Entrepreneurial Resources

Ingenuity Article on ECE

"If you have a dream, it's better to try and start a company and fail than to not try at all," said Whoola's founder Iyer, who is currently working with venture capitalists to hire a seasoned management team to help oversee his company's growth. Iyer appreciates the university's efforts to incubate start-up companies. "Some of the greatest companies got started in a garage," Iyer said. "This university is providing a five-star garage," he added, referring to the TCL, "so anybody who does not think the U of I is doing enough should maybe not be an entrepreneur."

MRM's Peck believes the timing is right for more entrepreneurs to enter the arena. "Students interested in pursuing this kind of a route are going to see tremendous resources begin to come into place over the next few years both on and off campus," predicted Peck.

Design Competitions

Available Grants

1) Leung Fund

Eligibility: ECE Students, individually or in teams of up to 4 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 Store 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.



Advanced E-Team Grants
Grants range from $1,000 to $20,000 and may be used for further development and plans for commercialization of their ideas. Funding can be used for project expenses, legal fees, or student internships. These grants will be renewable for up to three years in declining amounts.


As the consulting arm of the Illinois MBA program, OSBI finds solutions for companies as big Procter & Gamble or as small as technology startups here at the University of Illinois. OSBI conducts 30-40 projects at one time. Clients include General Electric, Dow AgroSciences, Lucent Technologies, Mayo Medical Ventures, and many technology start-ups and commercialization efforts.

If you have an interest in developing your projects further, please use their Contact page to request further information.

Intellectual Property

In the Intellectual Property world, there are four distinct types of safeguards for your ideas: Patents, Copyrights, Trade Secrets, and Trademarks.

  1. PATENTS: A patent is a license by the government that permits its owner to exclude members of the public from making, using, or selling the claimed invention.

    Important things to remember about patents:
    • To receive a patent, the invention must be useful, novel, and unobvious.
    • Disclosure: When an invention is publicly disclosed, inventors have one year to file a patent. Public disclosure means that the invention was seen in a public setting or similarly accessible to the public.
    • Cost: A patent application process will cost anywhere from $2000 - $10,000, and protection lasts from 14 to 20 years.
    • Laboratory notebooks are VERY important.
    • A provisional patent application (PPA) is a low-cost way of delaying the filing of a full patent application for one year. The filing fee is $75 - $150.
    • Priority goes to the first to invent, not the first to file.
    A presentation by Joe Barich on Patent Engineering and intellectual property is available for your perusal.
    Disclaimer: This presentation does not constitute legal advice. This presentation does not create an attorney-client relationship. This presentation was accurate as of the date it was originally given, but may become inaccurate due to changes in the underlying legal framework.
  2. COPYRIGHTS: A copyright covers only the expression of a work and does not do anything to stop people from approaching clever ideas that happened to be embodied in that work. A Copyright extends to software, meaning no one can copy it. No registration is mandatory, though registration could make for stronger claims later in case of infringement. Competitors could still look at software and come close to it without actually copying it. However, with a patent on the full invention, including the software, competitors are forbidden to design something like it.
  3. TRADE SECRETS: A trade secret is a duty to keep an invention secret, thus protecting it until a patent is issued or an invention is publicly disclosed. It is possible that this protection can be lost if secrets are not protected.
  4. TRADEMARKS: A trademark is either a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others.

Here is the official Illinois Policy Concerning Ownership of Intellectual Property Created by Students as Class Work.

Here is a list of Web Resources maintained by the OTM for the University's Patent Office. For more specific instructions, see the following section.

Invention or Software Copyright Disclosures

Here are instructions for dealing with invention disclosures or software copyright disclosures, should the need arise:

  1. Go to the OTM (Office of Technology Management) Web site: http://www.otm.illinois.edu/
  2. Under the "For Campus" tab, there is the (1) Invention Disclosure Form, (2) Software Disclosure Form, and (3) Mobile App Disclosure Form. Complete and submit -- through the ECE Department -- the applicable Disclosure Form.
  3. The Invention Disclosure Form, under Section 14, contains the following statement:

    I (We) hereby agree to assign all right, title and interest to this invention to the UI and agree to execute all documents as requested, assigning to UI our rights in any patent application filed on this invention and to cooperate with the RTMO in the protection of this invention. UI will share any royalty income derived from the invention with the inventor(s) according to the General Rules, Article III, Section 8.

    Cross out/strike that paragraph -- and write in something like SEE ATTACHED LETTER -- and then add a letter that explains what you want from the University and why, giving as much detail as necessary for the OTM to check out the situation fully (i.e., that is not already covered by answering the questions in the Disclosure Form).
  4. After completing the Form, send it to the ECE Assistant to the Department Head in the Business Office (2120 ECEB). The form will be forwarded to OTM with a cover letter. OTM will then assign the Disclosure to a Tech Manager who will follow up as needed and coordinate a response to the students involved.

Transferring Intellectual Property Rights

Some projects proposed by mentors external or internal to the University, may require that you transfer the rights to intellectual property developed as part of the project they propose. Whether you agree to transfer the rights or decide to undertake a different project is completely up to you, the student.

If you do decide to undertake the proposed project, you will need to sign over your rights using this pre-approved form.

Covert Communication Device

Ahmad Abuisneineh, Srivardhan Sajja, Braeden Smith

Covert Communication Device

Featured Project

**Partners (seeking one additional partner)**: Braeden Smith (braeden2), Srivardhan Sajja (sajja3)

**Problem**: We imagine this product would have a primary use in military/law enforcement application -- especially in dangerous, high risk missions. During a house raid or other sensitive mission, maintaining a quiet profile and also having good situational awareness is essential. That mean's that normal two way radios can't work. And alternatives, like in-ear radios act as outside->in communication only and also reduce the ability to hear your surroundings.

**Solution**: We would provide a series of small pocketable devices with long battery that would use LoRa radios to provide a range of 1-5 miles. They would be rechargeable and have a single recessed soft-touch button that would allow someone to find it inside of pockets and tap it easily. The taps would be sent in real-time to all other devices, where they would be translated into silent but noticeable vibrations. (Every device can obviously TX/RX).

Essentially a team could use a set of predetermined signals or even morse code, to quickly and without loss of situational awareness communicate movements/instructions to others who are not within line-of-sight.

The following we would not consider part of the basic requirements for success, but additional goals if we are ahead of schedule:

We could also imagine a base-station which would allow someone using a computer to type simple text that would be sent out as morse code or other predetermined patterns. Additionally this base station would be able to record and monitor the traffic over the LoRa channels (including sender).

**Solutions Components**:

- **Charging and power systems**: the device would have a single USB-C/Microusb port that would connect to charging circuitry for the small Lithium-ion battery (150-500mAh). This USB port would also connect to the MCU. The subsystem would also be responsible to dropping the lion (3.7-4.2V to a stable 3.3V logic level). and providing power to the vibration motor.

- **RF Communications**: we would rely on externally produced RF transceivers that we would integrate into our PCB -- DLP-RFS1280, https://www.sparkfun.com/products/16871, https://www.adafruit.com/product/3073, .

-**Vibration**: We would have to research and source durable quiet, vibration motors that might even be adjustable in intensity

- **MCU**: We are likely to use the STM32 series of MCU's. We need it to communicate with the transceiver (probably SPI) and also control the vibration motor (by driving some transistor). The packets that we send would need to be encrypted (probably with AES). We would also need it to communicate to a host computer for programming via the same port.

- **Structural**: For this prototype, we'd imagine that a simple 3d printed case would be appropriate. We'd have to design something small and relatively ergonomic. We would have a single recessed location for the soft-touch button, that'd be easy to find by feel.

**Basic criterion for success:** We have at least two wireless devices that can reliably and quickly transfer button-presses to vibrations on the other device. It should operate at at *least* 1km LOS. It should be programmable + chargeable via USB. It should also be relatively compact in size and quiet to use.

**Additional Success Criterion:** we would have a separate, 3rd device that can stay permanently connected to a computer. It would provide some software that would be able to send and receive from the LoRa radio, especially ASCII -> morse code.