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Matt’s Favorites: Temp Workforce Event, Wayne State App Contest, UM Frets About Research Funding, And Much More

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Good grief, have you people in the tech biz been busy this week or what? So there are a ton of local newsy notes here before we get to the national stuff… and by the way, happy spring! We’re finally there.

* The contingent work force seems to be the wave of the future, providing greater flexibility for employer and employee. But how to manage the contingent work force? A groundbreaking certification program called the Certified Contingent Workforce Professional will be offered for the first time in Michigan May 1-2 by Strategic Staffing Solutions, the rapidly growing tech staffing provider. Classes will be held at the Detroit Athletic Club. Those taking the course will develop the most efficient best practices and concepts needed to build a robust strategic plan that addresses the coming evolution and growth of the contingent workforce. They will learn skills that will increase their bottom line, mitigate risk, attract the best and brightest people and develop the long-term relationships that are so necessary to retain those workers. The program is aimed at those responsible for temporary staffing, such as human resources, procurement, solution providers and others who manage corporate contingent/temporary staffing. It was developed by Staffing Industry Analysts, the global advisor on contingent work, in collaboration with five of the nation’s top staffing companies. As an industry leader, S3 was one of only five companies chosen as a Charter Partner with SIA to help develop the course content and training program. During the intensive instructor-led class participants will be led through a series of lectures, training exercises, quizzes and scenarios on each module in preparation for the exam. The cost is $895 for SIA members and $1,095 for non-members. For more information email CCWP@strategicstaff.com or call (313) 471-5465. More about S3 at http://www.strategicstaff.com.

* Wayne State University is challenging students, alumni, faculty and staff to create a mobile app that will help others get the most out of their time on campus. With prizes totaling $5,000 in cash, Wayne State’s office of economic development is teaming with WSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad program in a first ever competition focusing on creativity, programming and mobile application development skills. Apps may be designed for iOS or Android or both, or may be web-based, as long as they are native to a mobile device. They may cover any topic and geographic area in Detroit and include any number of features as long as they are useful to the campus community and enhance the Wayne State experience. Three top cash prizes will be awarded courtesy of Detroit Labs, Detroit Technology Exchange (DTX) and The Front Door at Wayne State. App concept registration is open until Friday, April 4. Teams may include up to four people and must include at least one current Wayne State undergraduate or graduate student. Entries must be submitted by Friday, May 30. For more information, related workshops, or to register, visit http://mobileapp.wayne.edu.

* Just in time for the Easter season, Grand Rapids-based RBC Ministries says it has created a free mobile app for its printed daily devotional booklet, Our Daily Bread. Founded in 1956, Our Daily Bread offers daily devotional readings based on specific Bible verses. It is distributed in 150 countries around the globe. The app version of Our Daily Bread includes those readings, along with relevant Bible passages, an audio version of each devotional, a journal to capture users’ thoughts and reflections, and customizable user preferences and settings. It also provides the opportunity for engagement with other readers, social sharing and access to past devotionals and resources, like the “Bible in One Year” reading plan. The app is compatible with iOS 6.0 and Android 2.1. The devotionals from Our Daily Bread offer daily insights from scripture that will bring peace, hope, reflection, inspiration and a Biblical perspective to one’s daily life. Taking just a few minutes each day, millions of readers around the world have turned to Our Daily Bread for moments of quiet reflection allowing readers to enter a thoughtful, daily, heart-to-heart relationship with God. For more information, visit http://odb.org/mobile-resources/.

* Speaking of apps, Meijer Inc. announced added features to its mPerks program that allows customers to store digital receipts from purchases in a single place and details exactly how much they’ve saved by shopping at the Grand Rapids-based retailer. With more than $100 million saved by mPerks subscribers since 2010, Meijer is among the first retailer to provide interactive spending and savings information to customers. The new features are available for subscribers who enable the digital receipts option on their accounts and enter their mPerks ID each time at checkout. While paper receipts will still print at checkout for all customers, digital receipts will appear 15 minutes after a purchase, and savings graphs on their mPerks accounts will update every 24 hours. Once the features are enabled, users will be able to track how much they have saved in the “Receipts & Savings” section of mPerks. Pie graphs break down savings into various categories and also display overall savings. In addition to viewing on mPerks.com, the Receipts and Savings features can also be viewed via the Meijer app. The app is available as a free download for iPhone and Android smartphones through Apple Inc.’s App Store and the Android Market. Meijer operates 204 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. More at http://www.meijer.com.

* The University of Michigan is looking for ways to broaden its sources of research funding in the midst of an ongoing federal pullback from spending on basic scientific research. UM research spending was a record $1.3 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013. But interim vice president for research S. Jack Hu points out in a press release that federal spending on research is down 10 percent since 2010. Federal contracts make up just more than 60 percent of UM’s research funding. To make sure the overall research funding keeps growing, Hu and the UM Office of Research are pursuing several strategies outside federal funding: Submit proposals for larger projects that build on partnerships and the university’s interdisciplinary strengths; strengthen industry outreach (industry-sponsored research was up 14 percent in fiscal 2013 to $73.2 million); expand medical clinical trials; develop more international partnerships (involving countries that aren’t stupidly cutting their research budgets… oops, did I write that out loud?); and seek more research funding from foundations and philanthropic gifts. A copy of UM’s fiscal 2013 annual report on research is available at http://bit.ly/1dqXgjz.

* It’s robot competition season! Sixty teams from nine competitions in the metro Detroit area in March and April will qualify for the state championship round of the 15th annual Robofest student competition. Robofest is an international competition of autonomous robots — computer-programmed to act independently, not remote-controlled — that encourages students to have fun while learning principles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Teams compete in the junior division (grades 5-9) or senior division (grades 9-12), using a variety of computer programming languages. The nine qualifying events will be held March 21 through April 19. Lawrence Technological University in Southfield will host the Michigan Championships on May 3 and the World Championships on May 17. All Robofest events are free and open to the public. Teams will qualify for the Robofest World Championships from nine other states – California, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Washington – and six other countries – Canada, India, Korea, Mexico, France and South Africa. This year’s game mission, AMD (Avoid Melt-Down) is to develop an autonomous robot to cool down a nuclear power plant by dropping off 3 tennis balls and an egg representing water containers into a simulated nuclear reactor box facing a meltdown. In addition, the robot needs to measure and report the volume of the box in cubic centimeters. Winners in the World Championship competition will win scholarships to Lawrence Technological University as well as various prizes donated by sponsors. LTU Professor CJ Chung started Robofest in 2000. More at http://www.robofest.net. More about Lawrence Tech at http://www.ltu.edu.

* Wednesday night, East Lansing held its Hatching pitch competition for March. BookBrainer, a new mobile application, took home the monthly prize. BookBrainer, which was created after a recent Lansing Startup Weekend event and led by Jody Burgess, is a mobile application that continuously quizzes users as they read a book or manual to encourage comprehension. Beginning last June, the Hatching pitch competition has awarded $1,000 each month to a brand new startup business idea. To receive funding, startup companies must create an LLC and be ready to start their businesses in the Lansing area. Each of the monthly winners will earn the opportunity to pitch again at The Hatching finale event held in December, for the chance to win $10,000 to cover business expenses. The Hatch is a partnership between the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, the Lansing area’s economic development organization; the Lansing business incubator New Economic Opportunity Center; and Spartan Innovations, the tech commercialization arm of Michigan State University. The winner also receives legal services to create the new business entity provided by Loomis, Ewert, Parsley, Davis & Gotting P.C. This month’s prize sponsorship came from Lansing Startup Weekend. People interested in participating and pitching in the upcoming events are asked to submit their ideas to http://www.thehatching.org. The next Hatching event will take place April 30 at Beggar’s Banquet in East Lansing and will continue every last Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m.

Donald R. Stilwell has een named vice president of sales and business development for Saphran Solutions, a Franklin-based developer of software that manages a company’s entire business cycle, including planning, costing, quoting and forecasting. Prior to joining Saphran, Stilwell served as product lifecycle management account manager at Tata Technologies, working with companies such as Autodesk, Dassault and Siemens. He also has held strategic positions at Micro Focus, DASI Solutions, Hewlett Packard, Compaq and Digital Equipment Corp. Founded in 2004, Saphran’s web-based software products enable users to significantly reduce the time needed to update, validate and analyze data to support critical business decisions and plans. The company helps automotive suppliers and other manufacturers achieve dramatic efficiencies and increased profitability by shrinking the gap between business planning and performance. Saphran software modules are designed for original equipment manufacturers with sales between $50 million and $20 billion. The company’s software programs can be implemented quickly; pay for themselves within three to six months; provide significant competitive advantages, and help protect and increase profit margins. More at http://www.saphran.com.

* The U.S. Army’s Tank-Automotive Research and Development Command and Macomb Community College’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center will host a dual use technology briefing on May 1 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the DC3S, 7205 Sterling Pond Court, Sterling Heights. This half day event will deliver information on how companies developing innovative technology can do business with TARDEC under its dual-use Small Business Innovation Research funding program. The program’s goal is to tap into the small business community’s innovativeness and creativity to help meet government R&D objectives. At the same time, these small companies develop technologies, products and services they can then commercialize through sales in the private sector or back to the government. The event will provide an overview of the Cooperative Research & Development Agreements program, R&D contracting with the U.S. Army, the SBIR program, and more. Register for this free program at http://www.ptassist.com/services/ptac_register.php?id=299BA41089.

* The Altair Partner Alliance announced that multi-body dynamics software from ChassisSim Technologies is available for download. Traditionally used in the racing industry, ChassisSim simulates and predicts numerous vehicle parameters. ChassisSim allows race teams and vehicle dynamics engineers to simulate all aspects of vehicle behavior early in the design process, saving time and resources by preventing unnecessary cycles. Users can predict lap times by performing full multi-body transient simulation and then export the data for review. Containing a number of tools and modules, ChassisSim is able to reverse-engineer several vehicle parameters based on logged data. The auto bump generation tool provides road surface properties while the aero modeling toolbox can derive the aeromap of the vehicle. Users can also predict the tire force and properties with the tire force modeling toolbox, and utilize the shaker rig toolbox to gather frequency based results for all vehicle modes. ChassisSim can determine the fastest setup for a particular circuit based on a given vehicle model, as well as allow the driver to test a circuit using the same model to verify the simulation results. Available for the past 13 years, Altair’s innovative unit-based licensing system allows HyperWorks users customizable access to a growing portfolio of applications, optimizing their return on investment by making more than 20 in-house-developed applications available by use of a single pool of recyclable HyperWorks units. Altair also has offered the opportunity for third-party companies to run their own applications under this unit-based system, a collaboration now known as the Altair Partner Alliance. The overall flexibility of these HWUs empowers users via access to the largest, most complete suite of CAE applications available, with more than 60 additional applications available at no incremental cost or long-term commitment. The introductory webinar for ChassisSim is taking place on April 17 at 10 a.m. Central European time and 9 a.m. Eastern time. HyperWorks users can learn more about the company and download ChassisSim at http://www.altairalliance.com/chassissim.

* After selling out shows in Grand Rapids and Detroit last year, Failure:Lab is coming to Cobb Great Hall at MSU’s Wharton Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1. A unique blend of storytelling and music, Failure:Lab works to uncover untold failures behind success. The upcoming event will showcase stories from a world renowned athletic director, author, CEO, rapper, attorney and dean. Failure:Lab’s success hinges on audience engagement, which takes place during and after the event through social media and organic conversations within the audience. The audience’s thoughts are then published online where others can see the different perspectives, allowing them not only learn from the speakers, but also to become a part of the story. We invite you to join us for this unique event because inevitably we all fail, but the question is how will we respond? Speakers include MSU athletic director Mark Hollis, author and journalist Mike Sager, Status Creative CEO Jeff Barrett, actress and hip hop artist Miz Korona, and attorney and business owner Jacquise Purifoy. Buy tickets at this link. 

* Loveland, Colo.-based Kroll Factual Data Inc., a provider of credit, risk mitigation and third-party verification services to the mortgage industry, announced the addition of several Kroll Factual Data product integrations into the products of Southfield-based Mortgage Builder Software Inc. Kroll’s suite of third-party verifications is now available, and will be followed by a suite of risk mitigation services available in the coming months. Other Kroll Factual Data services currently integrated with Mortgage Builder include bureau express credit reports, flood determination reports, and loan review report, a product specifically designed to help clients comply with Fannie Mae’s Loan Quality Initiative. Kroll third party verification services include verification of employment, verification of deposit, tax return verifications, and social security number verifications. More at http://www.krollfactualdata.com or http://www.MortgageBuilder.com.

* Compuware Corp. says the IT analysis firm Ptak Associates is out with a new report exploring the benefits of new integrations between Compuware’s Mainframe Application Performance solutions and Developer Productivity solutions. Compuware united the tools that find problems with those that fix them to automate and simplify key processes, making it easier for operations and development teams to quickly identify and resolve application problems and exceptions. Read the report at this link (pdf file). 

* Troy-based Altair Engineering says Segula Technologies, a Nanterre, France-based customer of Altair’s HyperWorks engineering software, has adopted Altair’s software asset optimization system. It is used at Segula to monitor and optimize the daily usage of commercial computer-aided engineering and computer-aided design software licenses. It helps to control and consolidate software expenses across the enterprise and supports sound decision making on new software acquisitions and license renewals. Usage analysis provides useful information to make appropriate and sound decisions concerning capacity planning, acquisitions of new licenses or right-sizing existing contracts. More at http://www.altair.com or http://www.segulatechnologies.com.

* The Ann Arbor supply chain design software developer LLamasoft Inc. announced that RS Components has selected LLamasoft Supply Chain Guru as the standard application for supply chain design throughout the company’s global operations. RS Components and Allied Electronics are the trading brands of Electrocomponents plc, the Oxford, England-based distributor of electronics and maintenance products. The company operates in 32 countries and offers around 500,000 products, with 44,000 parcel shipments daily. LLamasoft software enables companies across a wide range of industries to model, optimize and simulate their supply chain network, leading to major improvements in cost, service, sustainability and risk mitigation. More at http://www.llamasoft.com.

And now the national and international stuff, from our pals at CBS News, CNet’s News.com and all around the Series of Tubes…

* News.com reports that Alex Kibkalo, a former senior architect at Microsoft, has been arrested for allegedly stealing Windows-related trade secrets while working for Microsoft. Most recently, Kibkalo’s Linked IN profile syas he was director of product management at Massachusetts-based Five Nine Software. Kibkalo was arrested on Wednesday, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. According to the federal complaint, Kibkalo — a Russian national and former Microsoft employee based in Lebanon — passed on trade secrets involving Windows 8 to an unnamed technology blogger in France.

* International criminal enterprises follow the money, and a report being released Thursday says they are increasingly focusing on California because of its wealth and innovation. Aside from long-time trafficking in drugs, guns and people, the report by California Attorney General Kamala Harris says criminals are turning to cybercrime to target businesses and financial institutions.

* The ultra-popular, but no-longer-available, video game “Flappy Bird” may be coming back — but not anytime soon, according to its creator. When a Twitter user asked him if he was going to put “Flappy Bird” back in the App Store, Dong Nguyen tweeted, “Yes. But not soon.”

* “The Last of Us” won the top honor at the Game Developers Choice Awards. The gripping post-apocalyptic survival saga created by developer Naughty Dog for the PlayStation 3 picked up the game of the year trophy Wednesday at the 14th annual ceremony. “The Last of Us” also won the awards for best design and narrative.

* It’s called the chicken from hell: a birdlike dinosaur some 7 feet tall that weighed around 500 pounds when it roamed western North America on its long, slender hind legs. The beast got its nickname long ago at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where a replica of its skeleton has been on display for a decade. But the species has had no scientific name. Until now.

* The selfie is here to stay. Check your Facebook feed for confirmation. Or check out what Samsung is debuting: The NX Mini, also known as the ultimate selfie camera.

* We can no longer say that computers will one day be able to put names to human faces better than we can — that day might be already here. Facebook researchers have published a paper about a newly designed facial recognition system with 97.25 percent accuracy — a mere .28 percent less than a human being.

* Looking for an excuse to play more “Tetris?” Good news: Engaging in just a few minutes of highly visual activities like the game appears to reduce the strength, frequency, and vividness of cravings for things like food and drugs.

* Here’s a guy who has had it up to here with product problems and says he is quitting Microsoft Office forever. 

* Elon Musk loves this fake Tesla ad created by college students for all of $1,500. It’s pretty good.

* Symantec has fired its CEO over the usual strategy disputes with the board.

* Turns out we narrowly missed being subject to an electronics failure disaster in 2012 during a major sun storm. It wouldn’t be quite like Revolution, but it’d be close.

* IBM announced that it would be using Watson, the system that famously wiped the floor with human Jeopardy champions, to tackle a somewhat more significant problem: choosing treatments for cancer. In the process, the company hopes to help usher in the promised era of personalized medicine.

* Though Netflix agreed last month to pay Comcast for direct access to its broadband network, it doesn’t appear to like the arrangement. The video streaming service’s CEO Reed Hastings penned a blog post on Thursday making an impassioned plea for support of net neutrality.

* Sprint recently cut a significant chunk of its staff dedicated to repairing and refurbishing phones and shut down its slower-performing stores, part of a broader effort to reduce the company’s costs in the face of continued financial struggles. The Overland Park, Kan., wireless carrier laid off 330 technical consultants, closing 150 service and repair centers across the country, a Sprint representative confirmed to CNET. It also shut down 55 of its worst-performing retail stores.

* The allegedly not-crazy government in Turkey has turned off Twitter in that country after speculation of corruption among the inner circle of its Dear Leader. Great. Also, the Internet goes dark for seven hours in Syria, apparently the handiwork of its definitely crazy government.

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