Student Blog: Emma Anderson

Student Blog: Emma Anderson

Why Informatics?

Emma Anderson

Nov. 13, 2017 — I often get asked, “Why did you choose to study Informatics?” My answer is simple: I want to make technology that helps people.

This summer, I had the opportunity to develop assistive technology as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). My project involved coding an Amazon Alexa skill that connects Orange County seniors with local health services.

In Informatics classes, professors tell us to design with the user in mind. I repeated this notion in the back of my head while designing the Alexa skill. I imagined my grandparents using the program, and I asked myself what I could do to improve the user experience. My mentor, Dr. Mark Bachman, and I met with representatives from the Irvine Health Foundation to discuss strategies to implement the Alexa skill in senior homes. I also attended Amazon Alexa Developer Day  in Los Angeles to learn the ins and outs of speech interface design. By the end of the 10-week fellowship, I designed a skill for Amazon Echo that reminds seniors to take their daily medication, recommends local exercise activities, and reads health advice articles aloud.

My work with Dr. Bachman and UROP will continue well into the school year, and I'm excited to see where the project takes us next. Alexa technology is still new, and my next step is to experiment with devices like the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot.

I'm grateful to go to a school like UCI that empowers me to work on projects of real-world value. The Informatics curriculum emphasizes the people side of technology, and I'm proud to apply these teachings to my research and give back to the community through my code.

Emma Anderson is a sophomore pursuing a B.S. in Informatics at UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Computer Sciences.