Innovation & Job News

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Video teaches social skills to teens with autism

Group video teaching could provide area schools with an effective and practical way to teach adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) important social skills, a Michigan State University researcher says.
“The group-based instructional method is more likely to be adopted by schools, where these individuals are primarily served, then is an approach that requires one-to-one teacher to student ratios,” said Joshua Plavnick, assistant professor of special education at MSU.
Allowing educators to teach students with ASD in larger groups will help public schools stretch their budgets for special education while preserving a high educational standard. Prior to Plavnick’s study, there was no study indicating that social skills could be taught to more than one student with ASD at a time.
A public school in Livonia is participating in a test of the procedures and eventually schools in the Greater Lansing area will be recruited providing a direct benefit to students with ASD in our area. In the future, Plavnick hopes to be able to provide educators with an implementation manual and a website that will provide support in the form of a video library.
Although the results of this study are preliminary, they indicate that students may be able to learn to follow video models on broader topics than just learning explicit skills. Plavnick’s team will continue to define flexible procedures to better accommodate the differences in each group, resolve issues with feasibility and sustained implementation by teachers.
Plavnick’s co-authors are Ann Sam of 3-C Research Institute and Samuel Odom and Kara Hume of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.

Source: Joshoua Plavnick, Michigan State University
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

'Smart Voting Joystick' improves accessibility at the polls for the disabled

Local voters with dexterity impairments, senior citizens and others could see an improvement in the technology used at the polls to cast their votes.

Sarah Swierenga, director of MSU Usability/Accessibility Research, collaborated with a team of MSU faculty, undergraduate engineering students, rehabilitation specialists and usability and accessibility researchers and interns to develop a prototype joystick that is comparable to the joystick-controlled wheelchair used by thousands of people in the U.S.

A majority of polling locations utilize accessible voting machines that require a voter to press small buttons or switches more than 1,200 times. Those repetitive motions can cause discomfort or pain and sometimes requires the assistance of a volunteer discouraging disabled voters from participating on election days.

“One of the key rights of democracy is being able to vote privately and independently,” said Swierenga. “We wanted people with disabilities to be able to interact with the voting process in a better way.”

Six people with dexterity issues within the local community participated in user evaluations and the results were successful. The research team will continue their investigation and design refinement with the hopes that eventually they can attract a voting manufacturer to commercialize the joystick. Technology leaders in the Mid-Michigan area could influence the national scene and improve voting for people with disabilities across the country.

“Even a small amount of money can make a big difference in everyday people’s lives in the wider perspective of voting,” said Swierenga.

Research was funded by a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, through the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and a full report will be published by the end of December 2014.

Source: Sarah Swierenga, MSU Usability/Accessibility Research
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor.

Revel Cellars experiences significant growth and accolades

Greater Lansing grown Revel Cellars has experienced quite the year. With articles in and Wine Spectator and serving big name clients like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, founder Jim Cash is looking forward to the new opportunities these experiences will bring in the years to follow.
"Forbes called Revel Cellars the 'World's Best Wine Cellars;' this was an immense development for us," Cash says.
The 'World's Best Wine Cellars' were born of equal parts innovation and necessity. As a 30-year collector of wine and former COO at Christman, Cash was dissatisfied with the traditional wine racks on the market. He couldn't find the rack and cellar combination that he was looking for, so he ventured to design it. A sliding drawer system sets Cash's design apart from competitors.
Cash is currently working locally with Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Moebius Technologies and the State of Michigan to begin development of a manufactured steel product for the system.
"We're currently in the design phase and have patent applications pending," says Cash.
Revel business is conducted primarily over the web, with customers accessing the virtual showroom from all over the country and world. Cash says he continues to develop new designs and is looking into creating a more contemporary line of cellar systems.
"We are pleased and proud to be a start up company making a world class product headquartered here in the Lansing area," Cash adds.
Source: Jim Cash, Revel Cellars
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Balance Concierge looks towards growth, develops mobile access services

A former health care administrator, Judy Foley founded Balance Concierge in 2007 with a focus on serving the healthcare community. The company provides a full range of concierge services tailored to hospital physicians, employees and patients. From automotive services to grocery and meal delivery, Balance Concierge covers it.
"As we continue to experience growth, we are pleased to continue to add staff," says Foley. Balance Concierge corporate offices are located in East Lansing and currently house four employees. Foley expects to locally hire a part-time project manager and an accounting assistant in the coming months.
Recently, Balance Concierge announced the development of a new mobile site application for their services. eBalance Concierge recognizes the more consistent use of mobile technology while on the job and provides alternatives to the traditional on-site concierge services.
In addition to on-site and mobile services for hospital staff, Balance Concierge offers bedside concierge for patients.
"Fifty percent of patients are admitted through the ER," says Foley. "We help them make up for the life they left at home."
Source: Judy Foley, Balance Concierge
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Capital Imaging receives national design award, expands services

When Bo Noles learned that his company, Capital Imaging, had won the American Inhouse Design Award sponsored by Graphic Design USA out of more than 4,000 submissions, he was delighted.
"The award confirmed that our project and product really were good ideas, ready to be taken to our customers to provide them with a unique service," he says.
That project? An inhouse design piece called "Let The Ink Do The Talking" for their photobook product now available to clients. The branding book helps showcase the imaging services Capital Imaging provides while highlighting the quality and capabilities of the photobook.
Located in Lansing's eastside, Capital Imaging is a business document and graphics printing company that specializes in serving small to mid-sized businesses on a short run, quick turn basis.
"We stay current with innovation and technology so our clients don't have to," says Noles.
Capital Imaging will be launching two new services in October: Digital Décor Wallcoverings and Free Flow Publisher. The former takes digital images and transforms them into specially designed wallpaper for any room. The latter is a customizable newsletter or magazine service that allows for reader interaction and client understanding of how their publications are being used.
Source: Bo Noles, Capital Imaging   
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Martin Waymire receives Google Engage All-Star and Public Relations Society accolades

Recognition as a Google Engage All-Star continues Martin Waymire's award-winning streak in 2013. In June, the advocacy communications group took home the "Oscar" of the public relations profession, winning a national Silver Anvil Award in New York City. The Silver Anvil is the oldest and most prestigious award given in the nation for outstanding achievement in PR.
The Google Engage All-Star competition includes the top search engine optimization agencies in the world. Martin Waymire was among a relatively small number of firms from around the world - and the only Michigan firm -  selected as Google Engage All-Stars out of roughly 14,000 companies that are part of the Google Engage program.
"We received this prestigious recognition by outperforming thousands of competitors in online advertising this year using the Google Engage program, hitting certain benchmarks and helping clients achieve and exceed their campaign goals through Google advertising," says Andrea Ness, director of graphic and new media services.
Ness and colleague Naomi Burton received an all-expenses-paid trip to Google Headquarters  - known world-wide as the Googleplex  - in Mountain View, California to attend Google's All-Stars Summit this August. The two-day summit included exclusive workshops, advanced trainings and one-on-one consultations with Google experts.
"Having this expertise and knowledge in our tool chest allows us to provide this support to businesses and organizations the area. We're happy to help our current clients and all others that are interested in getting started with Google advertising, or to continue their successful online advertising campaigns using this great platform," says Ness.
Source: Andrea Ness, Martin Waymire
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Lansing Financial Empowerment Center launches TV show

The Lansing Financial Empowerment Center strives to give Lansing residents tools to improve their financial situation. With the new TV show, Money Power, the Center aims to increase awareness of their programming and help and even greater number of residents down the path of financial wellness.
"We hope that the show will be a fun way to both give people some extra tools to better their financial situation, but also to highlight the wealth of great resources that Lansing has to offer - many of them free," says Amber Paxton, director for the Center and Office of Financial Empowerment with the City of Lansing.
The Center is a grant-funded program of the City of Lansing and Capital Area Community Services, which offers free one-on-one financial counseling and is modeled after the Financial Empowerment Center model created by the City of New York.
"Because of the generous grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment fund through support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, we are honored to be 'tied for second place' in implementing this model," says Paxton.
The three-year, $1.5 million grant asks that the City provide in-kind support. The City of Lansing and the Lansing Public Media Center are contributing the production of 12 episodes per year of Money Power on an in-kind basis. Three shows are complete and available for viewing on Vimeo. Extreme Couponing, saving money by shopping at Farmers' Markets, and decreasing energy costs are examples of topics covered.
Source: Amber Paxton, Office of Financial Empowerment
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Wi-Fi and roll-on bike services come to Michigan Amtrak trains

Just as roll-on bike service is coming to Amtrak trains on the Blue Water line, adding Wi-Fi service on all Amtrak trains in Michigan will start in early 2014. AmtrakConnect will make Michigan the first state in the Midwest to bring this amenity to all its rail passengers.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is investing close to $1 million for Wi-Fi installation. MDOT anticipates broadening the range of amenities available to riders will also broaden potential ridership in the state.
"The addition of Wi-Fi service will make Amtrak rides more productive and comfortable, helping riders capitalize on some down-time to work on a report, catch up on e-mails or simply visit some favorite websites," says MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa.
As of September 6, bicycles are now accepted aboard the Blue Water line, which operates daily between Port Huron and Chicago via East Lansing and Kalamazoo. The modified railcars are unique to the Midwest.
"With Amtrak service available to some of Michigan’s large state universities, including Michigan State, this will be a great service for college students traveling between school and home or work," notes Schirripa.
Source: Nick Schirripa, Michigan Department of Transportation  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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LEAP launches Fund Lansing, crowd funding for local startups

Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) announced in late August a new program called Fund Lansing. Fund Lansing is aimed to assist companies and individuals in greater Lansing who are raising investment through web-based crowd funding platforms.
“The concept of crowd funding is quickly gaining momentum as a means for young companies to effectively raise funding while simultaneously gaining positive press on the web and social media," says Ken Szymusiak, Co-Director of the New Economy Division at LEAP.
Crowdfunding is a relatively young idea in which entrepreneurs utilize small sums of investment from a range of supporters often in exchange for a product before it is available to the public. Kickstarter and IndiGoGo are two of the more well known platforms.
The web service is free to join and serves as a way for local companies to easily promote their fundraising efforts to local investors. LEAP's objective with is to allow all companies in the region an additional platform to get the word out about their campaign and provide a service that allows local investors to easily find local companies seeking their support.
"By making the connections between local opportunities and capital we feel that we can provide an economic boost by making it easier to encouraging investment within our region," says Szymusiak.
Source: Sara Graham, LEAP
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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Peckham Farms partners with Lansing-area Meijer stores

The Lake Lansing and Okemos Meijer stores are now featuring several Peckham Farms vegetables. Customers are able to purchase Peckham heirloom tomatoes and peppers, graffiti cauliflower, royal burgundy green beans and cucumbers.
The Peckham and Meijer partnership has been an ongoing effort for a number of years, beginning with an initial goal to place individuals with disabilities into employment opportunities at Meijer. The organizations have been working together by providing job training and skill development to create work environments that are more inclusive and accessible.
"The Peckham Farm products that are now in Meijer stores is just another extension of this partnership and speaks to our shared commitment to building local and sustainable communities," says Chris Wilson, Store Director of the Okemos Meijer.
"We are excited for Peckham Farms to be featured at local Meijer stores, and expand our reach into the community," adds Peckham Farms Manager, Rebekah Faivor.
Peckham Farms is in its third year of growing, and uses sustainable principles in its farming techniques. The farm is one of five social enterprises that focuses on providing paid job training opportunities in for persons with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
Source: Shavonne Singleton, Peckham, Inc.  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
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LRN 101 wraps two years of educational programming

The award winning show LRN 101 wraps a two year run of programming in August. The show has been a pro-bono project of Such Video and Keep Learning…Our Future Depends On It and made possible through an equipment grant by the Lansing Public Media Center.
The gran program asked local organizations to create two years' worth of content, or 48 episodes, using equipment provided by the Public Media Center. As a result, Such Video and Keep Learning developed LRN 101, focusing on highlighting education in fun and engaging way, and stressing for viewers how important it is to always keep learning.
"It was amazing to see so many people come together to help tell the story of education in Lansing," says Karen Stefl, partner at Such Video.

As part of the 48 episodes, 294 individual segments were filmed in the news-style show, with 399 interviews. Twenty student interns and one full-time employee were added to the Such Video team to help with the project.
"Supporting the Lansing community is something we value at Such Video, and we embrace education development as economic development," says Stefl. "The collaboration that is Keep Learning helps our community to flourish." 
LRN 101 currently airs on Lansing City TV and WKAR-HD at 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Full episodes are also available on Vimeo at
Source: Karen Stefl, Such Video  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News

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Michigan Farm Bureau plans for growth, for farmers and team

As a grassroots organization, Michigan Farm Bureau's future is in the hands of their more than 48,500 farming members. 
"We are more than an organization of farmers; we are a farmers’ organization. Our members set our policy and our member leaders provide direction; our board of directors is composed of leaders who make a living farming," says Scott Piggott, Michigan Farm Bureau chief operating officer.  
Farm Bureau goals include growing new opportunities to market and add value to farm products, to promote an environment where farming can grow responsibly and to grow member leaders in communities. 
In the past 12 months, the Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies has added 84 established, full-time staff members. That includes both new blood from outside Farm Bureau and those who have transitioned from a temporary pool into established positions. Adding some key new positions, including a technology director, is anticipated.
Piggott says that beyond their talented staff is a grass-roots membership - the heart of the organization.
"They’re the real innovators, developing policy at the local level and passing it up to statewide delegates at our annual meeting for refinement and consolidation. That’s where our direction comes from, year after year," he explains.  
Source: Scott Piggott, Michigan Farm Bureau  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Lansing Habitat for Humanity teams with Little Caesars to fuel volunteers

Habitat for Humanity Lansing is building three green, geothermal, energy star homes on Wayne Street in Lansing. Each home will be unique and have between three and five bedrooms, a nice-sized front porch and a natural setting for the children to play in. Once the homes are complete, the homebuyers will take possession and pay an interest-free mortgage to Habitat for Humanity Lansing.
"Our homes are built in partnership with hard-working homebuyers who will put in 300-500 hours of sweat equity on their own home and other Habitat projects. We provide a hand up, not a hand out to individuals that are living in poverty housing and offer a chance to own their own home, build equity and have a safe, decent, affordable place to live," says Dena Vatalaro, Development Director for Habitat Lansing.
The Lansing Little Caesars franchise, Oak Point Partners, is proud to be partnering with Habitat Lansing this summer by donating pizzas for the volunteer crews. Due to budget constraints, Habitat Lansing is not able to offer a lunch to the volunteers, so this partnership significantly improves the volunteer experience.
"We believe this gesture by Little Caesars will set an example for other local business owners to do what they can to help their local non-profits through in-kind donations. Habitat Lansing relies on area businesses to donate materials, services and products to continue the mission to eliminate substandard housing here in the greater Lansing area," says Vatalaro.
Source: Dena Vatalaro, Habitat for Humanity Lansing  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Taste of Downtown tickled tons of taste buds, experiencing record attendance

Approximately 1,100 people enjoyed the 4th Annual Taste of Downtown on Saturday, July 20. Event attendees enjoyed an afternoon full of delicious food from 16 downtown restaurants, sampling over 100 different wines, and dancing to live music on Washington Square.
"We're thrilled - this is the highest attendance that the festival has experienced in its four year history," reports Cathleen Edgerly, Communications and Marketing Manager for Downtown Lansing, Inc.
The official after party was held at P Squared Wine Bar & Bistro, sponsors and a restaurant participant in the event. The establishment was full with Taste of Downtown attendees after the festival ended at 8 p.m.
The Downtown Lansing event, steeped in collaboration was majorly sponsored by Lake Trust Credit Union and showcased a diversity of participating restaurants, including AnQi Sushi, Wandering Waffles and Capitol City Grille.
"Our live entertainment was sponsored by Troppo, and attendees enjoyed the musical offerings from bands like Southpaw Isle Steelband, Avon Bomb, Root Doctor and The Squids," adds Edgerly.
Source: Cathleen Edgerly, Downtown Lansing, Inc.
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Capital Strategies growing team, growing impact

Capital Strategies, LLC is a comprehensive financial planning company residing in Lansing. Whether it's accumulation, distribution, or estate planning, they serve those in all phases of financial planning.
"Every person has a unique financial fingerprint, so every financial plan we design is tailored to meet individual circumstances," says Shannon Poynter, Business Development Director at Capital Strategies.
Capital Strategies helps to identify where clients are financially to help determine if they are positioned to sufficiently meet both current and future needs. They also assist in designing and implementing a plan based on client inputs and their professional recommendations and monitoring the plan once in place.
They recently moved to a new office after expanding their team. With a staff of five, Capital Strategies is looking to hire an executive assistant and an additional financial planner in the near future.
"The wealth of economic diversity in the area has definitely had a positive impact on our business. Greater Lansing has a diverse group of individuals with unique needs who we have been able to help with their financial needs and goals," adds Poynter.
Source: Shannon Poynter, Capital Strategies LLC  
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.
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