LTU symposium covers tech as a force for social good

SOUTHFIELD — Technology can be used to serve the public good and promote inclusiveness, a panel discussion at Lawrence Technological University Tuesday night argued.

“Inclusive Technology: Seeking to Do Good” was part of the LTU President’s Symposium Series, and hosted by the LTU College of Architecture and Design.

Panelist Mercedes Mane, a serial entrepreneur, talked about her background, which included a failed attempt at designing an electric vehicle, and a successful digital fabrication consultancy called the Product Manufactory. Among the projects she’s now involved in — a countertop “smart oven” coupled with a meal plan to offer the average person gourmet meals, and an internet-connected moisture sensor that tells users when to water their plants.

Meg Green, experience architect at Brighton-based Pillar Technology Group LLC, spoke of a teaching career that turned into user experience design, and praised an app for diabetics that closely monitors blood sugar levels.

Malcolm McCullough, professor of architecture at the University of Michigan, gently mocked the “techno utopian future,” but also pointed out that the world today is more prosperous and less violent than ever before, thanks in large part to technological advances.

And Julie Bateman, director of operations at Ypsilanti-based Vayu LLC, talked about her company’s large unmanned aerial vehicle, designed to transport medical supplies to the world’s one billion people who lack access to all-weather roads.

“We have this situation in the world now where there is abundance, but that abundance is not shared in a way that eliminates poverty,” Bateman said. “I think technology’s role is to find the means to solve that. We have enough fresh water, we have enough food, we certainly have enough educated people to share knowledge with people who lack basic education … I think the really interesting market to look for, and the way we start to spread this abundance more evenly, is developing tools for communities to better access clean water, housing, education.”

LTU’s President’s Symposium is an annual presentation series created by Virinder Moudgil, the university’s president since 2012, focusing on technology and its applications to improve the quality of life.

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