+Impact Studio course to take on Flint’s water crisis

ANN ARBOR – Business+Impact has created the +Impact Studio’s inaugural course for the Winter ’19 term. The +Impact Studio is a new initiative at Ross aimed at translating insights from faculty research into practical solutions for the world’s challenges. The Studio brings together students from across disciplines to engage faculty and key stakeholders in design and development of real world applications. 

For Winter 2019, the course aims to design solutions to address lead contamination in the Flint water system, drawing on Ross Professor Eric Schwartz’s research. Schwartz has created a machine-learning algorithm that uses municipal and other data to determine which houses are likely to have lead pipes at a far lower cost than alternative methods. The problem with lead pipes in Flint is pervasive in cities across the eastern United States. But what’s the best way to get this technology into the hands of those who can use it? Patents and licensing? A for-profit business? A nonprofit? Creating open-source software, like Linux? Moreover, how should one address the potential conflicts between impact (the safest water for the most people) and profit? This is the design problem that the course will address. The main deliverables will include a set of well-developed alternative pathways for developing Schwartz’s technologies.

Course instructors, Associate Dean Jerry Davis and Professor Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks will use design methods along with insights from Play Orbit Studio to inform the course content. Because of the multidisciplinary action-based work required, Business+Impact is pleased to have a class roster made up of four disciplines across campus.

In the future, watch for other projects and products aimed at social impact and sustainability–all coming out of the Business+Impact Studio!