Sophomore Wins Engineering Presentation Contest

Mechanical engineering major Adrian Rodriguez recently won an engineering contest that recognizes outstanding speaking and presentation skills. Rodriguez won the Institution of Engineering & Technology’s regional Present Around the World competition on March 28 in Los Angeles, and will move on to the next level of competition this summer in Trinidad and Tobago.

Rodriguez, who is from Pasadena, said he’s not comfortable with public speaking. But when he heard about the contest and the potential trip to Trinidad, he decided to try. Over two months, he devised an engineering product — a re-engineered chain ring for a bicycle to improve peddling efficiency — and worked on his presentation.

The contest doesn’t reward the invention, only how the contestant presents it.

“I was really out of my comfort zone,” Rodriguez said. “I’m OK in small groups, but I need to practice presenting to larger groups. That’s important as an engineer. You can have the greatest idea, but if you can’t explain it to people no one will know about it.”

While working in the lab, friends often stopped and asked questions. “That was helpful to practice explaining it,” he said. “I had to get the concept across in simple terms. All of my friends really helped with that.”

The 19-year-old wowed the judges, beating competitors who had more engineering experience.

Judges were impressed by “his knowledge and understanding of the topic he chose and the commercial considerations,” said Richard Tregaskes, chairman of the IET’s Southern California Local Network. “Adrian is quiet and introverted. But the whole purpose of Present Around the World is to give young engineers and potential engineers the confidence to speak up. It’s all about communication.”

Rodriguez said his Loyola Marymount University education is helping shape his approach to engineering studies. One reason he chose the school was because the mission statement encourages responsible citizenship.

“I remember it said something about using your knowledge for others,” he said. “As an engineer you want to be constructive in helping people do things easier or better, and I think that’s exciting.”