Roundup: U-M Impact Challenge, Digerati Girls, 365 Retail Markets & More

Here’s a look at news from around Michigan’s innovation communities:

—The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business today unveiled details of its annual Impact Challenge, an immersive leadership development program which brings together the entire incoming class of first-year, full-time MBA students to engage in a week-long business challenge that aims to make a positive difference in Detroit’s Brightmoor community. This year, participants will help nearly 60 high school students develop business plans and products for the Brightmoor Maker Space, a proposed community workshop and incubator for business ideas generated by teens and community residents, while also organizing the Detroit Youth Maker Faire and teen pitch competition.

The maker faire and youth pitch competition, which are free and open to the public, start at 11:30 am on Aug. 27 at Eastern Market in Detroit. Judges from Deloitte and General Motors will select several winners and award seed funding to further support their entrepreneurial efforts. Then, over the next eight months, students from U-M’s Sanger Leadership Center will implement ideas from the Impact Challenge and move the maker space from concept to reality, with construction set to begin in this winter. Upon completion, the Brightmoor Maker Space will transform a vacant 3,200-square-foot building into a community workshop, where people can develop skills in woodcraft, metal work, printmaking, multimedia tools, and more. Follow all of the Impact Challenge action on Twitter and Instagram using the tag #RossImpact.

Digerati Girls is hosting its first overnight hackathon for girls, in partnership with the Michigan Science Center, Aug. 28 and 29. Participants will focus on apps or robotics, and compete for prizes. No experience is required, and the hackathon is open to all girls in Southeast Michigan. There are a limited number of scholarships available; interested parties can also sponsor individual hackathon participants by clicking here. Digerati Girls is looking for adult volunteers to chaperone the event; click here to sign up.

Troy-based 365 Retail Markets has been named to Inc. magazine’s list of the country’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies. Coming in at No. 321, the company’s revenues grew 1,459 percent between 2011 and 2014. “So much of our focus is on developing great software and products that it is hard to pay attention to the performance of the company outside of our direct peers,” said Joe Hessling, CEO of 365 Retail Markets, in a press release. “It is quite an honor to even make the list, and to be so high up is humbling.”

Inc. also designated 365 Retail Markets the third-ranked company in Michigan; Detroit’s MeritHall, a construction and staffing company, was No.1 and Royal Oak’s RPM Freight Systems, a logistics and transportation company, was No. 2. To see the complete list, click here.

NextEnergy and RecoveryPark announced last week that Light-Speed USA is the winner of NextChallenge: Lighting, a lighting technology competition. Light-Speed USA was awarded $80,000 in cash and in-kind services to support the development and demonstration of a next-generation greenhouse lighting technology system for RecoveryPark. Light-Speed USA’s technology combines the specialties of three Michigan entities—LumenFlow’s advanced photonic LED and optical engineering technologies, AMF Nano’s specialty control sensor system, and Nextek Power Systems’ direct current (DC) distribution system—for a cost-effective, energy-efficient, reconfigurable greenhouse lighting system that optimizes plant growth and adapts to various environmental conditions throughout the year.

While each piece of the Light-Speed USA solution has been proven individually, the integration of the technologies and concept needs to be developed. “We’ll be working to help RecoveryPark demonstrate and validate it in a real-world setting,” said NextEnergy CEO Jean Redfield in a press release. “The timeline is not yet finalized, but we’re hoping to start the demonstrations as early as September.”

—Joseph Sawasky, currently chief information officer and associate vice president of Computing and Information Technology at Wayne State University, has been selected as the President and CEO of Merit Network. Prior to joining Wayne State, Sawasky was the CIO and associate vice president for Information Technology at the University of Toledo and University of Toledo Medical Center.

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