Alumna Emma Susi Takes First Place at 2024 WAVE Competition

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Alumna Emma Susi Takes First Place at 2024 WAVE Competition

Congratulations to recent Schmidt College of Science alumna Emma Susi, who captured first place at the 2024 Florida Atlantic University WAVE Competition, an undergraduate and graduate applied research and entrepreneurial competition organized by FAU’s Division of Research. The goal of the program is to challenge students to submit and develop innovative ideas that target societal problems.Emma Susi - presentation

Susi was awarded the Dr. Eric H. Shaw FAU Wave Excellence in Innovation Award and a cash prize of $2,000 for her Sensory Personalized EEG Assistive Communication (SPEAC), a non-invasive, assistive communication brain-computer interface. By leveraging brainwave data from an EEG headset, users can express their thoughts and needs without requiring physical movement. Tailored for individuals affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, and speech impairments, the device offers an affordable alternative to traditional communication aids.

“I feel honored and still can’t believe it!” expressed Susi. “This has been such an exciting project for me, and the fact that others share the same excitement and belief in SPEAC's future is incredibly heartening.” 

SPEAC accurately translates brain signals into real-time communication, enabling users to express themselves effortlessly without the need for physical movement or invasive procedures. Bridging the communication gap, the device would enhance users’ emotional well-being and increase social inclusion. It stands to revolutionize the lives of thousands of patients.

Susi’s cousin’s battle with ALS deeply impacted her. After witnessing his daily struggles to maintain meaningful human communications and connections, she was motivated to create a way to help him and others.

“His inability to communicate with our family before passing fueled my determination to develop assistive brain-computer interfaces, driven by the desire to restore connections for people facing similar challenges,” shared Susi.

William Hahn, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematical sciences, Schmidt College of Science, and co-director of the Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory and the Gruber Sandbox, served as Susi’s mentor on the project. She credits Hahn for introducing her to the EEG and EMG recording devices that helped inspire SPEAC’s interface.

“Dr. Hahn always encouraged me to think outside the box to come up with novel solutions to complex problems,” said Susi. “I also firmly believe this project would not be where it is today without the Sandbox. It was the perfect place for me to learn more about programming and brain-computer interfaces, thanks to the immense amount of technology and resources it has.”

Susi intends to use the prize money from the competition to help fund efforts toward securing a patent for the interface and taking steps to begin manufacturing her own EEG headsets.

At the age of 19, Susi graduated from the Schmidt College of Science in December 2023, with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and behavior. She is also an alumna of FAU High School’s Class of 2022.

For more information on the Wave Competition, click here or email

Tags: science

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