2016 Illinois Innovation Prize Winner Announced

4/28/2016 4:23:21 PM Christine Olivo

URBANA, Ill. – Today, the Technology Entrepreneur Center announced Aadeel Akhtar as the winner of this year’s Illinois Innovation Prize, along with the co-runners up, Matt Alonso and Mayank Kale. This $20,000 prize is annually awarded to a student who stands out as a passionate innovator and entrepreneur, who is working with world changing technology and is seen as a role model for others. 


Aadeel is a Neuroscience Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Illinois, currently enrolled in the College of Medicine. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago, Magna cum laude, with a B.S. in biology and a M.S. in computer science in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Aadeel is also the CEO and Co-founder of PSYONIC, a startup developing highly advanced, low-cost prosthetic hands – the first with sensory feedback -- to those who need them around the world. PSYONIC took home the 1st place prize in the 2015 Cozad New Venture Competition before participating in the iVenture Accelerator in the summer of 2015. His passion for helping amputees comes from a trip to Pakistan in the summer of 1994 when he met a girl his age missing her right leg. The girl was using a tree branch as a crutch, and Aadeel could not understand how two people with the same ethnic background could have such vastly different qualities of life. He then made it his mission to help amputees, such as the girl he met in Pakistan as a child, improve their quality of life.


Co-runner up, Mayank Kale, is a junior in computer science and founder of Invoq Health, a startup created in January of 2015, develops highly efficient, scalable applications and mobile technology for healthcare needs in India an Africa. The application helps front-line workers deliver better care to their community. Since India is short 5 million doctors, the developing countries are not able to scale the hospital-doctor-patient model to serve healthcare needs. The application has been deployed in 134 villages to a population of 106,000 people as of January 2016. Other than Invoq Health, Mayank is a member of the Hoeft Technology and Management Program, James Scholar and Vice Presient of National Organization for Business and Engineering


Other co-runner up, Matt Alonso, is an Agricultural Engineering Ph.D. who has both his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is currently working on solving a global cooking problem by developing a portable solar thermal energy storage system without fuel, fire or emissions. Currently, 3 billion people struggle to find a reliable cooking fuel and make due with animal dung and wood that is increasingly difficult to find. On top of that, 40 percent of the world’s population still relies on solid based fuels and even more alarming, 4 million people die per year due to emissions from cooking fires. While at Illinois Matthew has been a research assistant for the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment; Bashir Group; Fang Group; and Newell Group. Matthew served as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Pre-college Conference Chair from 2013-2016, the Nissan Design Challenge Co-chair in 2014 and Technical Seminars Chair in 2012.


Each student was nominated for the Illinois Innovation Prize was selected by mentors, professors, or a faculty member on the basis of the nominees’ passion for innovation and work in technology. The University of Illinois is a world leader in research, innovation and leadership, and distinguishes itself by creating knowledge and preparing students for lives of impact while addressing critical societal needs through invention and entrepreneurship.


“This is quite the honor, I couldn’t have imagined this in a million years that I would be at this point,” Akhtar said. 



The Illinois Innovation Prize, administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, is awarded on an annual basis to the most innovative student on campus. This year, TEC will reward and recognize the most innovative student on campus with $20,000. This student is a passionate innovator, working with world changing technology, entrepreneurially minded, and a role model for others.