Lawrence Tech partners with Focus: HOPE

Lawrence Technological University (LTU) in Southfield, MI, is offering a new associate’s degree in mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology at Focus: HOPE’s training facility in Detroit. 

Sixteen students enrolled in the inaugural class, which began in January. Upon completing the program, they will be among the more than 115 students who have earned Lawrence Tech college degrees since LTU and Focus: HOPE launched their partnership in the early 1990s. Students will also have the opportunity to transfer to LTU’s bachelor’s program after completing their associate degrees.

Focus: HOPE, an organization dedicated to creating solutions to such problems as hunger, inadequate education and racial divisiveness, also partners with Wayne State University (Detroit), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Oakland University (Rochester) and the University of Detroit-Mercy.

M1 Concourse performance track named

Federal-Mogul Motorparts, a division of Federal-Mogul Holdings Corporation, recently announced the new name and logo of the performance track at M1 Concourse, a $40 million-plus development being built on an 87-acre former General Motors plant site in Pontiac, MI. The state-of-the-art, 1.5-mile automotive performance track, scheduled to open in June, will be known as Champion Motor Speedway. 

“The Champion auto parts brand is synonymous with motorsports around the world,” says Brad Oleshansky, founder and CEO or M1 Concourse. “Adding the Champion name to the performance track at M1 Concourse is a significant milestone in the development of this exciting destination for automotive enthusiasts. We are thrilled to be moving forward in our partnership with Federal-Mogul Motorparts, and we’re grateful for their support.”

The M1 Concourse will also include a community of more than 250 private garages, a public restaurant and retail. The Champion Motor Speedway will be available to the automotive industry for testing, training and marketing events. M1 Concourse will also offer public events such as driving schools, open track days and autocross.

EIBC recognizes amy butler

The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (EIBC) held its annual gala on Nov. 10 in East Lansing, MI. Among the night’s events was the induction of Amy Butler, executive director of OU INC and the Clean Energy Research Center, into the EIBC Energy Innovators Hall of Fame

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cities of tomorrow

By 2050, it is estimated that three billion additional people will inhabit cities throughout worldwide. Translated: Two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

The University of Michigan is one of nine research universities collaborating in an international effort to create cities of the future that will accommodate this growth. Funded by a $12 million award from the National Science Foundation’s Sustainability Research Network, the project brings together scientists, industry leaders and policy partners to create cities that are highly functional, promote the health of residents and the environment and are desirable places to live and work.

The project, titled “SRN: Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities,” will focus on ways to improve the urban infrastructure, including energy grids, road networks, green spaces and food and water systems. It will connect research universities, infrastructure firms and policy groups in major metropolitan cities in the United States and India.

Green infrastructure includes storm water management projects such as green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales (storm water runoff conveyance systems that provide an alternative to storm sewers) and tree-lined streets, as well as a city’s greenways, parks, urban farms and protected river basins.

Michigan researchers and their partners will identify optimal sites for future green infrastructure and urban agriculture development. Partners in the Michigan portion of the project include Detroit Future City, the Southeast Council of Michigan Governments, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

The project includes 25 faculty members from the nine universities and will involve more than 40 graduate students conducting research in cross-university interdisciplinary teams.

kids programs promote STEM

By 2020, there won’t be enough computer programmers to meet demand, says Thanh Tran, Detroit entrepreneur and founder of Kidpreneur, a program that offers technology and programming-focused classes to kids of all ages. The goal? To prepare them for a workforce that is heavily focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

According to the National Center for STEM Elementary Education, one-third of boys and girls lose interest in science by fourth grade. By eighth grade, nearly 50 percent lose interest in science. What’s more, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of American high school students are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career.

To combat these statistics, Kidpreneur after-school classes provide students in kindergarten through the eighth grade an environment for learning coding, programming robots, designing websites, building game servers and more. Launched in Wixom, MI, the company recently opened its second classroom in Madison Heights, MI, and plans to expand in the state and nationally.
Similarly, Square One Education Network, which promotes STEM education in K-12 students in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, has teamed with HARMAN International to bring vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) development to K-12 classrooms throughout Michigan.

The partnership with HARMAN, which designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers and enterprises worldwide, will help provide participating teachers with training and classroom equipment to enable students to pursue V2X research, design and demonstration activities.

This collaboration supports Square One’s initiative to connect students with industry professionals, giving them access to technology, engineers and opportunities that encourage future STEM careers.

u-m gets innovation funding

The University of Michigan has received $4.4 million from the Detroit-based William Davidson Foundation to support programs that encourage student and faculty innovation. Here’s how the university plans to distribute the funds:

• The U-M Medical School’s Fast Forward Medical Innovation effort will receive $2.9 million over three years. Fast Forward Medical Innovation supports technology commercialization based on the ideas of its faculty scientists and physicians.

• The U-M Office of Technology Transfer and Center for Entrepreneurship will receive $1.5 million over two years for designated programs. The tech transfer office will also launch the Digital Discovery Center to provide resources to encourage, assess and accelerate innovations in software and other digital matter.

• The funding will also support the launch of the MGoForward Program at the Center for Entrepreneurship at the U-M College of Engineering. The investment will provide for mentoring, training and technical support to graduating students with startups that show market potential.

billhighway launches academy

Many companies are struggling with a shortage in qualified software development talent. According to a survey conducted across the United States and Canada by Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), Apollo Education Group and its subsidiary, University of Phoenix, more than two-thirds of employers said they are taking action to address the shortage by offering internships and training.

Billhighway is one of these companies. The financial management software developer headquartered in Troy, MI, recently launched Billhighway Academy, an intensive multi-month training and mentoring program that exposes junior developers to critical aspects of the Billhighway ecosystem.

The Academy’s first Junior .NET Developer is Sean Sterling, a computer science graduate from Grand Valley State University specializing in object-oriented design and application development.

“As the inaugural member of the Billhighway Academy, Sean has been fantastic,” says Patrick Steele, senior developer. As part of this program, Sterling will be tackling real business issues and, after graduation, will assist senior staff in the design and development of highly scalable web applications that run nonstop.

According to Suzy Elfishawy, development team leader, “The Billhighway Academy program provides a unique experience, where mentors from our team help guide junior developers in focused tasks that help with their development skills, while they are also gaining domain knowledge about our complicated system. This ensures that at the time of graduation from the program, the Academy graduate is in a much better position to provide immediate value to the development team and have significant impact.”

supporting innovation and entrepreneurship

When the voting was tallied at the Macomb Community College Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) student pitch competition, three startup businesses were awarded a total of $9,000. The event, sponsored by First State Bank and Northwood University, was held Oct. 16 at Macomb’s Center Campus in Clinton Township, MI.

The winner of the competition, awarded $5,000, was Brittney Feggan of Mount Clemens, MI. A business administration student, Feggan developed Beezy, an easy-access baby garment that uses magnetic fasteners instead of snaps, buttons or zippers. She plans to use the prize money to create a limited liability company (LLC), apply for a design patent, create a website and develop prototypes and marketing initiatives.

The second place prize of $3,000 was awarded to LaShay Edwards of Chesterfield Township, MI, for her business, The C.O.R.E. Edwards plans to sell customized clothing to women ages 18 to 25. Edwards, who is studying marketing at Macomb, says she will use the prize money to develop a website and logo, set up an LLC and create the first batch of The C.O.R.E’s signature t-shirts.

Computer science student Yousuf Hussain was awarded third place for The Com.unity Co., an online platform and mobile app that will reward users with coupons and other incentives for interacting with local businesses. Points are given for visiting local shops and volunteering for nonprofit organizations. Hussain plans to use the prize money to help pay for intellectual property protection, supplies, marketing and establishing a beta community. Com.unity received the “audience choice” award, a gift basket with prizes from various shops and gift items from the college.

The student pitch competition involves a student presentation to a panel of five judges. Students are ranked according to strength of idea, understanding of the target market and competition, competitive advantage, financial viability and plans for how the prize money would be spent.

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a resource for students and community members for entrepreneurship education and training, mentorship for startups and existing small business and access to capital. The center sponsored the competition to introduce students to the world and process of entrepreneurship.

yea! comes to detroit

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy, or YEA!, is a national innovative entrepreneurship education program that teaches middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds and launch and run their own, fully formed companies and social movements. The project-based program empowers students to take charge of their futures.

The newest YEA! site, located in the Midtown Detroit campus of Wayne State University, is the first YEA! program in the country to focus exclusively on preparing female entrepreneurs. The driving force in establishing this site was the foundation of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Greater Detroit Chapter (NAWBO/EXCEL).

“Our goal is to show girls at a young age how to be successful business owners, and continue to support the growing trend of successful women-owned businesses in our community,” says Carol Kirkland, president of NAWBO/EXCEL. “The YEA! experience can be applied to any field, and will provide young women with the necessary skills to become future leaders of their industries.” 

spud software develops mobile sleep study app

Some 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that creates blockage of the airway during sleep, causing shallow breathing or pauses in breathing. Many of these individuals fail to be tested because they’re unwilling or unable to participate in a sleep lab. But now, Spud Software, a custom software development company in Grand Blanc, MI, has created a new app that it claims will revolutionize testing for sleep apnea.

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speak easy

Daniel Floyd was born with a speech disorder that made it difficult for him to enunciate certain words and sounds. This challenge led the Western Michigan University sophomore to design SpeechMasterPro, a device that assists individuals with speech impediments, as well as others who want to improve articulation and enunciation.

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entrepreneur fellows on the move

Automation Alley has placed two fellows, J. Cory Connolly and Kathleen Dooley Hadley, as part of the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program.

Through the program, Automation Alley provides opportunities for college and university graduates to work with growing early-stage companies in the Southeast Michigan region. Fellows are involved in the day-to-day activities of running a startup and are mentored by company leadership and the program’s coordinators. Fellowships are awarded each year through a competitive application process. 

Connolly will be working with Levin Energy Partners, a company developing innovative business initiatives for the development of clean energy and energy efficiency projects in Michigan and across the country. With extensive experience in energy and environmental policy, he recently left a position as a senior research associate at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. As an entrepreneur, he has co-founded MiGrid Media, a renewable energy communications firm. He is a graduate of James Madison College at Michigan State University, where he majored in international relations and specialized in environmental economics and policy.

Hadley will be working with, an online education company helping business professionals and business school students learn international business skills. She has extensive experience in international business and education. As an entrepreneur, Hadley has created and directed several thriving educational organizations both domestically and internationally. Hadley earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Michigan State University.


7Cstm program in action

Scott Lowes’ company, Lighthouse Molding, Inc., is only three steps into Automation Alley’s new 7Cstm program designed for entrepreneurs, but already he says the program has accelerated his company’s growth by at least five years.

Lighthouse Molding, Inc. (LMI) specializes in low pressure overmolding (LPO), a single-step technology to seal and protect electronic assemblies such as battery packs, circuit boards, micro-switches, solenoids, sensors, connectors and wire harnesses. The Sterling Heights, MI-based advanced manufacturing company is one of five in the world that offers LPO technology.

“We’ve become better organized and more efficient in managing our day-to-day business,” says Lowes. “We’ve also worked to refine our technology and are now in the process of bringing it to the real world with the help of Automation Alley’s 7Cstm program.” Lowes says the company’s ultimate goal is to supply its LPO technology globally.

“The 7Cstm program is exposing us to customers we would not normally have been exposed to,” Lowes says. “We’re at the point where we’re realizing we can do a lot more, a lot faster, through the program.”

Rolled out this year, the goal of the 7Cstm program is to help Southeast Michigan entrepreneurs become successful by accelerating the growth of their small businesses or startups.

Automation Alley’s entrepreneurship experts guide clients through a customized seven-step process that includes:

1. Community: At every stage, take advantage of the immense resources and talent available to you through the Automation Alley network.
2. Concept: Meet with the entrepreneurship team to determine if your startup is a good fit for the Automation Alley 7Cstm program.
3. Context: Develop a business model resulting in a working value proposition, and create a First Look sales pitch video.
4. Clarity: Refine your value proposition through market research.
5. Customers: Develop a prototype to take to market for analysis and feedback, explore crowdfunding where appropriate and secure first beta customer(s).
6. Capital: Meet with investment entities to secure capital. With your first beta customer(s) secured, position your startup for investment.
7. Commercialization: Enter the full Automation Alley networking stream to rapidly scale production, secure resources, create jobs and become a mentor to new Automation Alley 7Cs participants.

automation alley + incite focus = educated youth

Automation Alley is partnering with Incite Focus to provide underserved students with opportunities to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Incite Focus is a state-of-the-art production and training lab focused on the relationships between digital fabrication, natural systems, experiential learning and appropriate technology. It serves as a holistic approach to teaching area students.

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