Novel hearing aid inspires career in biomedical engineering

October 06, 2016

By Diane Luckow

Eunice Kuatsjah, an international student from Indonesia, never expected her Simon Fraser University experience would result in a novel business start-up. But she is among a group of students who have developed a prototype for an inexpensive, customized hearing aid that could disrupt the global market.

While Kuatsjah initially planned to study arts and technology, she quickly discovered she preferred the objectivity of science, and instead transferred into SFU’s Mechatronic Systems Engineering Program.

It was a good move. With a grade point average of 4.15 out of a possible 4.33 she has certainly found her passion: combining aspects of mechanical, electrical, software and industrial engineering to develop new products.

“I’m interested in applied research,” she says. “I like that the end result can have a meaningful impact that helps people. That’s why I came up with the idea for our capstone project to create self-customized hearing aids—I was inspired by my grandmother in Indonesia, who has hearing loss.”

Kuatsjah helped developed the device during a two-semester Tech Entrepreneurship@SFU course in which science and business students form teams to create and plan a business.

She used some of the skills she learned during co-op work semesters with a nuclear fusion research company and an SFU research start-up. In these jobs she acquired hands-on skills, such as using fabrication tools, and also learned how to research, source, test and analyse materials and processes.

Her team’s prototype hearing aid can be custom-fit and tuned at home, rather than through a hearing specialist. The team won the Most Impactful Award at Opportunity Fest 2016, an annual event showcasing SFU students’ entrepreneurial innovation and creativity.

Team members are now working to commercialize the product and sell it online, with a view to using some of the profits to sell the hearing aids at cost to non-profit organizations in developing countries.

Kuatsjah says her entrepreneurial experiences and experiential learning have sparked a new interest in one day establishing her own company.

“I like the excitement and unknown of a start-up,” she says.

In the meantime, she plans to continue her involvement with the team’s start-up, Orello, while also pursuing an SFU master’s in engineering science, with a focus on biomedical engineering.