NIU engineering lab receives funding for infant hearing aid project

U.S congressperson Lauren Underwood visited NIU to donate $1.5 million to the Microelectronics Research and Development Lab
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:52 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Northern Illinois University engineering students will help give the gift of sound to some babies in the U.S and they’ll do it through a sizable gift from congress.

NIU’s College of Engineering will use $1.5 million to modernize its Microelectronics Research and Development Lab as we prepare its students for an industry that thrives on pushing limits.

“To keep pace with what’s going on in the industry and be cutting edge, you constantly have to upgrade and advance your equipment,” said College of Engineering dean Donald Peterson.

The room at NIU is buzzing with engineering students who have one goal in mind, which is helping babies hear. Their project got off the ground with the help of 14th District Representative Lauren Underwood.

“So pleased to be able to secure one in a half million dollars for NIU’s Microelectronics Research and Development Lab to be able to purchase new equipment and to be able to support more students; undergraduate and graduate students to be able to do the work that is so important for our natural security in this country,” Underwood said.

The current project is to create computer chips that will go inside hearing aids for infants. Graduate research assistant Courtney Bradley is part of the team that’s focused on this task but she’s more excited about the endless possibilities the updated lab will bring.

“I feel like it’s great to be a part of a project that’s not just about us and it’s also about, you know, helping infants and children,” Bradley said.

“We’re pretty excited about the capabilities and the fact that we’re going to be able to really up our game with some new technologies and be able to prepare the workforce for the future of chip manufacturing and sensor development,” Peterson said.

Underwood says all of the funds she helped secure will support 15 projects throughout the 14th district.

NIU is listed as a top undergraduate engineering program by U.S. News & World Report.