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Innovation & Job News

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Automation Alley names executive director, adopts technology focus


Under new leadership, Automation Alley is set to transition from a primarily networking organization for its more than 1,000 members to an advocacy group focused on implementing the next generation of manufacturing technologies through the supply chain. The Troy-based business association promoted Tom Kelly, 50, to executive director.

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Farmington Hills haberdashery launches subscription sock service


The owners of the The Shirt Box, a Farmington Hills-based haberdashery, have launched a new subscription service start-up called The Sock HookUp, which delivers men’s socks directly to a subscriber’s or gift recipient’s door every month.

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MTAM's new website showcases Michigan's use of connected tech across industries


Mobile/Wireless (connected) technologies today are being utilized by nearly every industry to increase productivity and profitability; and contrary to popular opinion, these technologies are creating jobs in Michigan – LOTS OF THEM! To help facilitate this continued expansion into more industries, and the creation of a wide variety of jobs at all skill and education levels, the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) has recently gone live with a complete re-launch of the non-profit trade association’s website.

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Innovative Learning Group named to the Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest-growing private companies

Innovative Learning Group, Inc. (ILG) announced today that it has been named to the 35th Annual Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies. ILG ranks 4003 with a three-year sales growth of 73%. This is the first time ILG has appeared on the list.

“Being named to this list is a testament to ILG’s expertise in creating innovative and effective learning solutions that help our clients improve employee performance,” says CEO Lisa Toenniges. “I look forward to continuing our path of steady and profitable growth while maintaining the culture and client focus that has made us successful.”

Founded in 2004, ILG has become a recognized leader in the field of corporate training and performance improvement with more than 100 clients from 35 different industries. The company has received many accolades for its business achievements, including receiving a Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award in 2015. ILG’s other accomplishments include moving into a new, larger corporate headquarters and launching a new corporate brand this year.

About Inc. and the Inc. 500|5000

The 2016 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2012 to 2015. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2012. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent — not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies — as of December 31, 2015. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2012 is $100,000; the minimum for 2015 is $2 million.

The Inc. 5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list of the nation’s most successful private companies has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.

About Innovative Learning Group, Inc.

A performance-first learning company, Innovative Learning Group, Inc. creates custom training and tools that help employees of Fortune 1000 companies do their jobs more effectively. Headquartered in Troy, Michigan, ILG is a privately held, certified Women’s Business Enterprise founded in 2004 by CEO Lisa Toenniges. Visit www.innovativeLG.com to learn more.

Pre-college programs lead to higher test scores for Pontiac students

Kids’ math competencies in Pontiac schools are dramatically increasing thanks to a partnership between the local school district and Oakland University, officials with Oakland’s Pre-College Programs announced. 
The program, called the Pre-Algebra Saturday Academies, ran in two separate semesters – Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 – over the course of five consecutive Saturdays on Oakland’s campus.
Seventh-graders from Pontiac Middle School and International Technology Academy attended four-hour interactive classes taught by teachers from the district and assisted by Oakland University’s Pre-College Programs staff. There were 84 students total in the two academies.
Tiffany Elliott-Fowler, assistant director of Oakland’s Pre-College Programs, said students were given a pre-test at the beginning of the math academies, then were given the same post-test at the end of the five weeks. Students in the fall semester academy had an average test score increase of 37 percent and students’ test scores in the spring academy rose 24 percent on average.
The programs focused on traditional pre-algebra topics such as solving equations, ratios and integers, but the classroom setting was anything but traditional, said Elliott-Fowler.
“Students participated in hands-on activities and other things designed to get them out of their seats, including math gaming programs and other technology,” she said. “Another component of our program included giving students the opportunity to learn about college expectations and planning. The students received workshops related to college admissions and financial planning, along with tours of the campus to show them what to expect when they get to college.”
The two Pontiac teachers each taught a certain number of students during the academies. Elliott-Fowler said that structure of the program was one of the most important components that may have contributed to students’ increased scores.
“The smaller student-to-teacher ratio made it more than a traditional learning atmosphere,” said Elliott-Fowler. “Also, when you’re incorporating math into everyday life and making math fun, it’s more interactive and not just working from a math book.”
The Saturday Academies are only a portion of Oakland’s pre-college outreach – in Pontiac and throughout the region – and a major component in the university’s continued partnership with Pontiac schools, officials and organizations. Another program, Project Upward Bound, works with schools in both the Oak Park and Pontiac school districts to help get students ready for college.
Elliott-Fowler said the Office of Pre-College Programs has been working in Pontiac for many years and that she’s glad to continue helping implement programs that reach students as early as the seventh-grade. “It is important that we continue reaching younger students and assist them in preparing for the rigors of university life while  exposing them  directly to Oakland University.”
To learn about all the pre-college programs Oakland University has to offer, visit  oakland.edu/precollege.

American Society of Employers (ASE) announces job fair for veterans and others

The American Society of Employers (ASE), one of the nation’s oldest and largest employer associations, will host a Veteran’s Job Fair on Thursday, Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Southfield Pavilion. Joining ASE as co-hosts are the Southfield Veterans Commission, the U.S. Veterans Administration and the Michigan Industry Liaison Group (MILG). The job fair is open to all, but is targeted to military veterans and their families, as well as individuals with disabilities, and is free to both employers and job seekers.
 The Job Fair announcement was made by ASE CEO, Mary E. Corrado.
“ASE and our host partners and sponsors recognize the challenges that veterans, their families and individuals with disabilities can face in securing stable employment. We are proud to organize and facilitate this job fair for all to attend,” Corrado said.
Kelly Services will be providing free resume review at the event.
The Southfield Pavilion is located at 2800 Evergreen, Southfield, Mich. 48076. Registration for individuals and employers can be found on the MILG website.

About the American Society of Employers (ASE) – a Centennial Organization
The American Society of Employers (ASE) is a not-for-profit trade association providing people-management information and services to Michigan employers. Since 1902, member organizations have relied on ASE to be their single, cost-effective source for information and support, helping to grow their bottom line by enhancing the effectiveness of their people. Learn more about ASE at www.aseonline.org.

Summer internships supplement medical education for rising M2s

Thirty-six class of 2019 OUWB students wrapped up their first year of medical school and, instead of taking a much-deserved break, they switched gears by participating in the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine /Beaumont Health summer internship program.

“The summer internship program provides students with hands-on clinical, community, educational and research opportunities for rising M2 students,” said Tracy Wunderlich, OUWB director, research training.

Students worked side-by-side with clinical faculty at Beaumont Hospital while some spent time with OUWB Department of Biomedical Sciences faculty members on campus, where, for the first time, four of them developed a study that included the anatomy lab. Students also worked on site with community partners at Easter Seals, South Oakland Shelter, Downtown Boxing Gym and Legal Aid for Children and Families. 

“The program is meant to foster both personal and professional development in the students,” said Wunderlich.

Gaining valuable experience
Additionally, the internship included an opportunity to create a poster about their areas of study to present during Orientation Week to the incoming Class of 2020.

LTU profs win grant to advance fluid power education

Four Lawrence Technological University professors have won a $25,000 grant from the National Fluid Power Association to bring problem-based and entrepreneurial-minded learning to fluid mechanics and thermodynamics education.

The LTU team is led by principal investigator Liping Liu (pictured above), assistant professor in LTU's A. Leon Linton Department of Mechanical Engineering. Other members are Robert Fletcher and Andrew Gerhart, professors, and James Mynderse, assistant professor, also in the mechanical engineering department. 

“The NFPA wants students to know more about fluid power,” Liu said. “Some of the elements are covered in our current fluid mechanics classes, but they want more students engaged in this area and to make students more aware of fluid power applications, including pneumatics and hydraulics.”

Liu said Lawrence Tech’s existing involvement with engineering programs emphasizing entrepreneurship and innovation – such as KEEN, the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network – lay a strong foundation for the entrepreneurial-minded course modules to be developed under the grant.

Liu said the four professors are already at work developing fluid power-based modules for LTU fluid mechanics and thermodynamics courses, which are taught to mechanical engineering majors in their junior year. Those modules will be shared with the engineering education community.

Founded in 1953 and based in Milwaukee, the National Fluid Power Association brings fluid power industry partners together to advance fluid power technology and foster members’ success. NFPA’s 315 members include fluid power manufacturers, distributors, educators and researchers.

Students focus on eye diseases during summer research program

For the past three months, a select group of six undergraduate students has worked with faculty in Oakland University’s Eye Research Institute (ERI) on projects investigating causes and potential cures for eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinopathy. 
The students – Maya Sammane, Adam Seidel, Maria Donovan, Anthony Premceski, Reham Karana and Regan Miller – took part in OU’s Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research (SUPER), helping carry out experiments that could lead to breakthroughs in treatments for vision loss.

Utilizing the latest scientific methodologies and equipment, students worked under guidance from ERI faculty mentors on research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
“I originally wanted to go into crime scene investigation, but after this experience I've changed my career goals,” said Miller, a junior biology major. “I love the idea of being able to work on treatments for people with diseases.”
Under the mentorship of Dr. Ken Mitton, Miller monitored the growth of cells found in vessels of the retina, comparing two versions of the growth factor VEGF. Abnormal growth of these cells is associated with various retinal diseases, Miller explained.
“While the body needs VEGF to form vessels to deliver nutrients and oxygen, an excess amount will cause abnormal growth and could eventually cause retinal detachment or other complications,” she said.
Premceski, mentored by Drs. Frank Giblin and Vidhi Mishra, worked on a project examining the interaction between alpha crystallin protein and an alpha crystallin peptide using fluorescence polarization. The goal was to find out whether the peptide was binding to the protein, increasing the risk of cataracts.
“As humans age, the crystallin protein in the lens breaks down to form peptide,” said Premceski, a sophomore biomedical sciences major and member of the OU Honors College. “We hypothesized that the peptide was binding to the protein and speeding along the formation of the aggregates. These aggregates are what cause cataracts.”
Working with Dr. Giblin, junior biology major Maria Donovan researched the development of cortical cataracts.
“A possible cause of cortical cataracts is solar UVB light, so my project was to investigate the process of DNA damage and repair in cultured human lens epithelial cells, in the presence of UVB-induced radiation,” said Donovan, who plans to attend medical school.
“I came into the Eye Research Institute with little knowledge about research and came out knowing that I will be involved in research throughout my lifetime, as a doctor.”
Sammane, a sophomore biomedical sciences major, said that the SUPER program has taught her that, in addition to technical know-how, the research process requires a healthy blend of pragmatism and patience.
“It's easy to want to plan every single step in order to complete a goal, but you have to remember that based on your results, your next step may take you into a different direction,” said Sammane. “Research is not something you can necessarily speed up or even anticipate exact results for. You have to be willing to put in the time, work and patience required.”
Sammane’s research focused on light adaptation in the eye, exploring how photoreceptor cells –  rods, cones, and intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells –  contribute to dopamine synthesis in the retina.
“We determine dopamine synthesis levels in retina samples (collected from mice) by using a research method called Western Blot, which allows us to quantify a target protein, tyrosine hydroxylase, that represents dopamine synthesis levels,” said Sammane, who credits her mentors, Dr. Dao-Qi Zhang and Sheng-Nan Qiao, for guiding her though the experience.
 “If there is a deficiency of dopamine in the visual system, there can be a risk for reduced vision or even a condition called myopia, which is nearsightedness.”
Using a mouse model, Seidel measured the thickness of the retina to determine whether the Peripherin 2p/rds mutation Y-285 STOP CODON causes retinal degeneration in mice. The findings from this experiment will help researchers understand the potential effect of this mutation in the human eye, he explained.
“Peripherin is a photoreceptor protein in the retina, which affects the regeneration of photoreceptor disks necessary for normal vision. If the photoreceptor disks are unable to regenerate, the result is retinal degeneration, which causes vision loss,” said Seidel, who was mentored by Dr. Andrew Goldberg.
Seidel, a junior liberal studies major and OU Honors College member, said the SUPER program helped him to appreciate the broad skill set and knowledge base that research requires.
“While I learned a great deal, I have a better perspective of how much more I need to learn about the research process,” he said. “With this in mind, I have planned additional coursework in statistics and biochemistry.”
Mentored by Dr. Shravan Chintala, Karana examined the role of the Rtca enzyme in causing glaucoma in mice.
“The back of the eye has cells called ganglion cells which take visual information up to the brain. Damage to ganglion cells results in a loss of vision,” said Karana, a junior and OU Honors College member majoring in biology. “An article came out stating that an enzyme called Rtca caused the loss of these cells in fruit flies. We were interested to see if this was true with other animals.”

The students worked in the lab roughly 30 hours per week for 12 weeks, learning research fundamentals, including keeping a research notebook, evaluating research literature and following laboratory protocols. Acceptance into the SUPER program is selective, according to ERI Director Frank Giblin.
“We look for high-achieving students in science and math, especially organic chemistry and calculus,” said Dr. Giblin. “Most of our students have an interest in medical school or graduate school. About 75 to 80 percent go on to pursue graduate education.”
Dr. Giblin said the program is geared toward underclassmen and that most of the participants continue to work with their faculty mentors after their SUPER experience has ended. Some have gone on to publish scholarly articles with their mentors.
“Most of the students come in knowing very little about research,” Dr. Giblin said. “They learn from the ground up about how research is conducted, the scientific method, how to formulate a hypothesis, how frustrating research can be and the failures that happen along the way. Research is difficult, but you can achieve a satisfying result.”
To apply for the program, students submit a personal narrative outlining career goals and interests, a letter of reference, academic transcripts and a resume. They are also interviewed by ERI faculty members.
Those admitted to the program receive a research fellowship of $3,750. Students also attend a weekly Vision Science seminar given by ERI and Beaumont Ophthalmology faculty and receive training in professional speaking and presentation.
The SUPER program concludes with a symposium on Friday, July 29 during which students will deliver 15-minute PowerPoint presentations on their projects. Open to the public, the event runs from 9:30 a.m. – noon, in room 254 of the Engineering Center on OU’s campus.
To learn more about the Eye Research Institute at Oakland University, visit oakland.edu/eri.

Big data in automotive industry fuels growth at NITS Solutions

NITS Solutions is experiencing a growth spurt thanks to a bump in big data usage by automotive firms.

The Novi-based firm provides data analytics marketing solutions that help customers better capture and understand data related to key performance indicators. It then helps the clients leverage that data to improve their marketing.

The 7-year-old firm has made its biggest inroads in the automotive industry in recent years. NITS Solutions grew its revenue by 200 percent last year, thanks primarily to growth in the automotive sector. When it started, it had one OEM as a client. Today it has three.

"There is a huge demand in automotive," says Neetu Seth, founder of NITS Solutions.

That’s enabling NITS Solutions to go on a hiring spree. The firm has hired 10 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 30 employees. It’s looking to hire another 15 right now in a variety of technical positions, such as business analyst, program manager, and project manager.

"We hope to be at 50 people by December," Seth says.

To make room for all of those new people, NITS Solutions is doubling its office space to 10,000 square feet.

"We are building out a new space for our marketing and product development teams," Seth says.

And Seth expects to keep growing. While there is still some headroom for growth in automotive NITS Solutions sees opportunities for more growth in other industries.

"We want to tap into retail and education," Seth says. "We want to bring them big data solutions they can use."

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

BorgWarner to spend $27 million, add 76 jobs with expansion


BorgWarner Inc. plans to spend $27 million to expand its Auburn Hills operations, a project expected to add 76 jobs, state officials said Thursday.

The Auburn Hills-based powertrain supplier is expected to create jobs in research and development, particularly as they relate to advanced electrification drive systems and technology to reduce vehicle emissions, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The new R&D work is expected to help improve gas mileage and address federal fuel economy standards.

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Local teen develops water filtration product at MIT


A 15-year-old Bloomfield Hills student teamed with three California high school students this summer and developed a product aimed at solving the water scarcity problem in Haiti.

Their company, VivaFlow, has already drawn interest from Bill and Melinda Gates.

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Lawrence Tech students getting loaded laptops; include up to $116,000 in software

College isn't cheap, but along with those tuition bills comes value -- the ability to pursue a personally rewarding and socially significant career, not to mention a lifetime of increased earning power.
And at Lawrence Technological University, that value starts the moment students sign up for their first classes.
Lawrence Tech was a pioneer in providing computers to all incoming undergraduates, starting a laptop program in 2000. And next month, new LTU students will get laptops loaded with software with an industry value of up to $116,000.
Charlene Ramos, director of help desk services at LTU’s Southfield campus, calculated the value of software on the three different kinds of laptop computers distributed to incoming students, depending on their academic program.
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet distributed to students in most programs in the Colleges of Management, Arts and Sciences and Engineering is loaded with software that would cost someone in industry up to $116,081 to buy. Included on the tablet for engineering students is industry standard software such as AutoCAD, Matlab, Simulink, Siemens NX and Solidworks.
The HP Z-Book distributed to students in architecture, transportation design, architectural engineering, civil engineering and game art has software with a commercial value of $92,986. Matlab, Simulink, and analytical software for engineers called Maple are among the offerings.
Finally, the MacBook Pro distributed to students in LTU’s audio engineering technology, media communication and graphic design programs has software with a commercial value of $13,530. Matlab and Simulink software are the most expensive parts of this package.
Ramos added that most software companies deeply discount their software to college students, or offer it for free – but that offer is only good as long as you are a student, and frequently requires the college participate in a software program as well. The prices she researched were for professionals in industry who were buying the software at retail price.
In 2000, LTU became one of the nation’s first universities to distribute laptops to students. Today, Ramos said, “we’re distributing more than 2,700 laptops to students, faculty, and staff every year, and that number is growing, with enrollment growing.”
Ramos said her research also shows that LTU’s combination of top-quality hardware and industry-standard software is unique in higher education. “We haven’t been able to find anyone else putting together this kind of program,” she said.
What’s in it for the students, Ramos said, is the ability to get familiar with the exact same software they’ll be using in their careers, in a group setting.
“The students benefit because of the collaboration, the idea that every student has the same software that their peers and instructors have, and they are never without a laptop,” Ramos said.
Included in the LTU program is a 100 percent replacement policy, too: “If a laptop drops and breaks, they get a new one,” Ramos said.
LTU President Virinder Moudgil pointed to recent major software gifts from Dassault Systèmes and Siemens that have “enriched our academic experiences and the tradition carried in Lawrence Tech’s motto, ‘Theory and Practice.’”
Moudgil said Dassault’s Catia software is “used primarily in transportation design and architecture, and our students who become familiar with this software have emerged as young leaders in automotive design, winning many awards.” And Siemens’ Teamcenter product lifecycle management software is used in engineering, motor sports, industrial design, and operational engineering.
“What having access to fully functioning versions of this software does for our students is put them at the top of the list, enabling them to walk into work on their very first day and be productive,” Moudgil said. “They are using the same software here that they’ll be using in industry. They don’t need to be trained on the job. It’s like an apprenticeship here on campus.”
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

LTU gets $100,000 state grant for business incubator services

The Michigan Strategic Fund has approved a $100,000 grant to Lawrence Technological University to provide support and business advice to early-stage technology companies.

This is the second year that LTU has received a state Gatekeeper Grant to assist entrepreneurs and innovators. LTU provides services through the LTU Collaboratory and its Customer to Cash program.

The LTU Collaboratory is a hands-on resource center providing education, networking, mentoring and connections to funding. The Customer to Cash program, meanwhile, helps companies take product ideas to market through innovative design thinking and the proven Business Model Canvas program.

More about the programs at www.ltucollaboratory.com.

LTU has partnered with the City of Southfield to foster economic development through the city's SmartZone. Based on the results from the Gatekeeper Grant, Southfield has provided the LTU Collaboratory additional support over the past year to help foster small business success.

Through the Gatekeeper Grant, the LTU Collaboratory has also strengthened its collaboration and working relationships with agencies such as the Michigan Small Business Development Centers, Automation Alley, SCORE Detroit, and other organizations.

The new Gatekeeper Grant will continue the momentum established from the first year's award to assist the growth of early stage technology companies, especially in those companies focused on product design, engineering, prototyping and manufacturing. Terms of the grant contract are still being

For further information on the programs, contact, Mark Brucki, executive director of the LTU Collaboratory, at mbrucki@ltu.edu.

Oak Park firm creates custom medical exam tables for Detroit Zoo's penguins


Mopec, an Oak Park-based mortuary and pathology equipment manufacturer, has donated two custom medical exam tables to the Detroit Zoo’s new $30 million Polk Penguin Conservation Center. 

“The Detroit Zoo is right around the corner from our headquarters,” says Jane VanDusen, CEO of Mopec. “When we received the (request for quotation) from the zoo, our staff decided they wanted to customize and donate the tables.”

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