MI Roundup: GM, WSU, MichiganX, Detroit Blight Removal Task Force

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

—The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $3 million grant to Wayne State University as part of a project to change how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes are taught. The grant will be disbursed in competitive awards of up to $100,000 to the various STEM departments on campus that are working to transition their classes from a lecture-based curriculum to more evidence-based teaching. The goal is twofold: to allow students to learn in a more engaged manner, and to train faculty and teaching assistants in modern instructional methods.

“The NSF is investing in us to demonstrate that these types of institutional grants can help us provide better outcomes for our students and serve as a model for improving STEM education nationwide,” said Andrew Feig, principle investigator and WSU professor of chemistry, in a press release.

—A report released last week detailed Detroit’s recent efforts to remove blight and found that property values within 500 feet of a federally funded demolition increased by 4.2 percent. In areas where the demolition of vacant structures was combined with nuisance abatement lawsuits, side lot sales, and home auctions, property values increased by 13.8 percent.

The report also found that for every $1 spent by the U.S. Treasury on demolitions, there was an immediate home valuation increase of $4.27.


The study was conducted by Rock Ventures, the Detroit umbrella entity overseeing Dan Gilbert’s companies and real estate investments; the Skillman Foundation; and Dynamo Metrics. From December through May, Dynamo researched the economic impact of $100 million in federal funds toward the elimination of blight in the city.

The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force’s May 2014 report identified more than 40,000 blighted  properties in the city. As of July 2015, the city of Detroit and the Detroit Land Bank Authority had demolished nearly 6,000 blighted homes in Detroit, with a total of 7,000 demolitions expected before the funds are fully spent.

—The University of Michigan last week announced its charter membership in the online learning endeavor edX, further expanding the university’s foray into digital learning and learning analytics. Called MichiganX, the program will launch at least 20 new courses on edX over the next two years that will highlight interdisciplinary collaborations, diversity and inclusion, access and affordability, and internationalization. Three of the initial courses will focus on finance, learning analytics, and data science ethics.

As a founding partner in Coursera, U-M was one of the first universities to offer Massive Open Online Courses to students around the world. The university’s relationship with Coursera will continue, along with one established more recently with NovoEd. University leaders say edX represents another opportunity for faculty to try out new digital learning methods.

“Our core commitment is about experimenting, learning, and adapting in order to shape the future of higher education,” James Hilton, U-M vice provost for digital educational initiatives, said in a press release. “EdX and Coursera provide very different models with different sweet spots for experimentation. We are thrilled that our faculty will be able to take advantage of both platforms to push the boundaries of discovery.”

—Over the weekend, WSU’s School of Business and General Motors partnered on the fifth annual Supply Chain Case Competition, which brought students from around the world to Detroit for an in-depth look at the supply chain systems that support the automotive industry and its high-tech vehicles. The program introduced students to the challenges involved in producing these vehicles, such as component purchasing strategy, global versus domestic sourcing, and risk management.

The students explored these issues through a case study addressing the assembly strategy of the Cadillac Omega-CT6, one of eight new vehicles that Cadillac will launch by the end of the decade. The teams presented their recommendations to a panel of industry and academic experts during the competition portion of the program, and the event concluded with a tour of GM’s Lake Orion assembly plant.

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