI Undergraduate Writing Contest for Upper Division Writing: Best Public or Professional Writing.

All four students expressed gratitude for the recognition.

Rosas said, “As engineering students who spend more time solving complex computational problems than writing essays, winning a writing award was quite an honor. Being paired alongside such bright individuals like Bri, Esme and Alina was a great experience, and I am delighted to see our paper receive recognition.”

Peterson noted the importance of communication for engineers. “Oftentimes, writing and communication skills are overlooked, but they are one of the most important takeaways from engineering education,” she said. “Receiving this award is encouraging because it reminds me how impactful writing can be.”

“Communication is important for engineers because, without it, every calculation or design we create would linger on the paper,” Martinez said. “Ideas would not come to fruition, and nothing would be built. Communicating thoughts or ideas may be difficult for engineers because we spend most of the time designing and understanding how things work. However, practicing delivering presentations and preparing articles or documents allows us to learn how to explain our thoughts and ideas.”

“As an engineering student, I feel very thankful and honored to have received recognition from UCI’s Office of the Campus Writing and Communication Coordinator,” added Vizcaya Reyes. “It’s a very unique experience that has shed light on the importance of effective communication skills regardless of one’s field of study.”

– Tonya Becerra