Underwater Power Concept From UM Wins Student Idea Contest

Underwater Power Concept From UM Wins Student Idea Contest
May 21, 2010/GLITR

 

By Matt Roush

A concept to put underwater power generation equipment throughout Michigan became the top winner Monday of Motivate Michigan, a corporate-sponsored collegiate competition to generate ideas to improve Michigan's economy.

The first place proposal won $20,000 in scholarship money from sponsors.

In second place was a concept to build financial literacy among high school students in Michigan. This idea pocketed $12,000 in scholarship money.

Third place went to Allison Bray and her idea for a "Michigan Pride" consumer action plan. This idea won a price of $7,500.

The fourth place scholarship award of $5,000 went to David Kossak and a proposal to use Michigan's maple syrup industry to drive economic development.

And the fifth place award of $2,500 went to Anthony Leo's idea for the "Michigan Card."

Motivate Michigan was the brain child of the Southfield office of Ciber Inc., a technology consulting company that's based in Denver (though it was founded in Dearborn).

Armand Kabodian of Ciber said staff in his office were brainstorming about a year ago about how to improve Michigan's economy, and "one of the ideas that was proposed was to leverage the creative ideas and talents of our college students. And the concept of Motivate Michigan was born."

More than 300 ideas were received from virtually every university in the state that were pared down to 10 semifinalists. An online vote that attracted more than 5,000 participants produced the five finalists that made their presentations to a panel of judges Monday.

Carol Cain, senior producer at WWJ TV CBS Detroit and a Detroit Free Press small business columnist, served as master of ceremonies.

The judges were Eileen Ashley, wealth and institutional management division managing director at Comerica Bank; Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council of the State Universities of Michigan; Lisa Dancsok, executive vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; Trey Fabacher, vice president and general manager of WWJ TV CBS Detroit and WKBD TV CW50; Steve Grigorian, COO of the Detroit Economic Club; William Hazleton, senior vice president of Ciber Inc.; and Ken Theis, Michigan state CIO and director of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Kossak, a forestry major at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, started the event, proposing to use Michigan's abundant maple trees to make maple syrup as an economic development tool.

"It's an industry that's here, it's just not here on a large scale," he said of maple sugaring in Michigan. Only .014 percent of Michigan's maple trees -- 4 million acres of them -- are tapped, vs. more than 30 percent of the trees in Quebec.

If all those trees were tapped, 280 million gallons of syrup could be produced in Michigan -- many times the current national crop. So Kossak proposed to start small, with a goal of 2 million gallons within 10 years, with an annual wholesale profit of $81 million.

Kossak called for Lansing to make state land available for tapping at a reasonable rate, and give tax credits for the installation of tapping systems. And he said spinoff benefits would include manufacturing tapping equipment in Michigan -- 95 percent of it today is made in Quebec.

Leo of Wayne State University presented on The Michigan Card -- a loyalty purchase card to be used exclusively at local businesses throughout the state.

Leo, a Lapeer native, said that local businesses create local jobs, diversity, local identity and community relationships. Referring to a Lapeer bowling center, he said: "Lots of towns have Wal-marts, but only Lapeer has Gerlach's."

Under his proposal, business owners would pay monthly or yearly dues to participate. Consumers would get a 5-10 percent discount on shopping at locally owned stores.

He said the proposal was flexible enough to be funded in several ways.

University of Michigan students Tarun Koshy and Nicholas Williams presented "Thunder From Down Under," a proposal to install underwater turbines in all the major lakes and rivers of Michigan to generate power.

Why under water? Well, because it's under water -- and it thus eliminates the unsightliness of other forms of energy like nuclear power plants and wind turbines. Also will not harm underwater ecosystems. Moving parts turn slowly and are blunt, so they won't harm fish.

They also presented the technology of a University of Michigan spinoff called Vivace Power that uses a property of moving water called vortex induced vibration to make tubes move up and down in a frame, generating power.

Bray, a graduate student at University of Detroit Mercy, delighted the crowd with a cute video outlining her Michigan Pride Consumer Action Plan. She was a Barbie doll motoring to stores with children in a doll van. Her proposal, meanwhile, would highlight Michigan products in the store, near the front door or the aisles.

The program would also highlight Michigan-made household, personal, and recreation items and gifts as well as foods.

Under her proposal, consumers would sign up for the plan, and commit to spending more on Michigan products, while the state would give businesses an incentive to joint the progrmam in the form of a tax credit for any hardware or software or services required to join.

The final presentation featured Western Michigan University seniors Kylie Vasa and Jacob Berkey with a "Financial Literacy Pilot Program."

They proposed to teach high school students more about the realities of financial life. Their program featured a very funny video of high school students who didn't know the difference between principal and interest or what an IRA was.

They said they wanted to inspire young people with fear of debt and the possibility of wealth, introduce them to the conept of money saved as capital, stress the importance of building health and disability insurance into budgeting, and teach debt management before investing.

Finally, they said they wanted to stress the dangers of variable interest rates, teaser rates and carrying a balance on a credit card.

They said the results will be less loan defaults, less foreclosures, increase in personal savings and a more economically sound population.

More at www.motivatemichigan.org.

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