Schools & Education

Apollo 15, Michigan and the Moon

Left to right: Scott, Worden, Irwin

41 years ago today, the Apollo 15 mission blasted off with its crew of Commander David R. Scott, Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden, Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin. All three astronauts on the all-Air Force crew attended the University of Michigan.

Wikipedia explains that Apollo 15 began on July 26, 1971 and concluded on August 7th. It was the ninth manned mission in the Apollo program, the fourth to land on the Moon and the eighth successful manned mission. It was the first of the “J missions” – long duration stays on the Moon with a greater focus on science and also the first mission where the Lunar Rover was used.

Contrary to what you may have heard, there’s probably not a UM flag on the moon though.

Check out the video below from the UM School of Engineering and be sure to watchtheir proof in the lunar vacuum of Galileo’s theory that objects released together fall at the same rate regardless of mass below!

The Empowerment Plan making wearable sleeping bags

For many, the reaction upon seeing a homeless person is to let the eyes slide past and slip by. One Detroit designer chose instead to look, think and ultimately design a game-changing garment. It all started in industrial design professor Stephen Schock’s new design activism class at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Detroit has over 20,000 homeless people living on the streets, prompting Schock to challenge his students to do something about the issue.

This New York Times article entitled Altering Clothes, and Lives, With Design explains that The Empowerment Plan is a humanitarian project based in the city of Detroit that centers around a coat that is self-heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night.

The coats are made by homeless women who have been paid to learn and to produce the coats for those living on the streets. The focus is on the system to create jobs for those that desire them and coats for those that need them at no cost. The importance is not with the product but with the people…

One of his students, Veronika Scott, a native of Detroit and then a junior, quickly focused on the homeless population and began researching her project at the Neighborhood Service Organization, a community development center. “I noticed that there were people sleeping outside of shelters even when they could have been inside,” she said, adding that she quickly learned that many actually prefer the street because of pride, privacy issues or an array of mental health problems.

“There are many reasons why people are homeless, but I could see one thing all of them needed: warmth,” she said.

Ms. Scott, now 22, soon came up with the idea to design a coat that could double as a sleeping bag.

“I am now known as the ‘Crazy Coat Lady,’ ” said Ms. Scott, who began her research by asking a group of 30 homeless men at the shelter for advice on designing it. “At first they were angry because I turned off their TV, but then they started talking to me,” she said.

Read on for more and definitely visit the Empowerment Plan and learn more about this great project. Now here’s a video from a couple of years ago from Mitch Albom’s great Heart of Detroit series.

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    Making A Splash — 2nd Annual Benzie County Water Festival Promises Family Fun

Making A Splash — 2nd Annual Benzie County Water Festival Promises Family Fun

by Aubrey Ann Parker

Springtime at the Betsie River by forestlady
Springtime at the Betsie River by forestlady

Did you know that the average American uses 150 gallons of water per day, with 60 percent being used outside to water our lawns and wash our cars? The entire United States withdraws about 350 billion gallons of fresh water every day — which is about how much water runs over Niagara Falls for 23 days straight — and about 80 percent of that is used for agriculture to grow our food and by industry to cool the electricity-generating power plants that keep our lights on. So, whether you are watering your lawn or buying groceries or leaving your lights on, most of the decisions you make every day ultimately relate back to water.

Last year’s Benzie County Water Festival — a family-oriented celebration and education event — attracted more than 300 attendees, and this year’s festival seeks to follow last year’s example. On Saturday, April 14, 2012 the Water Festival will again feature world-class Michigan musicians, panel discussions, speeches from water luminaries, interactive multimedia projects and presentations, artisan foods and beverages, visual art, children’s activities, as well as connections to local campaigns and projects, all at the Frankfort-Elberta High School. (click for schedule)

The Michigan Pages: Spring Peepers

Mike aka Mr. Toad shot the video above and wrote to us: I am glad you enjoyed my video of spring peepers. It is worth noting that video was taken at the University of Michigan’s ES George Reserve. There are several other frogs that begin calling very early in Michigan, including the wood frog and the chorus frog. A few videos and more information on these frogs can be found at my blog.

Peeper on a Leaf by Jamuudsen

There are few more signature sounds in Michigan than a chorus of spring peepers calling. While the peepers fired up early and then stopped during our incredible heatwave, they are back out in force as temps have become more normal. Regarding pseudacris crucifer (Northern Spring Peeper), the Michigan DNR begins:

Spring peepers are one of the earliest callers among the dozen frog species found in Michigan. During the first warm evenings of spring in late March or early April through May, their distinctive single note, high pitched “peep” is considered a harbinger of spring. The intensity of calling increases and can become a deafening chorus during humid evenings or just after a warm spring rain when many males congregate.

Only the male frogs call. They establish territories near the edge of permanent or ephemeral wetlands. They may call from elevated perches of submerged grass or shrubs near the water. The faster and louder a male sings, the more likely he is to attract a mate. (sort of like American Idol I guess)

Spring Peeperpedia


Michigan History: The Birth of the Panty Raid

The article Panty Raid, 1952 by James Tobin from the University of Michigan’s Michigan Today begins:

It had been another dismal Michigan winter. The gray and the cold had stretched well into March. But finally, as the earth approached the vernal equinox on Thursday, March 20, 1952—the eve of the first day of spring—the temperature in Ann Arbor crept up to 57 glorious degrees. Jackets came off. Windows opened.

At about 6:30 p.m., Art Benford, a junior, finished dinner in the dining hall of West Quad. He went to his room in Allen Rumsey House and picked up his trumpet. Benford said later he had only meant to relax by playing a little music. But his impromptu rendition of Glenn Miller’s “Serenade in Blue” set off a chain of events that gave America a distinguishing fad of the 1950s—the panty raid.

Read on for a recap of the birth of this Fifties fad, and also the issues that led to a campus wide outbreak that involved thousands of people.

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    Michigan March Madness: UM, Detroit fall, MSU Spartans face Billikens

Michigan March Madness: UM, Detroit fall, MSU Spartans face Billikens

Condolences are in order for the University of Michigan and University of Detroit Mercy who fell last night in the opening round of the NCAA tourney. U of M rode the Upset Special with the likes of #2 seeds Duke & Missouri, Temple. While they pulled to within 3 with 4 minutes left, they couldn’t seal the deal against The Other Ohio team. Detroit came out firing and was leading with 10 minutes left in the half, but Kansas ultimately proved too much.

The Michigan State University Spartans had a hard-fought first half against LIU-Brooklyn but were powered to victory in part by the 8th triple-double (double-digit assists, rebounds & points) in (official) NCAA tournament history. It’s Draymond Green’s  second, and if you’re feeling that’s something special, you probably should as others who have notched one include Dewayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neil, and Michigan’s Gary Grant officially and Oscar Robertson & Artis Gilmore unofficially.  FYI, assists weren’t recorded officially until 1984. If they were, you could add 2 more by MSU great Ervin “Magic” Johnson. It’s a noteworthy feat for sure, as greats like Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell never did it.

The Spartans now face the 9th seeded St. Louis Billikens at 2:45 pm on Sunday. If you’re wondering “What the Heck is a Billiken?” you’re not alone.  Fortunately, the folks at St. Louis University get that question a lot and explain that the Billiken was created in the early 1900s as a bank and statuette and was turned into all sorts of things from dolls & marshmallow candies to hood ornaments.

We decided we’d let the mascots settle this game in our March Madness Mascot Matchup!

Creation story: reknown 8th century fighting force vs early 20th Century novelty item. Advantage Sparty!

Muscle definition: Sculpted vs … flabby. Advantage Sparty!!

Public Appearances: Flags & iPhone cases vs Dolls & Marshmallow candy.  Advantage Sparty!!!

Dancing Skills: No contest (see below)

Seriously though, the Billikens are coached by a top coach (Rick Majerus) and dispatched a tough Temple team in the opening round. It’s a game MSU can’t afford to take lightly. More on the game from MSU.


The Heart of Detroit: Cheryl Valentine

I like to see the metamorphosis of the students. When they come in knowing a little and leave knowing a lot, that’s why I do it.
~Detroit School of Arts teacher Cheryl Valentine

The Heart of Detroit is a weekly feature by Mitch Albom that airs on Local 4 News (Detroit) at 5 p.m. and then on The goal is to share inspiring stories of metro Detroiters who step up to help make their community a better place to live. Viewers will follow Mitch through documentary-style videos as he profiles unsung local heroes who spend countless hours sacrificing to make others less hungry, less troubled, less impoverished or just a little happier.

In the latest episode, Albom profiles aptly named DPS teacher  Cheryl Valentine – enjoy and catch the latest on the Heart of Detroit YouTube channel.


Holiday Giving, Reconsidered

Ernst & Young fill that kettle by kmaz
Ernst & Young fill that kettle by kmaz

In a recent conversation about how we see need in Michigan, Rob Collier President of the Council of Michigan Foundations told us about several reasons to give charitably this year.  He said, “This is an important year to give and give big because the needs are so great.  Just as importantly, the Michigan state charitable tax credits are expiring at the end of December.  These credits are available to any Michigan resident.  On your donation you get a 50% tax credit, so if an individual gives $300 then they get a $150 tax credit back.  This encourages Michiganders to support the causes they care about in their communities while while getting something back on their State of Michigan tax returns.”

You can donate in each of these three buckets:

  • Endowment funds held by Community Foundations
  • Support for Food Banks or Homeless Shelters
  • Libraries, Public TV & Radio, Colleges and Universities
Find out more about the charitable tax credit from the Community Foundation of SE Michigan, and read about the end of Michigan’s tax break for charitable aid from the Freep.

While  the holiday season is a great time to share our love, good thoughts, and Michigan-made gifts with friends & family, choosing to make donations to charities in lieu of buying gifts could be a really great way to allocate some extra funds to non-profits that desperately need it. This time of year, much of people’s hard earned money is spent on frivolous bric-a-brac that they would never buy otherwise, so why not  instead make it a charitable gift?  The American Red Cross notes that nearly four in five people would rather have a charitable donation made in their honor than receive a gift they wouldn’t use, so shifting ourselves (and our communities)  towards more meaningful giving can really bring the joy & holiday spirit back!

To maximize the benefits;  give to a tax-deductible charity for Christmas AND make it local.  We’ve compiled a list of Michigan based charities to choose from. Local money circling around our communities only strengthens our economy, as well as providing the necessary funds needed by these organizations to grow and continue to serve our communities.  A local charity gift for Christmas!   It is perfect, really. Read on for some great Michigan charities, be sure to check out our Michigan nonprofit section and add ones we’ve missed in the comments!

Funding cuts leave college students and families swimming in debt

University of Michigan ~ West Hall by Trish P. - K1000 Gal
University of Michigan ~ West Hall
by Trish P. – K1000 Gal

The Saginaw News reports that as state support has dropped over the last 30 years, Michigan’s 15 public universities have compensated by raising tuition, fees and room and board, adding $3,000 each semester in tuition in the last decade alone. As need rises, so has student debt:

The average university student will leave college owing $20,000 to $24,000 in loans.

Over the past 10 years, the number of Michigan State University students applying for aid has gone up 23 percent, said Val Meyers, associate director of financial aid. “People who used to be able to pay themselves and didn’t bother to apply are now applying because they need some help,” she said, given rising costs and the struggling economy.

…At the same time, state scholarships and grants have been reduced. The Legislature ended the $4,000 Michigan Promise scholarship in 2009, and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship decreased its funding, Meyers said.

Tough times have forced those in Lansing to cut and cut again, and while higher education is 3rd in terms of general fund dollars:

Lou Glazer, president of the Ann Arbor-based think tank Michigan Future, notes Michigan ranks 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending for higher education.

“It’s a big mistake,” Glazer said. “Disinvesting in universities is not smart.”

Of the 15 states that have the highest college attainment rates, 13 have the highest incomes, he said.

This is an extremely interesting read about a critical issue to Michigan’s future  - read more.

Michigan vs Michigan State Football Rivalry

Michigan State vs University of Michigan Football

It’s rights for the title of the state, state champions, who’s the best in the state, it’s huge, big for the fans, big for the alumni and big for the players and coaches.
~Ryan Van Bergen, UM Defensive End

This Saturday at 12 noon the University of Michigan Wolverines head to Spartan Stadium in East Lansing to face the Michigan State University Spartans . The Paul Bunyan-Governor of Michigan Trophy is awarded to the winner of the game between the Wolverines and the Spartans. U of M holds the series edge at 67-31-5, but the Spartans won again last year, 34-17 comeback to hang onto the trophy for the third straight year. For the 2nd year in a row, both teams are in the AP Top 25, with the Spartans at #23 and UM ranked #11. This game is always a fierce rivalry , but mLive explains that in 2011 it takes on another aspect due to the new Legends & Leaders division structure of the Big Ten12:

…all you have to do beat out five other teams to win your division and you’ve got a shot at the Rose Bowl. Nebraska isn’t what we thought they were, and Iowa just isn’t that good. The winner of Saturday’s game takes control of the Legends.

If you’re looking for tickets, stubhub has them for $188 – $499.  The Sports Bank has a brutally honest preview that leads with Spartan DT and NFL Prospect Jerel Worthy’s Anti-Michigan Wolverines Tattoo and breaks the game down very quickly and insightfully, and as always the folks at The Bleacher Report deliver with their slideshow of keys to the game and predictions for UM v MSU. The Freep calls it a smash-mouth showcase while the Detroit News lets a pair of former players, Michigan safety Marcus Ray and Michigan State quarterback Tony Banks, lay down the smack. On the blogs, A Beautiful Day for Football wonders if it’s “Little Brother No More” and gives some interesting rivalry facts. As Bill Simonson says: “I hope this sports ride never ends.”
MSU vs U of M Video Spirit Rally

Choose sides and get in on the discussion over at or MGoBlog. These are great resources with all the news and updates you need regarding MSU and U of M sports.

Michigan in Pictures has a couple of posts from awhile back about Spartan Stadium in East Lansing (where Saturday’s game will be played) and Michigan Stadium aka The Big House.

Somewhere we have to note Whack-a-Wolverine from the Lansing State Journal and we definitely want to hear what YOU think about the rivalry and the game!