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LTU wins first, third place in national competition for assistive design

Two teams from Lawrence Technological University took first and third place in the SourceAmerica Design Challenge, a national competition to design workplace products that improve the employability of people with disabilities.

An LTU team won first place for its Cube XL Assembly, which nearly doubled the assembly output of employees assembling equipment to fasten pipes to interior surfaces on buildings. The device allows people who have the use of only one hand to perform the task.

Finishing in third place was another LTU team’s Clip Assembly Device, which allows people with limited hand function to assemble a clip used in automotive headrests.

Lawrence Tech’s sophomore-year engineering design studio class has been working for two years to develop products like these for Services to Enhance Potential (STEP), a Dearborn-based charity that works to boost employment prospects for people with disabilities.

“It’s incredibly valuable to us,” Steve Slayton, STEP’s director of business development, said of LTU’s assistance. “Both of the designs this year made big impacts for our clients. The tools that the students create allow our clients to do jobs that they were not able to do before, and allow our clients to really increase their productivity.”

More than 120 teams of high school and college students in STEM programs across the country competed in the challenge. Three collegiate and five high school teams were selected for the finals competition, held in early April in Washington, D.C.

A member of the first place team, Bram Ligon, called the competition “a pretty eye opening experience.” The sophomore mechanical engineering major from Rochester Hills said it was “really awesome, getting to work with the various subject matter experts and hear their stories about how other teams have developed assistive technologies for people with disabilities.” Ligon said the teams made their presentations in a conference setting with about 150 people present, before a panel of judges that included current and former staffers with IBM, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Academy of Engineering.

A member of the third place team, Victoria Pellerito, a junior mechanical engineering major from Macomb Township, added: “Beginning to end, it was amazing. The moments leading up to the presentation were nerve-wracking, but once we got up there and started presenting, it was great. You knew everyone there genuinely cared.”

John Bowen, a member of the first-place team and a sophomore double major in biomedical engineering and molecular and cell biology from Williamston, said the event featured a packed schedule of workshops and discussions daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., “and then we’d practice our presentations until midnight.” The teams also met with staffers of U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell.

The faculty teaching the sophomore engineering design class said the SourceAmerica and STEP relationships have truly brought home design thinking concepts for the engineering students.

“The relationship with STEP has made all the difference in the level of student engagement and ownership within the design studio,” said Cristi Bell-Huff, director of LTU’s Studio for Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (SEED). “Having real customers to empathize with and really create value for has made a lasting impact on our students’ professional and personal development as engineers. Serving customers with disabilities in particular helps our students get outside the classroom and outside of their own perspectives in order to solve a real world problem that will make a big difference in someone's life. “

Added Heidi Morano, SEED project engineer: “The value of customer engagement is two-fold; first, the ability to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is a critical skill for engineers in this day and age. Secondly, that the student teams are able to see directly the impact that their design can have on someone’s life really seems to resonate and leaves a lasting impression.”

SourceAmerica, a national nonprofit with a mission to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities, hosts the Design Challenge annually. The contest is designed to bring greater awareness of the need and the impact of assistive technology in the workplace and encourage upcoming generations to develop an inclusive mindset.

Pellerito said her hope is that more can be done to help millions of disabled Americans find jobs. Only 17.9 percent of Americans with disabilities were employed in 2016, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 65.3 percent of Americans without disabilities. She also said she hopes more colleges and universities can be convinced to compete in the SourceAmerica Design Challenge.

More on the competition at http://www.sourceamerica.org/design-challenge. Stories about individual finalists’ projects may be found at http://www.sourceamerica.org/news.

Oakland County taking steps to retool its mobility workforce

There’s nothing like a challenge to get Oakland County fired up.

The challenge came in the form of a 2017 Connected Mobility Skills Needs Assessment conducted by Oakland County and the Michigan Talent Investment Agency.

The report said that if Oakland County is going to remain competitive in the coming connected mobility revolution, it needs to do a better job of developing and attracting a workforce with the right balance of engineering skills and automotive knowledge.

So local colleges and business groups are rising to meet the goal, by using this report to make improvements or changes to curricula.

Jennifer Llewellyn, manager of Oakland County Workforce Development, says the report surveyed 50 area employers that serve the connected mobility industry, asking them what knowledge, abilities, and skills they look for in potential hires. The report was presented to educational institutions, professional organizations, and business groups around the region.

"Our goal is to ensure Oakland County’s talent pool has the required knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to meet employer demand," Llewellyn says.

The assessment, the fourth in a series of surveys in emerging technology sectors since 2009, is frank in its conclusion that eight major areas need to be addressed before Oakland County can compete with other regions in developing a mobility workforce.

The top area of concern is an "insufficient pipeline of qualified workers." There's not enough local talent with advanced degrees, and those who do, lack experience in the automotive field. This leaves many local companies with no choice but to try to poach workers from other regions. The problem is that Southeast Michigan is still perceived as a region with an outdated manufacturing base, making it harder to compete with other metropolitan areas.

Other problems identified by the survey include educational institutions offering outdated engineering degrees, visa restrictions, deficient connected mobility training programs, and a general antiquated perception of the automotive industry.

The report, while frank in its conclusions, is being used by local institutions to make improvements.

"Oakland University used the data to help shape the curriculum for their Master’s in Systems Engineering," Llewellyn says. "Other entities are reviewing the report and using it to shape future curriculum in the connected mobility space."

Krytronx in Novi to distribute $100M in free smart sensors for manufacturing industry

Excerpt: 

Krytronx in Novi and its iToolTag platform, which wirelessly tracks sensors placed on manufacturing tools, industrial equipment, vehicles, and other components, announced it will invest $100 million to provide free worldwide installation of its blockchain-based iOT (Internet of Things) asset tag product line.

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IoT TechConnect conference in Troy to increase awareness of opportunities, threats posed by Internet

Excerpt

The Internet of Things (IoT) TechConnect conference, to be held on April 4 at the Troy Marriott, will provide attendees with a greater understanding of the opportunities and threats posed by IoT. As more devices connect to the internet, there are more opportunities for hackers to get into computer systems. The event will focus on IoT companies, experts, and training in Michigan.

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LTU hosts game development marathon

Excerpt

About 30 software coders, artists and others with an interest in game development spent the weekend at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield during the second annual Game Jam on campus.

The event was part of Global Game Jam, a worldwide celebration of art and creativity in game development.

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Tech248 update: ORBBEC builds 3D cameras for VR, AR, 3D printing, AI and more

Excerpt

Virtual and Augmented reality are becoming the hot new technologies on the scene. Troy-based ORBBEC makes computer-controlled 3D cameras that can see, hear and respond to people and their environments with unprecedented accuracy fitting in nicely with this trend. ORBBEC is the featured company in this Tech248 update.

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Michigan universities push ahead on autonomous vehicles

Excerpt: 

On the small campus of Lawrence Technological University, a few students are on the cusp of programming one of the nation’s first autonomous vehicles as a class project.

Already, the two-seat electric vehicle — the size of a golf cart — won an international competition last spring for the software the students developed, taking first place in a new division of the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition at Oakland University.

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Beaumont Health tests Michigan's first 3D whole breast ultrasound for cancer detection

Excerpt

Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn is one of eight centers nationwide participating in research to improve the detection of breast cancer in women by using SoftVue three-dimensional ultrasound technology on women with dense breast tissue.

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Farmington Hills-based S2 Equipment creates Solar Briefcase and PowerPack for remote energy apps

Excerpt

S2 Equipment in Farmington Hills, which operates The Invention Shop, announced the debut of the Hans PowerPack and the Solar BriefCase 60, which can charge mobile devices during a power outage or provide electrical power during a trip off the grid, at a tailgate party, or at other events.

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Tech248 member MatchRX revolutionizing surplus prescription drug industry

Excerpt

Check out this cool Tech248 member company MatchRX a private web-based inter-pharmacy marketplace to buy and sell small quantities of non-controlled, non-expired overstocked prescription drugs and drugs in short supply to satisfy a specific patient need or declared public health emergency.

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Farmington Hills manufacturer teams with OU to turn water into electricity

A Farmington Hills-based company believes it has a developed a game-changing product for the clean energy industry. And a unique partnership with Oakland University has helped convince them and many others that they've done just that.

It's called the Oscillo Drive, a device developed and patented by Wave Water Works, LLC. Basically, the Oscillo Drive is placed in water and uses the motion of waves to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. The device produces energy, which is then moved to a generator, converting that energy into electrical energy. It is quiet, renewable, and sheds no pollution.

"And the amazing thing is, the damn thing works," says Wave Water Works project director and general manager Chuck Keys.

Another seemingly amazing part of the story is that the Oscillo Drive had been sitting on the shelf for three decades before its inventor, Phil Padula, president and CEO of Wave Water Works, hired Keys in 2013 to bring the product to market. Keys has been talking to interested parties as near as Macomb County and as far as Israel and India.

The Oscillo Drive is going into production this winter and the company will have projects in the water the following spring.

The company enrolled in the Oakland University INC business incubator program last year, gaining access to important equipment and help from engineering faculty and 43 students. Keys estimates that Wave Water Works received $1.5 million in professional engineering services as a result of the partnership.

"We needed to be able to test the device," he says. "We knew it worked but we needed to be able to measure it. At OU, we were able to run it through a battery of tests."

Wave Water Works is also readying an Oscillo Drive that works in rivers. A desalination device is also nearing production.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Delphi Partners with Innoviz Technologies on advanced LiDAR solutions for autonomous vehicles

Excerpt: 

Delphi Automotive, a global technology company that operates its North American headquarters in Troy, has announced a commercial partnership agreement with Innoviz Technologies, an Israeli company developing LiDAR technology for the mass commercialization of autonomous vehicles.

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LG Electronics to establish U.S. factory for electric vehicle components in Michigan

LG Electronics Inc. announced plans to establish a U.S. factory for advanced electric vehicle (EV) components in Michigan. The 250,000-square-foot facility, in the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park, Mich., will produce EV components starting in 2018. The project will mean at least 292 new Michigan jobs, including factory workers in Hazel Park and engineers at the expanded LG R&D Center in Troy, Mich.
 
Representing an LG investment of about $25 million, the project is supported by a $2.9 million capital grant under the Michigan Business Development Program over the next four years, as announced today by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. LG also will receive hiring and training assistance from the state, including MI Works support in cooperation with local community colleges, and from the cities of Hazel Park and Troy.
 
“When leading global companies like LG invest in Michigan and create hundreds of good, high-paying jobs here, it speaks volumes about the strong business and mobility climate in the state today,” Governor Rick Snyder said. “LG’s great technological advancements and our outstanding workforce will help pave the way for the vehicles of the future right here in Michigan.”
 
Ken Chang, LG Electronics USA senior vice president and head of the LG Vehicle Components North American Business Center, said, “LG’s initiative to develop and produce world-class EV components in the United States represents a key pillar of our strategy to be the best technology partner to U.S. automakers.”

Vehicle components represent the fastest-growing business of global technology leader LG Electronics. LG’s first-half 2017 global revenues for vehicle components were more than $1.5 billion, a 43 percent increase from the same period last year, thanks in large part to the successful collaboration with General Motors on the popular Chevrolet Bolt EV. Honored by GM as a global supplier of the year, LG Electronics received the coveted 2017 GM Innovation Award.

LG’s jobs and investment commitment in Michigan coincides with two other major LG projects in the United States. The company will soon begin construction on the world’s most advanced production plant for washing machines in Clarksville, Tenn. This $250-million factory will create 600 new U.S jobs by 2019. In addition, construction is under way on the new LG North American Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., a $300-million project that is expected to increase LG’s local employment there from 500 today to more than 1,000 by 2019. 

OU professor awarded $210,829 NSF grant for research on new terahertz generator

Dr. Andrei Slavin, a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Physics at Oakland University, has been awarded a $210,829 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a collaborative research project which seeks to develop a new type of terahertz generator that can be used in a variety of fields, including communication, medical imaging and security.
 
“Existing generators of terahertz radiation either work at temperatures below room temperature or are based on expensive and bulky laser systems,” Slavin said. “These significant deficiencies severely limit their usefulness. The goal of this project is to create a new type of terahertz generator that is compact, inexpensive and works at room temperature.”
 
According to Slavin, terahertz radiation falls between infrared radiation and microwave radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum. It can pass through clothing, paper, cardboard, wood, masonry, plastic and ceramics, which makes it ideal for detecting concealed weapons and explosive materials.
 
Terahertz radiation can also detect differences in density of a tissue, which could allow for effective detection of skin and surface cancer. Some frequencies of terahertz radiation can also be used for 3D imaging of teeth and may be more accurate than conventional X-ray imaging.
 
In addition, terahertz waves, which operate at a much higher frequency than microwaves, could one day be used to deliver data up to 100 times faster than today’s cellular or Wi-Fi networks.
 
“We believe that communication technology will go further with increased frequencies,” Slavin said. “So the next generation of 5G communication will probably use frequencies that are higher than current frequencies.”
 
According to Slavin, the research project is a collaborative effort between a team of experts in magnetic device fabrication at the University of California, Irvine, and leading theorists in the field of magnetic devices at Oakland University.
 
“As a result of this three-year research effort, we expect the result will be a terahertz generator that will be micro-sized – approximately 10 microns in diameter and less than 1 micron in thickness,” Slavin said, noting that 10 microns is approximately twice the size of a human blood cell.
 
“With this device, we will be able to generate approximately 1 microwatt of power at a frequency of about one-half terahertz,” he added. “You might think one microwatt isn’t a lot, but one microwatt is sufficient power for many applications, especially communication applications.”
 
The new generators will be based on readily available antiferromagnetic materials, such as iron oxide and nickel oxide, and will operate via conversion of magnetic oscillation in these materials into terahertz electromagnetic waves.
 
“Our invention is an example of trying to tap into the naturally existing internal magnetic field in the antiferromagnetic material using the fact that current propagating in the heavy metal creates a perpendicular current of spins,” Slavin said.
 
The NSF grant is for a three-year period.
 
“The grant allows us to concentrate more and intensively collaborate with our experimental counterparts at the University of California, Irvine, and creates a possibly to check our theoretical ideas experimentally,” Slavin said. “We’re very grateful to the NSF. Nobody knows whether it will work or not, but we will try to do our best to bring them an experimental prototype within three years. “
 
More information about the NSF grant can be found online at nsf.gov.

LTU researching autonomous taxi with gifts from MOBIS, Dataspeed, SoarTech, Realtime Technologies

Lawrence Technological University has begun the research and development of an autonomous campus taxi thanks to donations from several corporate partners.

Hyundai MOBIS, the parts and service division of the Korean automaker, donated $15,000 for the purchase of a Polaris GEM e2 two-seat electric vehicle. Dataspeed Inc., a Rochester Hills engineering firm specializing in mobile robotics and autonomous vehicle technology, converted the vehicle to an autonomous drive-by-wire system. 

Also donating to the effort were a pair of Ann Arbor high-tech firms – Soar Technology Inc. provided a LIDAR (laser-based radar) unit to help the vehicle find its way, while Realtime Technologies Inc., a simulation technology firm, provided a cash donation.

Hyundai MOBIS formally turned the keys of the vehicle over to LTU Provost Maria Vaz and C.J. Chung, professor of computer science, in a ceremony on the LTU campus last week. Vaz thanked the sponsors for providing a great learning and research opportunity. David Agnew, director of advanced engineering at MOBIS, made the presentation.

LTU computer science students have already won an international award with the vehicle. They developed software to make the car operate autonomously – well enough that it took first place in the new Spec 2 division of the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, held at Oakland University in June. The Spec 2 competition required multiple self-driving vehicle functions such as lane following, lane change, traffic sign detection, obstacle avoidance, and left turns.

After winning at IGVC, team members began reprogramming the vehicle to serve as an autonomous taxi on the LTU campus. It’s been rechristened ACT, an acronym for Autonomous Campus Transport/Taxi, in a naming contest won by Nick Paul, one of the team members. Chung said the university is planning to introduce Level 3 autonomy with the vehicle – allowing both hands and eyes off the road – by August 2018.

A video of the car in competition at the IGVC is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSzxPp66vxk&feature=youtu.be
206 Research + Innovation Articles | Page: | Show All
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