DBusiness Daily Update: Lawrence Tech Gets NSF Autonomous Cars Grant, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Lawrence Tech professor C.J. Chung has won a grant from the National Science Foundation to teach computer science related to autonomous cars. // Courtesy of LTU
Lawrence Tech professor C.J. Chung has won a grant from the National Science Foundation to teach computer science related to autonomous cars. // Courtesy of LTU

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Lawrence Tech Gets NSF Grant to Teach Computer Science for Autonomous Cars

Eight college students from around the country will spend eight weeks this summer at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield to develop computer programs for self-driving cars, under a new federal grant.

C.J. Chung, professor of mathematics and computer science at LTU, won the $281,712 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will fund three summers of the program, with a new cohort of eight students participating each summer.

The grant is targeted for underrepresented populations. Community college students are encouraged to apply. Participants will live in LTU’s residence halls and receive a $4,800 stipend.

“People will come in not knowing how to develop algorithms for vehicles, so we will first teach how to write them,” Chung says. “Students will then develop algorithms for vehicles, we will test what they write, and then we will publish the results. This project will provide hands-on, active learning opportunities for mostly under-represented students, including community college students, across the nation, to conduct research for urban road self-drive functions using street-legal vehicles.”

The project is based on Chung’s 20 years of experience with LTU student teams in the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, a collegiate autonomous vehicle event run each year on the campus of Oakland University, supported by the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center, a local intelligent vehicle small business, Great Lakes Systems and Technology, and Washington, D.C.-based RoboNation.

LTU is the four-time reigning world champion in the IGVC’s self-driving car competition. The 2022 IGVC is scheduled for June 3-6.

Through Chung’s efforts, LTU has obtained two Polaris GEM electric vehicles that have been modified with self-driving technology.

Collaborating with Chung on the program is Joshua Siegel, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

For more information, visit here. Applications with a personal statement, resumé, transcripts, and two letters of recommendation must be submitted through NSF here. Accepted students will be notified on a rolling basis until all positions filled or by April 15. Late applications may be considered if funding remains available.

Carhartt in Dearborn Re-engineers Force T-shirt to Beat Heat

Carhartt in Dearborn has re-engineered its Force T-shirt to help workers stay cool on and off the job when air conditioning isn’t an option.

The new Force relaxed-fit pocket t-shirt is designed to keep wearers cool with:

  • Zoned mesh panels to keep air flowing.
  • Enhanced stretch to allow for increased movement.
  • Improved seam design for a more comfortable, distraction-free fit.
  • Sun Protection (minimum 25 UPF).
  • Drop-tail hem for increased coverage.
  • Pen Stall for added functionality.
  • Multiple color options.
  • Men’s and women’s sizes ranging from XS-XXL.

In addition to the latest technological enhancements, the Force t-shirt still offers many of the same usual Carhartt features – including a relaxed fit, FastDry technology for all-day comfort and Stain Breaker technology to release stains.

“We know long, hot summer days can be tough for hardworking people so we revamped our iconic Force work shirt to withstand whatever the day may bring,” says Alex Guerrero, senior vice president and general manager of global product for Carhartt. “When the temperatures break record highs, our Carhartt Force T-shirt barely breaks a sweat, keeping folks who work in extreme temps cool, dry and comfortable.”

To ensure the new Force t-shirt was tough enough to handle rising temperatures, Carhartt turned to its friends at veteran-led disaster response organization Team Rubicon, who’ve spent the last several months testing the shirt in the heat of real-world emergencies around the world.

To learn more about the new Force line, visit Carhartt.com.

MSU Successfully Issues ‘Innovative and Strategic’ Century Bond

Michigan State University in East Lansing successfully issued $500 million in century bonds at a yield to maturity of 4.165 percent.

A century bond is a security with a final maturity in 100 years offered to select and highly rated institutions. The century bond structure provides MSU with greater flexibility to use the proceeds to support a variety of priority projects and initiatives.

“Century bond proceeds will support MSU’s strategic objectives as outlined in our 2030 strategic plan by providing a sustainable, low-interest funding source,” says Dr. President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. “The financing also enables us to address both near- and long-term capital needs, invest in research and health care initiatives, as well as provide a stewardship tool to invest in innovative and transformative projects now and for future Spartan generations.”

The decision to issue a century bond was based on a desire to add new capital to achieve strategic goals, add diversity to the debt portfolio, and take advantage of near-historic low rates. The MSU finance team evaluated bond issuance opportunities with the university’s external financial adviser and lead investment banks.

“Throughout this process, CFO Lisa Frace and other senior leaders showcased the university’s strong financial position and positive results from the previous fiscal year,” says Melanie Foster, MSU trustee and chair of the Board Committee on Budget and Finance. “The opportunity to issue a century bond is only available to institutions with high-quality credit, and it’s a point of pride to be the first institution in Michigan to have successfully issued one.”

Long‐term financing rates remain near historic lows. Even in volatile market conditions, MSU’s century bond has locked in guaranteed returns for investors. Due to ample investor demand, the bonds were more than 2.2 times oversubscribed.

“Our ability to execute a century bond in 90 days in light of recent market volatility speaks volumes to the strength of our team, fiscal responsibility and stability,” says Frace. “This strategic investment in our future allows us to position the institution for continued research and academic excellence while being prudent stewards of our finances.”

The execution of a new century bond comes on the heels of the university’s updated ratings from Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings. S&P updated MSU’s outlook to AA stable, an improvement from the prior rating of AA negative. Moody’s maintained an Aa2 rating.

Oakland County to Host Virtual Workforce Retention Workshop March 15

Oakland County will host a workforce retention workshop at 1 p.m. on March 15 via Zoom.

With four million Americans quitting their jobs last November alone, perhaps the greatest challenge facing U.S. employers today is the retention of their best employees.

According to business and labor experts, overcoming this obstacle focuses on creating a retention culture for employees that benefits everyone. Join us this month for a free, virtual workshop where hosts and participants will discuss how to accomplish this and position employers for success.

The workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Creating a culture.
  • Leading to retain and attract.
  • Understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  • Recognizing what employees want.
  • Managing virtual and flex work.
  • Increasing employer protections.
  • Examining recent employment case laws.

For more information and to register, visit here.

Cloud Cannabis Opens Gaylord’s First Provisioning Center

Cloud Cannabis Co. will open its newest store and the first provisioning center in Gaylord on March 15. The store will be located at 710 Edelweiss Village Pkwy. and is the company’s sixth store in Michigan.

The Gaylord provisioning center has more than 3,000-square-feet of space and features a color-coded spectrum of effects wall to help customers identify products based on their individual needs. Expert budtenders also will be available onsite to assist customers, whether they’re totally new to cannabis or experienced users. The location will be open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sundays.

“Michigan’s cannabis industry is experiencing incredible growth, and we’re proud of our commitment to build deep roots in Michigan,” says Mike Leporowski, director of retail operations at Cloud Cannabis. “Opening the first provisioning center in Gaylord is a great milestone for Cloud Cannabis, and we look forward to connecting with the community to provide education on the many benefits of using cannabis.”

Cloud Cannabis Co. opened its first location in Muskegon in June 2020, followed by locations in Ann Arbor, Traverse City, Utica, and Detroit. Several other stores are expected to open in the next 12 months. Currently, Cloud Cannabis has more than 200 employees covering extraction, manufacturing, distribution, and retail.

For more information, visit here.

Park West Gallery Hosts Online Fundraiser for Ukrainian Relief Efforts

Park West Gallery in Southfield is conducting a special fundraiser to support the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine during its March 11-13 live-streaming online art auctions.

Park West, the world’s largest art dealer, will be donating 100 percent of the proceeds from more than 100 works of art to the Ukrainian Red Cross, which has been repairing infrastructure, supporting families, and providing food, water, and medicine to those who need it in Ukraine.

To participate, visit here to sign up to attend the online auctions.

Two of the featured artists originally come from Romania — the former child prodigy Alexandra Nechita with a collection of paintings on canvas, paintings on paper, sculptures, and graphic works, and celebrated abstract artist András Markós with a collection of paintings and ceramics.

The auctions also will feature art by two American artists with Ukrainian roots — Anatole Krasnyansky was born in Kiev and the late Igor Medvedev came from Kharkov. An original painting along with an edition of graphic works will be made available from each of the artists.

Three other acclaimed American artists—Autumn de Forest, James Coleman, and Mark Kostabi (who comes from an Estonian family)—will also be donating an original painting along with an edition of graphic works to the charity auction.

Finally, Park West will be donating two works from its museum collection to the fundraiser — a Millennium Edition etching from the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn and an original creation by famed Israeli legend Yaacov Agam.

“What’s happening in Ukraine right now is a tragedy,” says Albert Scaglione, founder and CEO of Park West. “Ukraine has a wonderful cultural and artistic history, and we believe this fundraiser is very important to the Ukrainian people and will provide significant assistance.”

To donate directly to the Ukrainian Red Cross, visit here.

Ballet Hispánico to Performs Detroit Premiere of Doña Perón

The New York-based Ballet Hispánico will perform the Detroit debut of the Doña Perón with two performances at the Detroit Opera House March 19-20.

A Latinx dance organization recognized as one of America’s cultural treasures, Ballet Hispánico will perform at 7:30 p.m. on March 19 and at 2:30 p.m. on March 20.

Choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to music by Peter Salem, Doña Perón is the first full evening-length work commissioned by the company and reclaims the narrative of the iconic Latina figure by a Latina choreographer. The work is a portrait of Eva “Evita” Perón, one of the most recognizable, and controversial, women in Argentinian history.

Doña Perón brings to light the extremes of power at the forefront of Evita’s life. Her work as an activist and advocate for Argentina’s women and working class raised skepticism as she indulged in the opulence of a high-class life.

“She’s not a fairytale character, she’s not a literary character,” says Lopez Ochoa. “She’s a real woman, and for me, it’s interesting to put her on stage because she’s difficult to pinpoint. I want to give female dancers real roles, not always the nice roles. Women are complex and it’s nice to show all of these facets. I’m very grateful that I can put this woman, Evita Perón, on stage as a female choreographer.”

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (313-237-7464) or in-person at 1526 Broadway St. in Detroit.

Council of Jewish Women Sponsoring Bullying PSA Contest

National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan in Southfield is conducting a Youth Video PSA Contest for Oakland County high school girls on how to be an upstander in the face of bullying or hate.

NCJW | MI hopes that contest entrants come up with compelling and imaginative 30-second video entries. First prize is $1,000, second is $750 and third is $500. Entries are due by midnight March 28, and the awards will be presented at a ceremony at Bloomfield Township Public Library at 7 p.m. on May 5.

More information on the program is available here.

“At a time when there is unfortunately so much hate in the world, we need our young people to stand up to threats, intimidation and bullying like never before,” says Amy Cutler, president of NCJW | MI. “We know that the high school girls in our community are imaginative and will take a stand against injustice, so we are hoping that we will see some outstanding videos which inspire everyone to be brave when they see bullying or hate in action.”