September 09, 2010

Student-run program wins $25,000 Motorola grant

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- A global communications company has donated $25,000 to an innovative student-run program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

SIU Innovative Systems, an effort that supports professional activities for students, received the funds from Motorola Inc., which made the donation though its” Innovation Generation” grant. The SIUC program was one of just 112 the company chose to support nationwide.

Students and faculty in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering wrote the proposal for the Motorola funding. Professor Morteza Daneshdoost, the principal investigator on the grant, will also work on the program with Professor Farzad Pourboghrat, Wei Zhang, a teaching assistant in the finance department, and Anil Mehta, a doctoral student.

Daneshdoost credited the successful grant application to years of hard work by Mehta and other students.

“They put enormous effort into the building and continuation of the program,” Daneshdoost said, adding thanks to Rickey McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and CEO of the SIU Foundation, and Jill Gobert, associate director of the SIU Foundation, for their help with the grant.

The company chose which programs to fund based on their potential to impact local communities in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The so-called “STEM” education emphasizes those skills, along with hands-on training in both the university and K-12 settings.

Daneshdoost said the grant will provide students from many different disciplines an opportunity to excel.

“This is fantastic for students from all around SIUC, not only in engineering,” Daneeshdoost said. “Students from other colleges, such as the College of Science and the College of Business, can also participate and showcase their innovative skills in building projects funded by the grant.”

Now in its fifth year, SIUIS has sponsored a series of conferences, bringing in leaders from industry, technology and business for three days of lectures, discussions and training. Past conferences have built partnerships among SIUC faculty and students and industry professionals from business such as MathWorks Inc., Mitsubishi Electrical Research Laboratories and Bell Laboratories.

Mehta, a co-founder of the group and major force behind its growth and success, said the $25,000 grant will sustain its operations for some time. It also will have a major impact on multi-disciplinary education and projects within the program, where students will compete for funding for their projects.

“This will give them real-world teamwork and grant writing experience and will complement their regular curriculum,” he said. It also will fund paper, poster and innovations competitions.

Students who also helped win the grant from Motorola include Leo Saruwatari, a senior in electrical and computer engineering; Neda Hantehzadeh, a doctoral student in engineering; Brandon Luster, graduate student in mechanical engineering; and Jerry Dover, a senior in electrical engineering.