Category: Technology

From Hot Sauce to Craft Beer: MSU Agri-Food Leadership Makes Huge Economic Impact

It wasn’t long ago that Scotty and Suzi Owens were typical gardeners who enjoyed sharing some of their harvest with friends. The hot sauce they made with homegrown peppers got rave reviews, and people said they should go into business selling it.

When Scotty got laid off from his work in tool and die during Michigan’s economic downturn, he and his wife did just that.

Fast forward to today and bottles of Scotty O’Hotty hot sauce and salsa are in grocery stores around the country. The couple’s business is operating with seven employees out of a 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, and in 2019 they’re on track to go nationwide in Kroger stores and begin exporting their award-winning products to China.

So, how in the world did that happen?

The Michigan State University Product Center recognized Suzi and Scotty Owens as 2018 entrepreneurs of the year.

“We had the dreamiest stars in our eyes, but I was almost at a brick wall at what to do,” Scotty Owens said. “MSU really steered us in the right direction.” The Owens came across the Michigan State University Product Center in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. There they received guidance on the rules and regulations involved in making a food product, took classes on bottling, learned about labeling and in 2012 got licensed to work out of a commercial kitchen.

A year later Scotty O’Hotty was on the shelves in small grocery stores that the Owens connected with through MSU’s Making It In Michigan food show, and the business has been growing ever since. Earlier this year the MSU Product Center named Scotty and Suzi Owens their entrepreneurs of the year.

Scotty O’Hotty is just one of many success stories at the MSU Product Center, which helps start or expand businesses in the agriculture and food sector. Just last year, the Product Center helped launch 87 new Michigan businesses that invested $35 million into the economy and created 350 new jobs.

But the MSU Product Center is just one way that MSU has been helping to grow the state’s food and agriculture system over the past 160 years. As the country’s pioneer land-grant institution, the then-Michigan Agricultural College has been a leader in practical, science-based education from the start, and even though the name has changed agriculture remains an important  area of research, with a big impact on the Michigan economy.

“The idea of us being here to help support and build and grow the agriculture and natural resources industries of the state goes back to the very beginning,” said Douglas Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and assistant vice president of research and graduate studies.

Back in the mid-1800s, MSU was established by federal law as an agricultural school — the first to teach scientific agriculture. It became the prototype for the nation’s land-grant institutions, which were created to promote both the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. Though MSU now carries out that mission across a wide range of disciplines, the original focus was agriculture.

Before the start of the 20th century, MSU had birthed groundbreaking agricultural advances including the development of hybrid corn to increase yields and the discovery that a swath of Michigan is fertile ground for sugar beets. Pioneering work has continued on everything from the process used in the homogenization of milk to how Michigan farmers can grow hops for the state’s booming craft beer sector.

Nearly 5,000 students are studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs through Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

And today MSU is a global leader in agricultural education, using scientific research to address real-world problems and help agri-food businesses implement solutions.

MSU has played no small role in Michigan’s massive food and agriculture economy, which fuels more than 800,000 jobs and makes an annual impact of more than $100 billion, according to a 2018 study. Here are just a few glimpses of the breadth of MSU’s engagement in the industry:

Preparing tomorrow’s agricultural leaders

Today, MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources includes nearly 5,000 students studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs in forestry, animal science, crop and soil science, horticulture and many others.

“Through our educational programs we train the next generation of agri-food leaders both in the public sector and in the private sector,” said Bill Knudson, a professor in MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. “We have a lot of two-year programs as well, geared primarily toward people who will be working on the farm both in the crop area and the livestock area.

Michigan State University student Loren G. King is studying how technology such as drones and autonomous vehicles can make farm operation more efficient.

“Not only do we train our workers, but we also train our regulators. We’d have a much less safe food supply (without MSU’s leadership).”

Among those thousands of students is Loren G. King, who comes from a family farm in southwest Michigan and is learning about agriculture technology. Looking at global population estimates during his lifetime, the 20-year-old knows that the food and agriculture system will have to produce more and, to remain sustainable, do so while using fewer inputs such as fertilizer.

So, he’s studying how farms could deploy autonomous vehicles and drones to become more efficient. He envisions a completely cloud-based farm where managers can use mobile devices to gauge moisture and nutrient levels to see how crops are doing.

“It’s about expanding the efficiency of the farmer right now,” King said. “You’ve got to feed more people while using less.”

Bringing innovation into everyday life

Embedded in the DNA of a land-grant institution like MSU is the drive to use cutting-edge scientific tools to address problems and forge new opportunities. Because of that, food and agriculture study at MSU is definitely “not a science for science’s sake operation,” Buhler said.

A benefit of MSU’s research is that Michigan has developed the country’s second most-diverse agricultural economy. In addition to staples such as corn, milk and eggs, the state’s agriculture sector is full of smaller, specialty crops from asparagus to wine grapes.

Some of Michigan’s fruit varieties, for example, have been developed by MSU on nearly 20,000 acres that are used for agriculture and natural resources research and education throughout the state.

Michigan State University professor Rufus Isaacs is a leading researcher on the invasive spotted wing drosophila insect.But that diversity also breeds new challenges. Fortunately, MSU also is at the forefront of combating new crop diseases and pests. For example, professor Rufus Isaacs this month made a list of the world’s most Highly Cited Researchers for his work on the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive insect that damages fruit crops. Isaacs is just one of many MSU food and agriculture experts on the list.

“The large companies that are there to support major corn, soybean and dairy are not available for a lot of these smaller, more specialized industries,” Buhler said. “If we’re not there to help them with their latest insect, there aren’t a lot of options. If we weren’t here I don’t know who would fill that gap in all these specialty areas.

“Not many years ago there were almost no hops grown in Michigan. Had MSU not been here to help people learn how to manage hops and control diseases I don’t think it would have happened.”

Aside from immediate threats, MSU also is researching long-term challenges from food waste to world hunger through efforts including the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy. Climate change poses another problem, and MSU’s Plant Resilience Institute is working to improve the ability of crops to handle weather extremes.

“Minor changes in weather could have a real impact on us,” Buhler said.

Helping communities grow

Not only does MSU do research to support Michigan’s food and agriculture system and educate the next generation of industry leaders, the university also takes what it learns and shares it with the broader public. That work takes many forms including the new “Food @ MSU. Our Table” program, which helps people make better-informed choices about food.

In an era where the population is both growing and becoming more urbanized, it’s easy for people to be even more disconnected from the sources of the food they eat. That’s why MSU also is active in urban agriculture around the state, including the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

Michigan State University’s first urban food research center is being established in northwest Detroit through the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

MSU is establishing its first urban food research center on a 2.5-acre former school site in a northwest Detroit neighborhood. The findings on everything from soil remediation to fertilizer and pesticide use will inform urban growers around Michigan and beyond.

“When you’re growing food in an urban setting it’s very different than in an open space,” said Dave Ivan, MSU Extension director of community, food and environmental programming. “This new center really will provide an opportunity for us to plant a flag in an area, working with a lot of the existing leaders in the Detroit urban ag movement in terms of how we can help you address the challenges you’re facing.“

We have a lot of credibility in communities, so people trust the information that we provide. They know that we’re scientific in terms of guiding our recommendations or framing an issue.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

Why ‘You Can Accelerate Your Career’ in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region

Fireworks blast over the Saginaw River in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, which is a great place to launch your career.

Two years out of college, Cassi Miller is doing work that she loves, helping to re-invent an industrial-era downtown in the heart of one of the 10 most-populous states in the country. She lives minutes from Saginaw Bay where she loves to fish, close enough to Detroit for big-city excitement and a short drive to incredible natural resources all over the Great Lakes State.Plus, she’s already a homeowner.“My boyfriend and I were able to buy a house already when I was 23,” said Miller, an assistant economic developer who manages the city of Saginaw’s Downtown Development Authority. “We got our jobs set and had steady paychecks, and the housing is so affordable.“I have a lot of friends who live other places and they can’t even picture buying a house in the near future.”In addition to affordable housing, extraordinary career opportunities await young professionals like Miller who bring their talents to Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region — an 8-county destination in the middle of the Lower Peninsula that’s home to state universities, world-class employers and a community-oriented culture where you can play a part and make a difference right away.If you’re looking for a place to start your career, or ready to take your next step, consider the Great Lakes Bay region for these reasons:

  • Strong downtowns — From Midland to Mt. Pleasant and from Bay City to Saginaw, the Great Lakes Bay region is full of bustling downtowns that are the commercial and cultural centers for some 600,000 people. Each city has its own unique character, offering distinct experiences of shopping, nightlife, entertainment and recreation. “There’s always things going on, something to do every weekend,” Miller said.
  • Diverse places to live — Want to live by water? The Great Lakes Bay region has 77 miles of freshwater coastline. Prefer an urban skyline? A tree-lined suburban street? A country farmhouse? The region offers a variety of living opportunities. Miller and her boyfriend bought a foreclosure house, between where she works in Saginaw and where he works as a controls engineer for General Motors in Bay City, and renovated it. After only a year, they’ve already built equity into the house.
  • Outdoor recreation — When Miller first moved to the region, she rented a house right on the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail that she biked all the time. “That was one of the first times that I thought this would be a really cool place to live,” she said. The region’s also full of hiking, snowmobiling and off-road vehicle trails through tens of thousands of acres of st

    The longest canopy walk in the country opens this fall in the Great Lakes Bay Region, taking people 40 feet up in the air through Whiting Forest in Midland.

    ate forests, has over 1,000 miles of rivers perfect for kayaking and canoeing and hundreds of lakes for fishing and boating including Lake Huron, the fourth largest lake on the planet.

  • Large companies — Dow Chemical headquartered in Midland is one of the largest companies in the world, but it’s far from the only major employer in the Great Lakes Bay region. Fortune 500 company Lear Corp. has a presence here, and successful manufacturing and engineering firms such as Hemlock Semiconductor, Hutchinson Aerospace, Magline, Nexteer and Vantage Plastics operate across the region.
  • Business friendly — Communities throughout the Region are prepared to help companies grow and locate new businesses. The Great Lakes Tech Park offers FREE pad-ready land for approved projects, with 148 acres available. It is an AT&T Fiber Ready Site, a designated Energy Ready Site by Consumers Energy and a Michigan Certified Business Park! The Region’s dynamic infrastructure, affordability and skilled workforce are ideal for advanced manufacturing. Interested in engineering, electronics and precision components? Then Tech Park occupants such as Fullerton Tool and Saginaw Control & Engineering may be a great fit for your career.

    The Great Lakes Tech Park outside Saginaw offers free, shovel-ready land to businesses.

  • Affordable place to live and play — With a cost of living below the national average, the Great Lakes Bay region offers affordable housing and commercial properties. For example, the median home value in Carrollton Township where Miller bought a house is just $65,000. Your paycheck goes a lot farther at the microbrewery here than it would many other places. “People are nice, plus it’s in the middle of everything in Michigan,” Miller said. “You can go to Detroit quickly, up to Traverse City, over to Ludington (on Lake Michigan). It’s still a fun place to stay home for the weekend as well.”

RELATED: 5 reasons free land in Michigan is a good site for business expansion
For all the advantages of living and working in the Great Lakes Bay region, there remains a gap between the number of qualified professionals and the number of jobs that are available. That’s why area employers are teaming up to host a “Coming Home” mixer where young professionals can learn about the region and discover all the immediate and long-term opportunities that await them here.
The mixer is 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). It’s free to attend. RSVP here.

  • RELATED: Discover Great Lakes Bay on Instagram
  • It wasn’t until Miller, 24, began dating a student at SVSU that she ever visited the Great Lakes Bay region. A Goshen, Ind. native, Miller studied at Ball State University and earned a degree in urban planning and development.

But rather than start her career in a big city, Miller found exactly what she was after in Saginaw: an urban center small enough for her to make connections with community leaders and start making a difference right away. She landed a job in economic development and got involved with the DDA, which works to make downtown Saginaw a more vibrant place.

The SVRC Marketplace opened in downtown Saginaw in summer 2018.

Momentum already was building in Saginaw before Miller arrived, with renovation of the former Saginaw News building into a new multi-purpose marketplace, construction of a downtown campus for Delta College and more. Her work has complemented that redevelopment, striving to make downtown more walkable with public spaces and plazas where people can gather.

“I really love community development and making places livable and fun to be in, that make you feel like you’re part of a community,” Miller said. “Saginaw, before I came, was already working on a lot of that, but I’m really happy that I’ve been able to be involved as much as I have here.”

Working in a city with a population of about 50,000 has enabled Miller to form relationships and get things done sooner than she’d be able to in a city of 500,000 or 5 million people.

“I think Saginaw’s about the perfect size, especially for what I do,” she said. “A lot of the companies are a lot smaller than you’ll find in large cities. It’s a lot easier to know the people in charge and make the moves you want.”

“You can accelerate your career by choosing to live here, not just in Saginaw but the whole Great Lakes Bay region. We’ve debated leaving to go back home (to Indiana), but if the opportunities keep coming to me the way they are we’ll be staying here.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

How Many Engineers Does It Take To Serve A Cup Of Froyo?

 

For the end customer, the world’s first robotic frozen yogurt vending kiosk is pretty cool. You order by touchscreen, which triggers an animated video and launches a robotic arm that takes a cup, fills it with froyo and lathers it in your favorite topping.

You’re going to start seeing lots of Reis & Irvy’s robots in shopping mall food courts, movie theater lobbies, hospital cafeterias and other venues around Michigan and beyond.

“The show is a big part of the appeal,” said Elliott Potter, co-founder of Houston-based Rethink Motion, which designs the robotic arm that powers the Reis & Irvy’s machine. “There’s always a line of people watching the robot do its thing.”

What the customer doesn’t know is that it takes a lot of engineering expertise to make a cool gadget like a robotic froyo kiosk into a viable commercial product that operates at a price point people are willing to pay.

As former NASA engineers, Potter and fellow co-founder Aaron Hulse are working to commercialize the kind of technology they worked on in the space program. They know what they’re doing when it comes to robotics. They know how to program the touchscreen interface, for example, and they know how to design the printed circuit boards that control the robotic arm’s motors and sensors.

But even though Potter and Hulse can design the products and make them work, they aren’t experts on how to make the circuit boards inside those products inexpensive and efficient to mass-produce. So, they turn to an electronics contract manufacturer (CM) with a deep pool of its own engineering expertise for help.

“Beyond the bill of materials and some basic rules of thumb, it’s hard to know what makes a printed circuit board assembly expensive or cheap, so I rely on feedback from the engineers at Saline Lectronics to say ‘We can do this, but this thing that you’ve done adds 30 percent to the cost of the board,’” Potter said.

“I definitely rely on them to go over the design and say ‘Gosh, the pads on this sure are small’ or ‘Without thermal relief on these pads we may have assembly issues.’ Their input on this is critical in terms of commercial success.”

How many engineers does it take to serve a cup of froyo? The question may sound like the beginning of a joke, but the reality is the more engineering expertise you can devote to solving a problem the better. That’s especially true for an electronics CM.

Not every electronics CM staffs the same level of engineering knowledge and experience. Some CMs have a greater breadth and depth of engineering talent, and that has a big impact both on the customer’s experience and on the quality of the final PCBA or box build.

PCBAs and other electronic manufacturing projects require a team effort between multiple types of professional engineers, who each bring the unique perspective of their specialty to the table.

Here’s a look at several different types of engineers that a technically-proficient electronics CM should have on its team:

  • When a CM receives an order, like for a PCBA that enables a robotic hand to sense when it’s grasping a yogurt cup, a Pre-Production Engineer reviews the customer’s documentation and requirements during a “pre-release” meeting that involves the entire engineering team. This meeting should include electrical, chemical and mechanical engineers. The CM’s engineers evaluate the documentation — instead of blindly following it — and identify the unique demands of the PCBA, including any special processes and potential problems that might arise. Having engineers with excellence in a variety of fields enables the CM to develop the optimal manufacturing plan for turning out PCBAs that meet the customer’s needs.
  • Once a manufacturing plan with instructions for the build have been developed up front, a Component Engineer reviews the Bill of Materials and works with the Purchasing Department to get all the parts and specialty components necessary to complete the PCBA. With many parts in short supply these days, some CMs will come back to their customers and say “we can’t find these 10 parts, so please find alternatives.” But it’s a huge time saver for customers like Rethink Motion when their CM has the technical capability to say “we can’t find these 10 parts, so please approve these 10 alternatives.”
  • An Associate Engineer translates the customer’s documentation into the CM’s standardized work instructions that technicians will use to implement the manufacturing plan devised in the pre-release meeting. Once the project is released to the production floor, a variety of engineers work with technicians to ensure the assembly proceeds successfully:
  • Process Engineer monitors the manufacturing process, troubleshooting any issues and finding opportunities for improvement. This may require support from a chemical engineer for special processes like conformal coating or potting processes, for example, or from a mechanical engineer for electro-mechanical box build products. It’s helpful to have specialty engineering expertise in house to oversee manufacturing and communicate with customers.
  • Test Engineer works closely with the customer to develop cost-effective testing that validates the PCBA performs as it should. This can include an In-Circuit Test (ICT), Flying Probe or other functional testing that helps improve product quality.
  • Quality Engineer works on the production floor and watches the entire process like a hawk, taking notes and making tweaks to make sure that the finished PCBA meets the customer’s needs. This engineer also is responsible for documenting compliance with any special certification requirements such as ISO13485, for medical equipment, or AS9100, for aerospace equipment.

Check out this eBook to learn more about how proper engineering training, degrees and industry certifications directly affect an electronic CM’s ability to implement best practices and superior solutions.

A diverse pool of engineering expertise is necessary for an electronics CM to optimize circuit board design and the assembly process — so that the manufacture of PCBAs avoids time-consuming inefficiencies and costly mistakes so that products like a frozen yogurt vending machine can come to life.

“That’s really a huge added value, not just having these engineers on staff at Saline Lectronics but having them work with me,” Potter said.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

How Apprenticeship Lands Student High-Tech Career, Debt-Free College Experience

KALAMAZOO — When Jarod VanDyken graduated from Kalamazoo Valley Community College with an associate degree in computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining last summer it was a worthwhile accomplishment, sure, but not at all unusual — even if CNC is hardly a household word.

No, the real feat here is that VanDyken already has a secure, high-paying job with an advanced manufacturing company — and his employer, Texas-based Flowserve Corp.’s Kalamazoo plant, completely paid for his education, meaning VanDyken has zero college debt.

“This worked out for me better than I could have ever possibly imagined,” said VanDyken, 26. “You’d never know that for four years, I sat in the back of classrooms at Kalamazoo Central High School and did next to nothing. I was the student that teachers warned other teachers about.”

VanDyken said he wasn’t unruly, but admits his laziness frustrated both his teachers and his parents. His disinterest kept him from applying himself in a manner that would allow him to thrive in the public education system, but he doesn’t blame the system. Rather, he takes full responsibility for his own actions — or lack thereof.

“I just didn’t want to do anything,” he said. “I guess you could say I had senioritis the first day of my freshman year and I never changed.”

Thanks to the Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2) program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Jarod VanDyken was able to earn a debt-free college degree and now has a career with Flowserve, a high-tech manufacturing company in southwest Michigan. Courtesy photo.

Inspiring turnaround

But then VanDyken’s mother told him about the Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2) program, the apprenticeship program developed by Michigan’s global industry leaders and the Michigan Talent Investment Agency. Now, as a graduate of the program, he’s on track for a long-term career with a wide range of upwardly mobile options.

“Everybody I trained with told me that I was probably going to be the head of a company someday soon,” VanDyken said. “I laughed at first, but when I kept hearing that — and when the other MATstudents told me they were hearing the same thing — I started to realize how incredible this program is. There really isn’t anyone else with this knowledge and skill set who’s as young as we are. One year of MATput me light-years ahead.”

He credits his parents, Mark and Julie VanDyken, for inspiring his transformation and is especially grateful to his mom for introducing him to MAT2.

“I’m lucky to have a great family. I finally realized it was important to me to live up to their expectations and uphold the standards they set,” VanDyken said. “My parents knew what I was capable of before I did. I owe them so much and I know I can never repay them, but I have goals to work toward now, and I know they’re proud of me for turning my life around.”

And their support included allowing him to live at home as he went through the program, although he’s not sure how much longer that will last.

“I can’t believe they put up with me this long, but I’m looking to move out sometime next year,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the time they gave me. Now that I have a good foundation of savings, I have more options of the type of home I want to start building my life in.”

MAThelps make it happen

VanDyken was taking classes as a part-time student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and working at a local greenhouse, when he was encouraged to apply for a MATapprenticeship in 2015 by his mom, who heard of the program through her job as a Flowserve purchasing agent.

KVCC is among four colleges in Michigan participating in the MAT2 program by recruiting students who are interested in earning a paycheck now while becoming the technical manufacturing leaders of the future. KVCC’s focus with MAT2 is addressing the need for high-tech workers in southwest Michigan, which expects to add almost 60 new jobs annually for employees trained in CNC machine tools, according to Sue Gardner, the college’s dean of business, industrial trades and public services.

“We want people to know an innovative new path exists in Michigan to obtain a tuition-free associate degree, paid for by a local employer, while getting on-the-job training with pay in a high-tech, in-demand field,” Gardner said.

Careers include work as CNC tool operators and process control technicians. Flowserve, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of industrial and environmental machinery, is among the employers that have successfully recruited and employed MATapprentices.

Get paid to go to school, earn a great job

Applying to MATis similar to applying for a job, and the MATapplication process is competitive. You need a resume and references, which students submit to participating MATemployers through the Pure Michigan Talent Connect site at MiTalent.org/MAT2.

Students have the option of applying to all MATemployers throughout Michigan or just identifying those working in areas that are of interest, such as automotive, boating and aerospace, as well as other advanced manufacturing, research and design companies.

Once a MATemployer hires the student, students enroll at the corresponding college for the appropriate program and the employer pays the tuition. MAT2student-trainees rotate between attending classes and working at a company for the program’s first three years.

During the school periods, student-trainees receive a stipend from their employers, who pay for college tuition as well. In between those periods, students transition into apprentices who put their new skills into action at the worksite, along with earning a regular paycheck. Upon successful completion of the program in three years, the student-apprentices receive an associate degree and a full-time job with their employer.

‘The best decision I ever made’

“Applying for the MATapprenticeship with Flowserve is the best decision I ever made,” VanDyken said. “Plus, I’m extremely excited about everything I’m doing with the company. Flowserve’s business is going great, and with all the advancements being made in our industry we’re broadening our capabilities to meet the demands of our customers.”

VanDyken said he may pursue an advanced degree in either engineering or engineering management to give him more career options — paid for by Flowserve. He would encourage Kalamazoo-area high school students who are considering advanced manufacturing careers to explore the choices offered through MAT2.

“If anybody is even remotely considering this program, I’d say do it,” VanDyken said. “If it worked for me, it can work for anyone. I had no skills, I wasn’t good at math or science and I had terrible study habits. But they laid out all the information I needed in a way that allowed me to learn quickly and retain it.

“If you have any fears of learning something new, throw them out. MAT2 is set up to let you succeed in the greatest way possible.”

More information about MAT2 is available at MiTalent.org/MAT2.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

MSU Revolutionizing Future of Mobility Through Pioneering, Interdisciplinary Research

MSU researchers are leaders in the field of sensor fusion, using lidar measurements, advanced algorithms and high-resolution 3D maps to make automated vehicles smarter and safer.

With 60 lane-miles of roadways, more than 120 miles of sidewalk and nearly 40 traffic signals, Michigan State University’s campus in East Lansing is not unlike many population centers across the country.

Except that MSU’s population includes hundreds of researchers driving the future of mobility with innovative, interdisciplinary work on how people will live and move in a connected world of automated vehicles and smart infrastructure.

The 5,200-acre MSU campus is transforming into a one-of-a-kind hub of mobility experimentation and innovation. With 8 square-miles of contiguous urban, suburban, industrial and rural zones, a highly-mobile student body and tens of thousands of visitors during football and basketball game days, the campus offers an unparalleled, self-contained ecosystem for research, development and real-world validation of emerging mobility technologies.

“This is a living, breathing test environment,” said Satish Udpa, MSU’s executive vice president for administrative services. “You’re talking about a city that’s 70,000 strong. This is a great opportunity.

“We are excited to showcase this holistic approach and invite partners to join us as we work to revolutionize the way people and goods move throughout the world.”

Faculty and students in MSU’s Connected and Autonomous Networked Vehicles for Active Safety, or CANVAS, program are at the cutting-edge of several technical aspects of self-driving cars including sensor fusion, which seamlessly merges multiple data streams to create a picture of the world that’s broader and more accurate than any single sense can provide.

Lidar detection technology captures a precise 3-D representation of MSU’s West Circle Drive during a data-gathering test drive with a driver behind the wheel.

Imagine you’re in a room with a crowd of people and the noise makes it difficult to hear. You’d probably lean on one of your other senses, such as your sight, to recognize that someone at the far end of the room is calling out to you. But what if you could sense what everybody else in the room is seeing and hearing, and what if even the walls of the room could give you information?

MSU is developing exactly that capability for automated vehicles by fusing traditional radars, laser radars – or lidars – visible and infrared camera views, computer software and artificial intelligence algorithms to integrate the vehicle with its environment. Together, the technologies give self-driving cars better situational awareness than humans could ever have, reducing the risk of vehicle error.

“Think of it as a superhuman level of perception,” said John Verboncoeur, associate dean for research in MSU’s College of Engineering.

Sensor fusion is just one of many ways MSU is leveraging expertise across a range of disciplines to make human mobility safer, smarter and more connected.

  • Self-powered energy-harvesting sensors installed on the Mackinac Bridge for structural health monitoring could also be installed in street pavement where they can send signals that let automated vehicles “see” where the road lanes and markings are — even if the pavement is covered in snow. The sensors would allow automated vehicles to operate safely even when visibility is dramatically limited. They also are designed to communicate issues with infrastructure, such as potholes or damaged bridges, so city leaders are aware of construction needs and dangerous roadways.

“You cannot have a smart city without smart infrastructure,” said Nizar Lajnef, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MSU.

Because much of the country’s road system is off the grid, powering sensors is a challenge. But the sensors developed at MSU convert the vibrations of passing vehicles into an electric charge that will keep them communicating for the entire life of the roadway.

  • Biometrics technology that MSU developed for facial recognition software used by law enforcement also may prove handy for automated vehicles by allowing the car to recognize who is occupying it. For one, that could prevent theft. It also could be used to set up different sets of rules for different users.

“When your teenage kid gets in the car, they’re capped with a certain speed limit,” Verboncoeur said. “They can’t take it to the beach during school. Maybe they can only use it at certain times of the day.”

  • MSU’s expertise in wireless communications and electromagnetics is being used to develop lidar technology and high-frequency radar that provides automated vehicles with machine vision, or high-tech eyes. The lidar detection technology captures a precise 3-D view of the travel environment, while the radar can quickly identify both stationary and moving objects — even in fog or snow.

Combined with advanced algorithms, automated vehicles use lidar and high-frequency radar to make predictions for how objects in the travel environment will behave and then maneuver safely through the landscape.

“Humans make errors. Their attention is limited, their vision is limited,” Verboncoeur said. “A machine can continuously look 360 degrees around.”

MSU is developing technology that enables automated vehicles to identify objects in the travel environment and make predictions for how those objects will behave

Take all that brainpower and apply it to the MSU campus, and the entire landscape becomes a real-life lab for development, testing and validation of automated and connected vehicle technologies. For example, MSU is planning to use automated snow plows, dubbed snow-bots, to clear snow from sidewalks and pedestrian walkways, and robo-mowers will be tested on the university’s two golf courses. Plus, an automated transport shuttle will debut on campus in the spring.

Already, high-definition cameras are positioned above campus intersections to collect terabytes of data that can be used to optimize traffic flow and synchronize traffic signals. Sensors are being installed so automated vehicles can communicate both with the street infrastructure and with each other, making it possible for automated vehicles to share data with each other and with the roadway.

An entire section of campus, the Spartan Mobility Village, will soon be the home of MSU’s mobility labs where roadways and parking lots can be closed so researchers can put training wheels on emerging automated vehicle technologies and put them to the test in all-season conditions.

Lessons learned at MSU will be applicable to urban, suburban, industrial and rural settings across the country, regardless of weather and congestion.

“Spartan Mobility Village is going to be a real-live test bed, so we can try out technologies before releasing them to the larger campus,” said Leo Kempel, dean of MSU’s College of Engineering.

Michigan was the birthplace of the automobile and now the state is transforming into the mobility capital of the world.  MSU’s holistic, interdisciplinary approach will help insure mobility will be a boon to Michigan’s economy in the future.

“If you look at who supplies more engineers to the state’s workforce, it’s Michigan State University,” Verboncoeur said. “Having the research and development here eventually turns into the talent, which goes out to the companies of Michigan and applies that new technology.

“We have a competitive advantage in some of these areas. We certainly have the lead.”

 

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

How Students from Small Colleges Land Big Corporate Jobs

As the vice president of human resources for Ford Motor Credit Company, Gale Halsey has the capacity to launch a search for employees and interns anywhere.

Halsey, however, makes a point of staying close to home after experiencing the success she’s had with the Concierge Career Connection program created by the Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA), a 14-member group of the top private colleges and universities in the state.

The program pulls together students from MCA schools and places them in front of some of the best corporate recruiters in the nation. The alliance launched the career connection in 2010, and it has since expanded to more than 30 companies and a wide array of professional opportunities.

“It’s truly one-stop shopping,” said Halsey. “We’re getting qualified candidates, and there’s power in having trust in the students we’re going to interview. MCA has built a relationship, and we know we will be talking to the best of the best.”

While it may seem that Ford and other large employers would stick to bigger universities for dedicated recruiting events, Michigan Colleges Alliance President Dr. Robert Bartlett points out that collectively the partnership of schools is the third-largest group of students in the state. This is another example of how MCA schools work together to provide education and career opportunities for students.

“The diversity of talent in our colleges and universities is second-to-none, and companies covet the students that we have because they are getting young professionals who are ready to achieve,” Bartlett said. “The concierge program is unique. There’s nothing like it in the country. Every campus is involved and connected, so if you’re a student attending one of our schools, you’ve got your school behind you and MCA helping to advance your career.

“You will get a great education, and you’ll be ahead of the game in terms of opportunity and connections to leading employers in Michigan and beyond.”

Beyond Ford, examples of corporate recruiters who have worked with the MCA as part of the career concierge program include:

  • Amway
  • Delta Dental
  • Enterprise
  • Fiat Chrysler
  • General Motors
  • Gordon Food Service
  • La-Z-Boy
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Meijer
  • Perrigo
  • Spectrum Health
  • Stryker
  • Willis Towers Watson
  • Whirlpool Corporation

The alliance is able to match students’ credentials to positions that are open and coordinate pre-arranged on-site interviews and career fairs. The MCA has a personalized recruiting process that often is hard to navigate at massive universities.

Mark Alafita, Ford’s human resources business opportunities manager, said his team performs an annual evaluation of college campuses from which the company draws interns and employees. The team looks at demographics, business school rankings and other data that predicts where they’re likely to find successful candidates.

“With MCA, I can get a wide range of backgrounds in terms of people and what they have studied,” he said. “I don’t need everybody with the same teaching and mindset. We want different ideas to help us generate our success.

“MCA really hit a sweet spot for us.”

Alafita said Ford Credit strives to find candidates who see Michigan as a career destination.

“We want people who want to be where our core business is,” he said.

Halsey, meanwhile, said executives at Ford Motor Credit Company have taken notice of MCA.

“They’ve made me look good,” she said. “We’ve had great success with these candidates. They’ve been prepared for positions through their schools and the alliance.”

The smaller, private school environments allow students to engage with their instructors and emerge as thought-leaders, Bartlett said. Students have greater access to faculty members and mentoring.

“Independent colleges and universities are a place where students can truly flourish on their own terms,” Bartlett said. “They’re not just a body in a large lecture hall. They are part of student-centered learning environments. They grow as individuals in the classroom and beyond. That’s meaningful when you’re ready to take the next step in your professional life.”

Learn more about Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges by visiting the Michigan Colleges Alliance website.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

From Hot Sauce to Craft Beer: MSU Agri-Food Leadership Makes Huge Economic Impact

It wasn’t long ago that Scotty and Suzi Owens were typical gardeners who enjoyed sharing some of their harvest with friends. The hot sauce they made with homegrown peppers got rave reviews, and people said they should go into business selling it.

When Scotty got laid off from his work in tool and die during Michigan’s economic downturn, he and his wife did just that.

Fast forward to today and bottles of Scotty O’Hotty hot sauce and salsa are in grocery stores around the country. The couple’s business is operating with seven employees out of a 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, and in 2019 they’re on track to go nationwide in Kroger stores and begin exporting their award-winning products to China.

So, how in the world did that happen?

The Michigan State University Product Center recognized Suzi and Scotty Owens as 2018 entrepreneurs of the year.

“We had the dreamiest stars in our eyes, but I was almost at a brick wall at what to do,” Scotty Owens said. “MSU really steered us in the right direction.” The Owens came across the Michigan State University Product Center in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. There they received guidance on the rules and regulations involved in making a food product, took classes on bottling, learned about labeling and in 2012 got licensed to work out of a commercial kitchen.

A year later Scotty O’Hotty was on the shelves in small grocery stores that the Owens connected with through MSU’s Making It In Michigan food show, and the business has been growing ever since. Earlier this year the MSU Product Center named Scotty and Suzi Owens their entrepreneurs of the year.

Scotty O’Hotty is just one of many success stories at the MSU Product Center, which helps start or expand businesses in the agriculture and food sector. Just last year, the Product Center helped launch 87 new Michigan businesses that invested $35 million into the economy and created 350 new jobs.

But the MSU Product Center is just one way that MSU has been helping to grow the state’s food and agriculture system over the past 160 years. As the country’s pioneer land-grant institution, the then-Michigan Agricultural College has been a leader in practical, science-based education from the start, and even though the name has changed agriculture remains an important  area of research, with a big impact on the Michigan economy.

“The idea of us being here to help support and build and grow the agriculture and natural resources industries of the state goes back to the very beginning,” said Douglas Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and assistant vice president of research and graduate studies.

Back in the mid-1800s, MSU was established by federal law as an agricultural school — the first to teach scientific agriculture. It became the prototype for the nation’s land-grant institutions, which were created to promote both the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. Though MSU now carries out that mission across a wide range of disciplines, the original focus was agriculture.

Before the start of the 20th century, MSU had birthed groundbreaking agricultural advances including the development of hybrid corn to increase yields and the discovery that a swath of Michigan is fertile ground for sugar beets. Pioneering work has continued on everything from the process used in the homogenization of milk to how Michigan farmers can grow hops for the state’s booming craft beer sector.

Nearly 5,000 students are studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs through Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

And today MSU is a global leader in agricultural education, using scientific research to address real-world problems and help agri-food businesses implement solutions.

MSU has played no small role in Michigan’s massive food and agriculture economy, which fuels more than 800,000 jobs and makes an annual impact of more than $100 billion, according to a 2018 study. Here are just a few glimpses of the breadth of MSU’s engagement in the industry:

Preparing tomorrow’s agricultural leaders

Today, MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources includes nearly 5,000 students studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs in forestry, animal science, crop and soil science, horticulture and many others.

“Through our educational programs we train the next generation of agri-food leaders both in the public sector and in the private sector,” said Bill Knudson, a professor in MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. “We have a lot of two-year programs as well, geared primarily toward people who will be working on the farm both in the crop area and the livestock area.

Michigan State University student Loren G. King is studying how technology such as drones and autonomous vehicles can make farm operation more efficient.

“Not only do we train our workers, but we also train our regulators. We’d have a much less safe food supply (without MSU’s leadership).”

Among those thousands of students is Loren G. King, who comes from a family farm in southwest Michigan and is learning about agriculture technology. Looking at global population estimates during his lifetime, the 20-year-old knows that the food and agriculture system will have to produce more and, to remain sustainable, do so while using fewer inputs such as fertilizer.

So, he’s studying how farms could deploy autonomous vehicles and drones to become more efficient. He envisions a completely cloud-based farm where managers can use mobile devices to gauge moisture and nutrient levels to see how crops are doing.

“It’s about expanding the efficiency of the farmer right now,” King said. “You’ve got to feed more people while using less.”

Bringing innovation into everyday life

Embedded in the DNA of a land-grant institution like MSU is the drive to use cutting-edge scientific tools to address problems and forge new opportunities. Because of that, food and agriculture study at MSU is definitely “not a science for science’s sake operation,” Buhler said.

A benefit of MSU’s research is that Michigan has developed the country’s second most-diverse agricultural economy. In addition to staples such as corn, milk and eggs, the state’s agriculture sector is full of smaller, specialty crops from asparagus to wine grapes.

Some of Michigan’s fruit varieties, for example, have been developed by MSU on nearly 20,000 acres that are used for agriculture and natural resources research and education throughout the state.

Michigan State University professor Rufus Isaacs is a leading researcher on the invasive spotted wing drosophila insect.But that diversity also breeds new challenges. Fortunately, MSU also is at the forefront of combating new crop diseases and pests. For example, professor Rufus Isaacs this month made a list of the world’s most Highly Cited Researchers for his work on the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive insect that damages fruit crops. Isaacs is just one of many MSU food and agriculture experts on the list.

“The large companies that are there to support major corn, soybean and dairy are not available for a lot of these smaller, more specialized industries,” Buhler said. “If we’re not there to help them with their latest insect, there aren’t a lot of options. If we weren’t here I don’t know who would fill that gap in all these specialty areas.

“Not many years ago there were almost no hops grown in Michigan. Had MSU not been here to help people learn how to manage hops and control diseases I don’t think it would have happened.”

Aside from immediate threats, MSU also is researching long-term challenges from food waste to world hunger through efforts including the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy. Climate change poses another problem, and MSU’s Plant Resilience Institute is working to improve the ability of crops to handle weather extremes.

“Minor changes in weather could have a real impact on us,” Buhler said.

Helping communities grow

Not only does MSU do research to support Michigan’s food and agriculture system and educate the next generation of industry leaders, the university also takes what it learns and shares it with the broader public. That work takes many forms including the new “Food @ MSU. Our Table” program, which helps people make better-informed choices about food.

In an era where the population is both growing and becoming more urbanized, it’s easy for people to be even more disconnected from the sources of the food they eat. That’s why MSU also is active in urban agriculture around the state, including the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

Michigan State University’s first urban food research center is being established in northwest Detroit through the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

MSU is establishing its first urban food research center on a 2.5-acre former school site in a northwest Detroit neighborhood. The findings on everything from soil remediation to fertilizer and pesticide use will inform urban growers around Michigan and beyond.

“When you’re growing food in an urban setting it’s very different than in an open space,” said Dave Ivan, MSU Extension director of community, food and environmental programming. “This new center really will provide an opportunity for us to plant a flag in an area, working with a lot of the existing leaders in the Detroit urban ag movement in terms of how we can help you address the challenges you’re facing.“

We have a lot of credibility in communities, so people trust the information that we provide. They know that we’re scientific in terms of guiding our recommendations or framing an issue.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.