The Illinois Innovation Prize 2019 Finalists!

3/27/2019 10:08:23 AM Urvashi Jha, Marketing and Communications Coordinator


The Illinois Innovation Prize (IIP) for $20,000 is awarded annually to an innovative student working towards solving global and societal challenges with the potential for a significant positive impact on the world. Since 2007, $300,000 has been awarded to student innovators.

This year 5 students made to the finalist list. Come to the Cozad New Venture Challenge Showcase and Finals Event (details below) to show your support to the IIP finalists and find out who gets to take home the coveted award! 


Jewel Ifeguni, Senior in Communication, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences 

Jewel Ifeguni is the Founder and CEO of YouMatter Studios, a virtual reality (VR) media startup focused on diversity and inclusion in media. Driven by the lack of representation of marginalized groups in the video games, Jewel Ifeguni developed her first venture-QUEEN, a video game to empower young black girls like her sister. She then launched YouMatter Studios to innovate the ‘way we understand representation.YouMatter Studios is spearheading and empowering marginalized voices through digital storytelling and immersive workshops. Jewel Ifeguni is passionate about creating VR films, web series or workshops to spark important dialogues and innovate representation. She is dedicated to creating content that will enlighten, empower, and inspire future generations. Her motto in life is, “Change the things you can no longer accept.” She is now working on a three-part VR film that addresses relations between police and marginalized groups. 


Amaury Saulsberry, Sophomore in Industrial Design, College of Fine & Applied Arts 

Amaury Saulsberry is the Founder and CEO of Nouvo, a health technology startup that is designing and building smart connected products to improve patient outcomes. Nouvo's very first product is a smart pacifier that monitors acidity and temperature levels in a child's saliva as a biomarker for acid reflux and airway complications. The pacifier then sends that data to users’ mobile devices. The data can help parents understand the symptoms and also help streamline the physicians’ decision-making process. Over 20% of babies in the United States of America suffer from some form of GERD (acid reflux) complications. This unmet need affects millions of families across the world. Nouvo is leveraging advancement in health technologies to enable early diagnosis and effective monitoring of common health problems like GERD. 


Shayne Chammavanijakul, Junior in Linguistics, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences 

Shayne Chammavanijkaul is the Founder of Chicago-based print publication, Dill, catering to a niche community of readers of Asian food literature. Misrepresentation or underrepresentation of Asian cuisines in the mainstream food publishing industry motivated Shayne Chammavanijkaul to start her own food magazine when she was 18 years old. While many popular food magazines have ceased publication or gone digital, Shayne felt confident launching Dill. She feels that Dill is different because it showcases Asian cuisines as they are, and not something “over exotic, alien, or foreign.” Her magazine also gives a voice to home cooks who are the backbone of everything culinary. Additionally, she is also a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and is passionate about mentoring others with similar interests in publishing. 


Siddharth Krishnan, PhD Candidate in Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering 

Siddharth Krishnan is Co-Founder of Rhaeos Inc. He has developed a noninvasive, wearable shunt failure monitors for patients with hydrocephalus. The wireless monitor also transmits the data to a smartphone. Hydrocephalus affects approximately one million Americans in every stage of life and is the most common reason for brain surgeries in children. The estimated medical costs for hydrocephalus are over $2 billion per year. The shunt failure monitor has the potential to bring down the costs associated with expensive, inaccurate and painful diagnostic testing. In 2018, Siddharth Co-founded Rhaeos Inc. to commercialize the shunt failure monitors. Alongside, Siddharth has also developed a wearable, wireless, battery-free, skin hydration sensor in close collaboration with L'Oréal Inc. for skin hydration monitoring.  Poor skin hydration could lead to psoriasis, ichthyosis, and other pathologies. Skin hydration also regulates appearance and is important to the multibillion-dollar skin industry.


Benjamin Khachaturian, Senior in Industrial Design, College of Fine & Applied Arts 

Benjamin Khachaturian is a serial entrepreneur and innovator who founded his first business venture, Mane Events, an event services company when he was 12 years old. Since then he has founded many ventures including RingWing, LLC, and K-Air.  RingWing is a patented indoor catchable toy glider for all ages and is available in 23 stores nationwide since its release in March 2018. K-Air is an aerial imaging contractor in Central Illinois, and Benjamin is an FAA certified drone pilot.  Seeking new ways to have a positive impact, he is also working on his other projects like the Albedot Project, focused on lowering the effects of climate change, and Crator. Crator is a hobby distribution company developing STEAM learning products. From making playing catch more accessible to creating to learn with STEAM products, making agriculture more available throughout the world, to working to lower the effects of climate change, Benjamin is just getting started! 


Illinois Innovation Prize Awards Presentations at Cozad New Venture Challenge Showcase & Finals Event

When: April 10, 2019

Where: I Hotel & Conference Center (Illinois Ballrooms)

Time: 2:30-3:00 pm