ECE ILLINOIS alumnae develop emergency notification device at CIE
Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS
- Parikh and Kabaghe spent the summer at the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE), which helps build new startups through expert mentoring sessions and use of invaluable resources.
- Anansi is able to react for the user, who may be in too much shock to have the sense of mind to blow a whistle or call 911.
- Kabaghe and Parikh hope to build Anansi into a product that is used by women on all college campuses to protect against attacks.
With a growing national concern of sexual assault on college campuses, ECE ILLINOIS attendee Nikita Parikh and Chuma Kabaghe (BSCompE ’15) are developing a device to help keep women safe.Anansi is a personal safety band that people wear on their wrists that is able to monitor the wearer’s fight or flight senses. If the bodily function crosses a certain threshold, then the band will automatically alert the authorities in order to provide the user with help.
Parikh and Kabaghe spent the summer at the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) at the University of Chicago, which helps build new startups through expert mentoring sessions and use of invaluable resources. They’re working to develop their idea into a startup company.
Launched in 2012, CIE accepts only 10 potential startups every summer for an opportunity to work in a space dedicated to helping the teams succeed by providing workshops, speakers and vibrant community to entrepreneurs.
The impact Anansi could make is one of the factors that helped it gain entry into CIE. Kabaghe said the band is able to react for the user, who may be in too much shock to have the sense of mind to blow a whistle or call 911. She initially had the idea to pursue a project like this after falling off her long board.
“The interesting part was that I knew I was falling but I couldn’t stop myself,” Kabaghe said. “This happens in a lot of situations where a person knows what’s going to happen but can’t react quickly enough. We want to be able to give people a resource that will react for them in situations where they are in danger.”
Parikh and Kabaghe, along with Bauyrzhan Yermagambetov (BSEE '15), originally designed the device for ECE 445, Senior Design, during the spring 2015 semester. Parikh specialized in the hardware aspect, which involved designing the sensors and measurements. Kabaghe, on the other hand, has more software expertise that was crucial for devised the algorithms used in Anansi.
After graduation, Parikh and Kabaghe decided wanted to turn their class project into an actual company, and with the help of Professor Scott Carney, they have been afforded the opportunity to do just that.
At CIE, Parikh found mentorship sessions instrumental as she grows as an entrepreneur and creates a plan on how to eventually reach the market.
“My first conversation ended up being an intense back and forth that got me thinking deeply about what our business is,” Parikh said. “We had our own strategies for how we wanted to penetrate the market. They helped us reassess how we are going to approach that challenge.”
At the conclusion of the summer, Kabaghe took a step back from the project to start her job at Microsoft, but still plans to be heavily involved in major decisions with the startup moving forward. Parikh decided to pursue the project full time.
Kabaghe and Parikh hope to build Anansi into a product that is used by women on all college campuses to protect against attacks. Both are confident that with the skills they developed at Illinois, both technical and entrepreneurial, their goal is certainly attainable.
“A question I was asked often was ‘why did you pick the University of Illinois?’” Parikh said. “My answer at the time used to be some variation of ‘Oh, it’s just a really good school.’ Looking back on campus, I am so glad to have been there has helped me build the confidence to start my own business, and that would not have come from anywhere else.”