Leung Student Venture Fund Award

View the Projects Created from the Leung Student Venture Fund Award

Eligibility and Application Process


ECE students, individually or in teams of up to four students, at least one being in ECE, may apply for funds up to a maximum of $2,000 for use in accomplishing projects beyond normal classroom activities. These projects may be done as part of a normal class, but should in some way be extraordinary for that class. Projects may also be part of an individual study supervised by a faculty member or may be done within the context of a student organization.

Use of funds:

Funds may be used for material costs, services (e.g. machine shop time), and, in special circumstances, travel.

Application materials:

Students should submit

  1. An abstract describing the project in 200-400 words.
  2. An itemized budget and accompanying budget justification.
  3. A list of deliverables. A final report should always be included in this list.
  4. A timeline.
  5. An outlook for plans beyond the project and long term impact.

Application process:

Materials should be emailed to leungfund@illinois.edu with the subject line "Leung Student Venture Fund."

Applications should be received by the end of the fourth week of the semester for full consideration, but will be reviewed on an ad hoc basis after that and funded contingent on remaining budget.

Dispersal of funds:

Students should obtain supplies through the ECE Supply Center whenever possible. Otherwise, reimbursements will be handled in the ECE Business Office. Orders and receipts should be consistent with the approved budget and will be reviewed. Major changes in budget should be approved by the review committee. Small adjustments in price or specific component choice do not require additional approval.

Leung Award Projects

Leung Award Project winners for 2014-2015
2014-2015 Students

Illinois ECE students get creative with support from Leung Student Venture Fund Award during the 2014-15 school year

Students used support from the Leung Student Venture Fund during the 2014-15 school year to tackle a variety of projects.

Their ideas became realities as they engineered devices for monitoring water in developing countries, helping swimmers train with ease, finding better ways to monitor hospital patients’ heart rates, detecting concussions in athletes, and contacting the authorities in an emergency.

Water System Data Recorder

Adam Brakhane, who graduated in December, started his project with a problem to solve: the town of Marcala, Honduras, has 30,000 residents and a large water system that doesn’t work well.

“The town’s engineers are unable to find a path of preventive maintenance instead of repairing failures,” Brakhane said, and they rely on annual examinations of water pressure, chlorination, and tank levels to check for areas needing repair.

“This is expensive, dangerous, and often unreliable,” he said. “Even so, it is worth it as they are generally able to use that data to make repairs and decisions about operation. However, the positive effect only lasts a few weeks before more adjustments need to be made.”

Using support from the Leung Student Venture Fund, he engineered a solution. His data recorders monitor water pressure, tank depth, chlorine, and other information.

“Each data recorder is synchronized using a precise clock which allows a dispersed system of recorders to record to an SD card at exactly the same time,” he said. “Using this data, local engineers can begin to optimize the water system to reduce water waste and loss. The will also be able to monitor the quality of the water they are providing to their constituents’ after-effects.”

He spent the first four months of 2015 in Honduras, implementing his technology and examining the data.

“Together, we came up with a few cheap ideas on how to improve water system operation based off of the data I helped them collect,” he said. “There's a water-focused NGO in the community, Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario, taking charge of encouraging these changes. I'll keep going back a few times a year to work with ADEC and the municipality, as well.”

He’s completing this work with that local NGO, the International Rural Water Association, as well as Ann-Perry Witmer, a civil engineer who works for Engineering at Illinois.

Ultimate Swim Trainer Xtreme HD

Team members Phillip Lange, Nathan Poland, and Neerav Goswami set out to improve the training experience for competitive swimmers.

Basic underwater lights exist to help swimmers train - but they’re both expensive, and don’t offer many features.

“Our product can both take and record lap times and give underwater visual feedback to up to four swimmers at a time,” they wrote in their final report. “It runs off low-voltage battery power as to mitigate the risk of having any mains voltage near water.” It also has an LCD display for easy use.

Their trainer also includes several different LED colors to allow for more than one person to train in a lane at one time, and RFID tags allow swimmers to train at specific paces.

Their device allows swimmers and coaches visual feedback, but also frees both parties up from counting and timing laps.

Smart Patient Gown and Corvae heart monitoring patch

The team comprised of Michael Luka, Raj Vinjamuri, and Sid Muthal used Leung Student Venture Fund support through two semesters’ worth of iterations of their project, which started as a smart patient gown for monitoring EKG signals in ECE 445, Senior Design, this fall.

That project grew into a startup called Corvae, which focused in on a heart-monitoring patch they hope will streamline the patient-monitoring process for doctors and nurses in hospitals.

The Corvae patch is designed to transmit a color-coded indicator of patient status to represent the severity of action required of health care professionals in real-time. The lightweight device is inserted into a hospital gown, from which it could send information wirelessly through a mobile app directly to doctors, enabling remote care. This allows patients, nurses, and doctors to easily understand the condition and expedite the course of action.

The team won the Lextech Most Marketable Award in Senior Design last fall, and Corvae was a finalist in the Cozad New Venture Competition, an entrepreneurship contest Illinois’ Technology Entrepreneur Center coordinates.

Concussion-Detecting Mouthguard

Students Michael Dietz and Joe Benassi used support from the Leung Student Venture fund as they worked to harness technology to help athletes and coaches respond quickly to concussions. The concept currently works by embedding a chip into the player’s mouthguard, helmet strap, or the helmet itself.

The chip analyzes the player's position and how fast they're going at the time of an impact, then calculates how hard the player was hit and whether the abuse given was enough to warrant checking for a concussion. They’ve turned it into a startup called Sudden Impact Analytics.

The chip will run on a small battery and turns on only when it senses motion and transmits information only when it detects an impact above a certain threshold. There is no need for players to turn the chip on and its limited transmissions mean the battery should last the length of the season.

The team members have bigger plans, too - they’re envisioning an eye-tracking device, which could offer an alert if a user’s eyes aren’t in sync. The athlete would watch a short video or follow a dot on a smart phone, which in turn videotapes the eye movement and measures how much the eyes vary (or are not correlated). That correlation is one of the most accurate methods used in diagnosing a concussion.

The team won second place in the 2015 Cozad New Venture Competition.

Automatic Emergency Notification Wearable

Group members Bauyrzhan “Baur” Yermagambetov, Chuma Kabaghe, and Nikita Parikh used Leung Fund support as they created a wearable device for their project in ECE 445, Senior Design.

The premise: existing devices require the wearer to perform an action - pressing a button or launching an app - for use during an emergency.

“In the event of danger, human cognitive abilities degrade and calling 911, blowing a rape whistle, or pressing an emergency notification button is the last thing on your mind,” they wrote as they described their project.

Their solution: a low-cost, wearable wristband that’s more proactive. It monitors the wearer’s body functions, and watches for signs of “fight or flight” responses. These include increased heart rates, a change in skin conductivity, shaking or tremors, and sudden sounds that could be screaming.

“The device activates an emergency response when unusual changes in these parameters are detected and responds by vibrating for a few seconds to give the user enough time to cancel the signal in case of a false alarm,” the students write. “If the time elapses and the signal is not cancelled, the device calls 911, and sends the user’s location coordinates.”