Innovation & Job News

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E-commerce community brings student art to area businesses

In October 2013, Victoria Bujney, Ashley Brimley and Caitlin McDonald participated in Startup Weekend Lansing. Within 52 hours they had created a rough concept for Folyo, a social e-commerce community geared toward student artists.

“Even if students had amazing work, they were selling to other students who couldn’t afford their art,” said Bujney, co-founder and CEO of Folyo. “Small and medium businesses don’t have the time or resources to pursue art but they have the budget that can afford student art.”

Folyo creates a bridge between talented artists and a market of small to medium sized businesses that want beautiful original art. The co-founders focus heavily on building a community of art enthusiasts who can get to know and engage with the artists creating their one-of-a-kind piece.  It also provides a space for artists to sell their art as well as an opportunity to learn how to price and eventually market their pieces.

“I think a lot of people, expect something like this to come out of New York and California. We have extreme talent here in Michigan.” said Bujney

Folyo is set to launch in April 2014. There is an open application process for top notch artists in the Michigan area. Visit for more information.

Ashley Brimley is the Chief Operating Officer and the artist who inspired the idea behind the new venture while Katelyn McDonald serves as the startup's Chief Technical Officer.

Source: Victorie Bujny, Folyo
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

4-H Renewable Energy Camp introduces local students to innovative technologies

Local youth between the ages of 13 and 19 are invited to apply to attend the 4-H Renewable Energy Camp.

Starting June 23rd, students will reside in dorms to experience college life and participate in off campus tours around the state to learn about the unique role the state of Michigan plays in renewable energy.

Topics of study will include solar, wind and cellulose power sources. Instructors will show students the process of growing crops like soy beans, corn and sugar cane specifically for the purpose of converting them into energy that can be utilized by the community they live in.

“It will be a dynamic experience that exposes children to renewable energy and how they might be a part of it,” said Jacob Dedecker, Stem Program Leader for MSU Extension. “We provide youth with examples of what careers look like now and what they may be like in the future.”

There will also be a Teen Challenge component of the camp announced in the future.  Participants will work with leading researchers and industry leaders to find solutions to renewable energy problems and make their own experiments.

While creating awareness for the work that Michigan State University and local industries do within the different facets of renewable energy technology, the camp organizers seek to highlight successes and initial endeavors in the field for students interested in pursuing a career in the field.

The application for the camp is available online here. The cost of the camp is $190 for 4-H members and $200 for non-members. The fee includes meals, lodging and camp materials. 

Source: Jacob Dedecker, MSU Extension
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Anthony Hall is Better Buildings Challenge Showcase Project

Michigan State University’s Anthony Hall will be the first to receive energy efficient upgrades as the Showcase Project for the Better Building Challenge.

The Better Building Challenge is a national leadership initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy that partners with public and private entities to improve the energy consumption of their existing building portfolio.  MSU is 1 of only 18 educational partners participating in the challenge.

“MSU has always been committed to improving the quality of life of our community,” said Bill Latta, Assistant Vice President of Operations at MSU. “We take the power of research and the power of education and apply it to real world problems in an effort to improve the lives of everyday people.”

MSU was matched with energy efficiency technology professionals to help them build an energy model that would help them determine which location would be best served by an improvement. The energy transition plans they develop to reduce green house gas emission and increase renewable energy will be available for other campuses to utilize. The improvements to Anthony Hall will likely save 34% in energy costs annually.  

“These improvements will lead to more jobs for contractors in the Greater Lansing area as well as an opportunity for new technologies to be developed right here.” stated Latta.

Source: Bill Latta, Michigan State University
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

New website to help new arrivals settle into Mason area

Inspired by the steadily increasing business development in the Mason area, T.A. Forsberg and the Mason Area Chamber of Commerce have launched
The website will provide individuals and families moving into the City of Mason with a comprehensive tool to locate housing and connect them with area local businesses.
"Mason is growing and there are more people coming into the area for employment,” said Brent Forsberg, President of T.A. Forsberg and Broker at Forsberg Realty. “Our hope is to help people get plugged into the community faster as they move in to the Greater Lansing area.”
Visitors to the website will have access to housing listings generated by the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors. The website will also highlight local shopping venues, restaurants, community festivals and events.
“Until now, there wasn't an online resource for people to find information on Mason itself, “stated Forsberg. “Now the information will be aggregated for them.”

Source: Brent Forsberg, T.A. Forsberg
Writer: Tasmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Eli Broad Museum, MSUFCU partner to display preschool artwork

Art created by young artists from the MSU Child Development Lab is on public display in the lobby of MSUFCU thanks to a partnership with the Eli Broad Art Museum.
“Introducing young children to art gives them the opportunity to practice critical thinking in a creative way that is not offered in public schools today,” said Aimee Shapiro, Director of Education for the Broad. “You create lifelong learners when you support a child’s ability to make choices and the confidence that what they choose is important.”
Staff members of the Broad shared the artwork of Beverly Fishman with each preschool class before asking them to create their own masterpieces. Children were able to choose from an abundance of materials supplied by the museum. Students from both the Haslett and East Lansing campuses participated in the project.
“This was an effort to broaden our relationship with different communities and institutions outside of the University”, said Shapiro. “It is really important to us that the people in our area not only view the Broad as a free resource but as a part of their community.”
Members of the community can view the display which includes two pieces of Fishman's own art for the next three months at MSUFCU's headquarters at 3777 West Road, East Lansing.

Source: Aimee Shapiro, Eli Broad Museum
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

CAWLM donates $15,000 to Lansing Promise with partner AT&T

The Capital Area Women’s Lifestyle Magazine (CAWLM) and AT&T donated $15,000  to Lansing Promise.

This is the second year that the CAWLM has chosen Lansing Promise as the beneficiary of their annual 80s Flashback Fundraiser. Dedicated to helping students continue their education after high school, Lansing Promise awards college scholarships to Lansing students.

“Anytime we give back to a local cause there is a larger goal of positively impacting the community as a whole, not just the specific organization we give to," said Emily Caswell, Managing Editor of the CAWLM. ”From the start, the event has been, not only totally rad, but a fundraising event for a community cause.”

During the fundraiser, the University Club’s Henry Center is transformed to give guests the feeling that they’ve been transported back in time. Popular 80s cover band Starfarm provides the entertainment while costumed attendees dance, perform in an 80s Idol Contest, enjoy a candy table and a cash bar with a signature 80s drink. AT&T works as a partner to secure funding for the event.
“I believe that students who receive this funding for college or post-high school job training will not forget how their community supported them and in turn, when they are ready and able, will do great things for their community.” asserted Caswell.

The CAWLM 80s Flashback Fundraiser will be held on March 22, 2014 and tickets are on sale now at

Source: Emily Caswell, Capital Area Women's Lifestyle Magazine
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Cooley Law School supports legal writing competition

Students across the state will compete for prize money, publication and recognition through the Innovation and Intellectual Property (IP) Legal Writing Competition co-sponsored by the Intellectual Property Law Section (IPLS) of the State Bar of Michigan and Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
“Across the world, the industries generating jobs are those based on new technologies,” emphasized Prof. Barry, “This is one strategy to create an environment statewide where those kinds of business can prosper.”
Professor David C. Barry is a Professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, a private, nonprofit, independent law school and director of the Graduate Program in Intellectual Property Law.
“Regardless of where Michigan students eventually practice, they will have more insight into IP and be better equipped to advise their future clients.” stated Barry.
Open to all students enrolled in a Michigan law school, the deadline to submit entries is May 15, 2014. The IPLS provides volunteer judges who review the papers and select a winner. In addition to winning prize money, awardees have their original work published in the IPLS Proceedings journal and are recognized at their annual IP seminar in March. 

Source: Professor David C. Barry, Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

East Lansing Public Library and Hoopla partnership offers patrons expanded digital offerings

Members of the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) now have free access to digital media through a new partnership with Hoopla Digital.

Available online at and through the free Hoopla mobile app for Android or IOS device, patrons will be able to access TV Shows, movies, e-books and music from major Hollywood studios, record companies and publishers. Cardholders can borrow, instantly stream and temporarily download thousands of titles without ever leaving the comfort of their homes.

“We keep a close eye on trends and over the last year e-book downloads have skyrocketed,” stated Amber Laude, ELPL Collection Development Librarian. “We exist to serve our patrons and innovative services are what they are looking for.”

The ELPL also recently launched access to digital magazines through Vimeo in August of 2013. This new partnership is an extension of an already beneficial vendor relationship between the ELPL and Midwest Tape, the parent company of Hoopla Digital. 

Free Legal Clinics for Area Entrepreneurs

Mid-Michigan entrepreneurs and inventors will have an opportunity to obtain free legal advice to help them address important issues related to their intellectual property at an upcoming free clinic.
“Great ideas will drive economic and workforce development in the 21st century for the state of Michigan”, asserts Steve Bennett, the Vice President and Chief Program Officer for the statewide nonprofit Primas Civitas.
Primas Civitas coordinated the collaboration between the MSU Bioeconomy Institute and the MSU College of Law to remedy a void in economic and workforce development. Created by Michigan State University in 2006, Primas Civitas prides itself in performing small, nontraditional work while utilizing the unique advantages of working with a large, research university like Michigan State University.
The free clinic will be held by appointment at the MSU College of Law. Interested parties can complete an online application to secure their spot.

Addressing intellectual property law is an expensive but necessary step for inventors and entrepreneurs intending to take their innovative ideas to market. This free legal clinic will assist in mitigating upfront costs while providing law students with practical experience in their field. A practice area of the MSU Law's Legal Clinic, the Intellectual Property Start-Up Project connects interested parties to veteran attorneys who will mentor MSU law students as they discuss options, conduct legal research and set appropriate goals for protection of  new technologies for real clients.
Directly following the clinic, participants will be given an advisory letter generated by law students that will outline recommended next steps. 
“MSU’s commitment to making this initiative a reality has made them equal champions in developing the region's next big ideas,” stated Bennett.

In addition to the free legal clinic offered in East Lansing, there are two other clinics scheduled: January 28, 2014 at the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce and  January 30, 2014 at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute in Holland.
Source: Steve Bennett, Prima Civitas
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Study Finds 'Hip-Hop' Students Face Disciplinary Discrimination

A new study finding that Black and Latino students who identify with ‘hip-hop’ culture face unfair disciplinary practices in urban schools may help shape more equitable school districts in the Greater Lansing area.
Professor Muhammad Khalifa performed an ethno-graphic study to understand the full cultural context of schools in Southeastern Michigan over the course of two years. The study gathered individual responses, field notes, school data and involved shadowing subjects to create a more in depth picture than what could have been represented with interviews and surveys.
Khalifa, a Michigan State University assistant professor of education completed his investigations during his Doctoral work.
“Traditional schools have casted aside ‘hip-hop’ culture as a deviance,” said Khalifa. “There are achievement, suspension and disciplinary gaps that can be resolved if educators begin to view these students as assets instead of burdens.”
The findings of this study follow a recent charge from the Obama administration to discontinue zero tolerance policies that critics believe marginalize students that do not conform to their school district's cultural norms. Based on Khalifa’s study, schools can perform an equity audit to determine which students, parents, teachers and non-instructional staff are feeling excluded by the school system.
“We are very clear on which teachers are struggling and how to map a plan for improvement,” asserted Khalifa, “Until we have a handle on our equity data and a plan to create a district that is inclusionary instead of exclusionary, than we are not serious about reforming education.”

Professor Khalifa is currently working with a team to provide area schools with access to an online equity audit that can be performed and returned electronically. This inexpensive resource would generate a report giving school leaders and communities an equity benchmark for their school, as well as a way to move forward in an inclusive and culturally responsible way.
Source: Muhammad Khalifa, Michigan State University
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Grant Award to Fund STEM Education for At Risk Girls

Young girls in the Greater Lansing area will have the opportunity to participate in ‘girls only’ STEM clubs through a new program called 2020 Girls.
A partnership between the Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) and the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) was recently awarded a $26,000 Women’s Initiative Grant by the Women’s Leadership Council of the Capital Area United Way to support this new program for at risk girls.
“15% of Computer Science students at Michigan State University are women and 85% are male,” says Kirk Riley, Execituve Director of ITEC. “That’s an incredible disparity.”
Since its formation in 2008, the ITEC has worked to provide resources to help students improve their grades in science and math. Their IT based programs are implemented at community locations like the Capital Area District Library, the YMCA and Lansing Community College. Students are given the opportunity to learn robotics, basic programming, digital media and game design.
“We try to play to a child’s inner geek and help them learn through play,” Riley said.
2020 Girls will have an innovative laser focus on improving the way that at risk girls experience science and math.  The ITEC is proposing that STEM clubs be set up at schools within the Lansing School District were young girls will experiment with building robots, developing apps and designing their own video games. 

The hope is that 2020 Girls will teach young girls 21st Century skills like problem solving, analytical thinking, collaboration and creativity while encouraging them to keep their sights on STEM careers past middle school when they typically lose interest.

Source: Kirk Rily, Information Technology Empowerment Center
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Spoke8 Marketing Grows by 50%; Increases Staffing

Spoke8 Marketing inspires their clientele to think about their marketing in a new way.

As a company touting an Inbound Marketing Certification for 2 years running from Hubspot, it may be their concise approach towards targeting their client’s audience that allowed their company to grow by 50% this year. Inbound Marketing methodology has been proven to increase the impact of marketing efforts for businesses and provide clientele with improved return on their investment (ROI).

The marketing, media, design and web company hired 3 new staff members increasing their total number of employees to 8 in 2013.

“We are looking for a Drupal Web Developer who will be responsible for assisting our current development team and taking our client’s websites to the next level”, says Ann T. Siegle, Chief Executive Officer.

The Lansing area has provided the company with access to a pool of talented young professionals educated locally that enjoy staying connected to peers in similar creative fields of interest. Siegle credits the atmosphere of the city for helping Spoke8 Marketing retain local talent.

“Lansing has a lot going for it,” said Siegle.

Spoke8 Marketing will be listing a position for a full time writer with Capital Area Michigan Works before the end of the year to assist with both short and long form writing assignments. They will also be moving to a larger location in Lansing to accommodate the growth of their staff.

Source: Ann T. Siegle, Spoke8 Marketing
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News

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.
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