Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Jake Fava
Ugonna Akuba


Name: Jake Fava

Year: Sophomore

College/Major: Electrical Engineering & Innovation, Leadership, & Engineering Entrepreneurship

TEC Programs: Social Fuse, Cozad,




What is your connection with the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana?

I’m a sophomore double majoring in electrical engineering and ILEE


What is your favorite thing to do on campus?

It would probably have to do with the performing arts. I've performed shows in the past with Illini Student Musicals, and am currently the Assistant Vocal Director for this semester's production, I sing in the Varsity Men's Glee Club, I'm a member of the DeBono musical improv team, and I'm taking private voice lessons with the School of Music.


How would you describe your U of I experience in 3 words?

Eye-opening, thrilling, and inspiring. It was eye-opening because it’s fantastic to learn about electrical engineering and all these crazy things that I would’ve never been exposed to. Thrilling because I feel like everywhere I go, there are new opportunities and people to meet that’ll possibly help you with your idea. Inspiring because in lieu of all of the opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to have, I seen a million stories, both successful and non-successful. Just yesterday for TE 461: Technology Entrepreneurship, we reviewed case studies and it was just the coolest thing I’ve read in my entire life. Just by hearing people’s stories you realize that there’s not one path for any person or company. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by and be made aware of these stories.


Were you always interested in entrepreneurship?

I was always interested in being an innovator and I knew that since high school. I took what is now TE 250: From Idea to Enterprise with Harlee Sorkin my very first semester here and I realized that it’s exactly what I wanted to do. So I had a general idea, but I didn’t know it was exactly entrepreneurship until I took that class.


How did you get involved with TEC?

The Illinois Engineering First Year Experience pamphlet. They have a bunch of classes advertising you to try and TE 298: Intro to Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship was in that pamphlet. I thought it sounded pretty cool, so I decided to take it. In every TE class, Brooke [Newell, TEC’s Academic Programs Coordinator and Chief Academic Advisor] or Ashley [Hipsher, TEC’s Marketing Advisor] come in to do a presentation, so then I learned that there’s this whole curriculum, certificates and events that were all about entrepreneurship and I was one of the people that got hooked from that.


What attracted you to Social Fuse?

Last semester in TE 333: Creativity, Innovation and Vision, the semester project that I did was about seeking new partners for a start-up. So I explored that a lot which lead me to Social Fuse. I like going to Social Fuse a lot because I like hearing all these really cool ideas and there’s also the aspect of getting to talk to people, even though you both might not have an idea at the time. You just get to meet a bunch of people who are interested in entrepreneurship.


What made you decided to compete in Cozad New Venture Competition?

I participated in Start-up Bootcamp last fall. Then I started going to a few events and things. I just started talking about the idea more. I met someone else that was part of a different team at Start-up Bootcamp that was taking a sustainability class and she connected me with her professor who is in the plant sciences department. He tells me about this problem which is basically a perfect fit for my project and it all fell together.


What was your favorite TEC Course you’ve taken?

TE 333: Creativity, Innovation and Vison because it was the coolest thing to explore. It’s really a soft science, but even for a soft science it’s underrepresented. We didn’t learn about this stuff in high school and you’re going to need it in like every job. It’s something you can use every single day and I would not have the knowledge that I have about creativity and things like that, which is an integral in being an entrepreneur.


Do you think you’ve changed your way of thinking?

There was just so many things that I did not understand or think about before. I never thought about all the legal issues that you can run into. I’m more aware of that now because we have classes like Harlee’s finance class.


What is a highlight of your journey?

I would go back to the beginning of college when I took Harlee’s class. It was probably the first or second class and he was talking about something and I just remember looking around and asking myself does everyone else think this is the coolest thing in the world because I do. That was when I realize that this is what I have to do.



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Student Spotlight: Connie Fan
Ugonna Akuba





Name: Connie Fan

Major/College: CS, ILEE, College of Engineering

Year in School: Junior

TEC Programs: Silicon Valley Workshop, Innovation LLC

What is your affiliation with the University?

I’m a junior double majoring in Computer Science and Innovation, Leadership and Engineering (ILEE).

What is your favorite place to eat on campus?

There’s a place called Courier Café in Urbana that’s really good. It’s kind of like those old-fashioned restaurants. It’s really cute.

How did you get involved with TEC?

I lived in Innovation LLC when I was a freshman. We had to take a TEC Course and I took TE 360. The people in it were really helpful and cool and it was really interesting. This kind of led me on a path to take more classes and become more involved.

What was the most beneficial TEC Course you’ve taken?

TE 450 which is Startups: Inc, Fund, Contracts, and IP. It’s taught by Joe Barich who is this super cool high power lawyer. It was really helpful but also really scary. I think legal pitfalls are something people don’t really think about but they’re everywhere and scary.

How would you describe your experience in Innovation LLC?

There were a lot of really interesting people, many of whom I still talk to now. We had this garage downstairs where I built some of my projects. It’s definitely a really cool place and I really recommend it to people who are just coming in and not really knowing what they want to do.

What was a highlight for you at the Silicon Valley Workshop?

If I had to pick the coolest thing that I saw it would be touring the Tesla Factory. We got to see how they build the cars and all the robotics. If I had to pick a second favorite it would be touring the Bloom Energy Factory. We got to see them make little power cells. Both of those are not related to speakers but they were super cool to look at.

Is there something that surprised you on the Silicon Valley Workshop?

I was surprised by how raw people were willing to get with us. We were talking to Tom Siebel and he was very upfront and frank about family things and all the struggles that he went through. A lot of people were very open about that. I was surprised how honest people were with us and that was really awesome.

How has TEC helped you overall with your interest in entrepreneurship?

TEC has helped me form meaningful connections with like-minded entrepreneurs and helped me build necessary tools to pursue my interests.

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