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Teng Ma and Shuo Samuel Liu

Teng Ma (L) and Shuo Samuel Liu show off their ENSC 440 project prototype that enables ALS patients to type on a computer with nothing but eye movements.

Kaiser Foundation: 10 years of giving

February 5, 2009

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By Barry Shell

A low-cost eye-tracking system that enables totally paralyzed ALS patients to communicate is just the latest example of how the Kaiser Foundation for Higher Education has been helping SFU students and the local community over the last 10 years.

Shuo Samuel Liu and four classmates received $250 from the Engineering Science Undergraduate Student Project Endowment Fund to help develop the system for their recently completed engineering science 440 capstone engineering project.

"Current solutions for ALS patients sell for between $1,000 and $10,000, but ours should go for around $200 or $300," explains Liu. His team’s system is truly mobile, requiring only a simple USB connection to a PC laptop for both power and data.

Established in 1997 by Fred Kaiser, founder of Burnaby-based Alpha Power Technologies, the Kaiser Foundation has contributed more than $271,000 to endowments at SFU. That includes a recent donation of $25,000, of which $5,000 went to the student project endowment fund. The remaining $20,000 went to the foundation’s Graduate Scholarship in Engineering Science endowment. The most recent recipient, Eli Gibson, won the $2,500 scholarship and the Dean of Applied Sciences’ convocation medal.

Gibson’s research involves improved MRI scans to detect and study the sciatic nerve. When he was an undergrad, Gibson also benefited from the Kaiser endowment for his undergraduate capstone project.

The foundation has contributed almost $130,000 to the scholarship fund, which it established to encourage and improve engineering science education at SFU.

"We’ve been very impressed with the quality of the student projects and with the flexibility and fresh approach to education at SFU," says foundation trustee Lynda Hogarth.

Liu and his team plan to enter their tracking system in an upcoming ALS-BC competition in hopes of winning a $3,000 first prize. Meanwhile, Gibson is working towards a combined PhD/MD in medicine.

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