Sunday, December 18, 2011
This device was introduced at Google’s Developers Day in Tel Aviv, by designers Oleg Imanilov, Zvika Markfield, and Tomer Daniel. It uses a gyroscope, an ADK Board, Lilypad Arduino, finger sensors, and an accelerometer.
There is a a video after the jump so you can see how it works. It looks like it has to be calibrated to work with individual hands.
When I first saw this, I thought it was a good idea, but then I thought: can’t the hearing impaired just send a text message with their hands? Then I had to think: I would love to use speech-to-text software.
As it is, speech to text isn’t quite as good as I want it to be. I would imagine that one day, speech to text will be just as good as real speech. Shouldn’t the hearing impaired have this same right? With the Texting Glove, that can happen.
Besides, the texting glove is good for texting and signing words, not just the tapping of letters. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hearing impaired could sign a text message faster than typing it. If so, then I see a good future for the Texting Glove.
show&Tell glove - introduction from sarohm on Vimeo.
Read more at: http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20111216/texting-glove-hearing-impaired/
Thursday, December 15, 2011
By SUZY MENKES
Published: December 12, 2011
PARIS — The wreaths, the sprays and the clusters of creamy white flowers — even an elegant boot fashioned out of rose petals — made a fitting backdrop at l’Église Saint-Roch for the departure of François Lesage, the artist of embroidery, mourned last week in the world of Paris couture.
The names on the floral tributes from Dior’s roses to Valentino’s lilies said it all. They included flowers from the house of Yves Saint Laurent, where embroidered
jackets re-creating the sunflowers and irises of Van Gogh were an artistic expression of opulence back in 1988.
Karl Lagerfeld, whose collaborations with Mr. Lesage over nearly 30 years helped produce the fabled 1996 re-creations of the Coromandel screens in Coco Chanel’s apartment, offered a wreath of roses, in tones from chalky white to clotted cream.
“He was fun, quite a number, always joking, with a drink and a cigarette, what the French call a ‘bon vivant’ and a very gifted person,” said Mr. Lagerfeld, who displayed the skills of the house of Lesage at his Indian-themed collection in Paris last week.
At the funeral, Christian Lacroix, who was taken under the wing of Mr. Lesage at the start of his career, recalled their first tense encounter when Mr. Lacroix, who was working at the fashion house of Jean Patou, had kept the famous embroiderer waiting. But from an initial frosty encounter came a warm friendship and close collaboration.
The church in Paris overflowed with the family of fashion, from designers including Azzedine Alaïa and Christian Loubutin to the “petites mains,” the artisan handworkers. Mr. Lesage’s own family spilled over the front rows: his son Jean-François, who established an embroidery studio in India; his daughter Marion, an artist, wearing a jacket with an embroidered heart from an early Lacroix collection and his son Jean-Louis, who read the speech prepared by his father last month when he was awarded France’s highest cultural honor: Maître d’Art.
In those words, Mr. Lesage, 82, talked about his “humble” métier and thanked the house of Chanel, which bought his business in 2002, securing its future. Chanel has done the same for other crafts, like the feather maker André Lemarié.
Mr. Lesage’s grandchildren also spoke, describing vacations in Corsica, where their nocturnal grandfather would play with their computer games half the night and then sweep them off on a boat in the morning.
Why was the death of this fashion figure, at a ripe old age, considered such a landmark moment in the couture world? Mr. Lesage, who took over the business from his father Albert in 1949, was one of the last links in a chain that stretches back to the golden era of haute couture. As a young man he was entranced by the silver screen and set up a business in America to support Hollywood costumers.
But he had known the playful designer Elsa Schiaparelli and had worked with Cristobal Balenciaga, whose studio was always a tomb of silence. His fruitful collaboration with Saint Laurent yielded dresses incorporating the birds of the artist Georges Braque and other art embroideries.
Mr. Lesage had moist eyes when he saw them paraded in what was one of the biggest fashion retrospectives ever presented — on a football pitch during the World Cup in France in 1998.
Mr. Lesage deeply appreciated the poetic essence of his work, saying “embroidery was the love of writing your dreams with a needle, with a pearl with anything that could enchant and bring tenderly to life a décor, an ambiance, a souvenir.”
Those words were at the heart of Mr. Lesage’s work. But the secret of his creative longevity was to embrace the new, as well as establishing profound relationships with designers, working in their individual cultures.
He had memories of watching Yves Saint Laurent going through Schiaparelli 1930s surrealist embroideries in the studio stock of 65,000 samples. And of remaking the original YSL Van Gogh jacket for a client to wear at a celebration of Mr. Lesage’s 50 years in fashion, which was filled with leggy Bluebell dancers, acrobats and jugglers.
Mr. Lesage found another soul mate in Jean Paul Gaultier, who pushed the boundaries of skill and taste to make a tribal reincarnation of a leopard skin couture outfit requiring 700 hours of work.
With haute couture a shrinking industry, is there still a demand for the extraordinary and the exceptional?
Mr. Lesage seemed to think so when in 1992 he set up his embroidery school on his premises in the Parisian district of Montmartre.
At the workshops of Ecole Lesage, the tulle is still stretched over wooden frames and jars are filled with glass beads, sequins, paillettes and pearls.
By serendipity, this technological age is learning to cherish once again handwork and artisanal skills that the haute embroiderer represented.
Mr. Lesage’s ebullient enthusiasm and prolific energy stayed with him to the end.
Or maybe a little longer. In the words of the priest, Father Christian Lancray-Javal, who helped to lay on the coffin a black lace shroud, hand-embroidered with moonlight dapples of silver, the indefatigable François Lesage might be up there now “embroidering the wings of angels.”
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Shanghai Government Technology committee has issued a call for a proposal to build 100 community hackerspaces with government funding for equipment. The communities in resident area are going to manage the spaces and pay for the materials. Each space is required to be at least 100 square meters, more than 200 days/year open, equipped with wood lathes, metal lathes, saws and drill grinding combined machine, milling machine and other tools.
Hackerspaces or creative spaces have been growing rapidly in China. The first one, XinCheJian, was started in Shanghai last November, by David Li and partner/project generator Ricky Ng-Adam.
Xinchejian is a non-profit hackerspace who aims to support, create and promote physical computing and open source hardware. People can exchange their ideas and expertise, get support from work on group and individual projects, and basically, as Ng-adam says, “having fun with technology.”
In 2010 Li formalized Shanghai Hackerspace's connection to the global network of hackerspace. Together with Ng-Adam they draw together hobbyists, electronic freaks, DIY lovers and makers in one place and share fascination for technology. One key player in Xinchejian is Min Lin Hsieh. She is Community organizer, taking care of finance, communication and marketing, as well as helping engineering projects and clubs. The three form a strong team by working together. Today Xinchejian has 100m2 studio full with computer spare parts, micro chips and DIY tools.
Read more at:
Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Commissioned for Bloomberg Philanthropy by art and design agency Arts Co, "Waste Not, Want It" is a series of specially commissioned art and design projects made almost entirely out of Bloomberg's waste.
Design studio Loop.pH's "Faraday Curtain" is made from hundreds of metres of discarded electrical cable, stripped of its inner core and conductive shielding and rethreaded into an intricately laced textile mesh. The resultant ephemeral textile enclosure provides a soft and sheer shielding from electro magnetic fields.
Loop.pH worked with a team of lace-makers to develop a methodology to work with this non-standard material. Lacemaking is a highly complex and computational method of manipulating many fibres into a cloth and is a dying textile tradition in the UK.
Read more: http://www.dexigner.com/news/24236#ixzz1exnSC5pZ
Soft Circuit Voodoo Doll Workshop
In this free workshop we'll cover the basics of soft circuits (materials and techniques) and then make folk art textile voodoo dolls whose eyes light up when punctured with a needle. All tools and materials (dolls, conductive spandex, conductive thread, etc.) will be provided. You may bring your own doll to modify, if you prefer!
Example dolls can be found at:
Catarina Mota | openMaterials.org
Catarina is co-founder of openMaterials (a research group dedicated to collecting and sharing data on uses and production methods of materials), of altLab (Lisbon's hackerspace), of fabriCulture (a project dedicated to promoting open source digital fabrication and maker culture in general), and a member of NYCResistor. She's also a PhD student researching social, cultural and political aspects of open source hardware and digital fabrication, a visiting scholar at ITP-NYU, and a fellow of the National Science and Technology Foundation of Portugal. Her maker activities center mostly around smart materials and digital fabrication. More info at www.openmaterials.org/catarina
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
The below article ran in the IEEE Spectrum Tech-Alert under the awful title, “With the Arduino, Now Even Your Mom Can Program.” The IEEE Spectrum editor immediately sent out an email retraction of the title as being offensive.
But even with the retraction, I don’t think that the piece adequately explores how different the populations are of Arduino users. The below picture is from Leah Buchele at this last May’s NCWIT Summit in NYC.
The graph on the left describes the gender makeup of the Arduino-using community. The graph on the right describes the gender makeup of the LilyPad-using community. The IEEE article simply describes the LilyPad as “waterproof.” Huh? Don’t they know about e-textiles? The red in the graphs are male, and the aqua are female. In statistics, this is called “inter-occular occlusion” — you don’t need a t-test, this just hits you between the eyes. Women like the LilyPad. The Arduino community has almost no women in it. The context matters.
If you’re going to make some crack about mothers programming, then you’d better speak to the significant gender issues. And if you’re going to write about Arduino, you should really know about the different communities. Arduino matters for women, because it led to LilyPad. Arduino itself plays no role in being a technology environment for mothers or just about any women at all. They’d better figure that out before they further explore “integrating it more deeply into the education system.”
To fuel greater adoption of Arduino, the team is exploring how to integrate it more deeply into the education system, from grade schools to colleges. Several universities, including Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, already use Arduino. Mellis has been studying how students and laypeople take to electronics in a series of workshops at the MIT Media Lab. Mellis invites 8 to 10 people to the lab, where they’re given a task to complete over the course of a day. The projects have included building iPod speakers, FM radios, and a computer mouse using some of the same components that Arduino uses.
But spreading the Arduino gospel is only part of the challenge. The team must also keep up with demand for the boards. In fact, the Arduino platform doesn’t consist of one type of board anymore—there’s now an entire family of boards. In addition to the original design, called the Arduino Uno, the new models include a more powerful board called the Arduino Mega, a compact board called the Arduino Nano, a waterproof board called the LilyPad Arduino, and a recently released, Net-enabled board called the Arduino Ethernet.
Monday, October 31, 2011
The Making of Arduino: How five friends engineered a small circuit board that’s taking the DIY world by storm
The Arduino core team [from left]—David Cuartielles, Gianluca Martino, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, and Massimo Banzi—get together at Maker Faire in New York City.
The team recently unveiled the Arduino Due, a board with a 32-bit Cortex-M3 ARM processor that offers more computing power for makers with complex projects. Click to enlarge.
The picturesque town of Ivrea, which straddles the blue-green Dora Baltea River in northern Italy, is famous for its underdog kings. In 1002, King Arduin became the ruler of the country, only to be dethroned by King Henry II, of Germany, two years later. Today, the Bar di Re Arduino, a pub on a cobblestoned street in town, honors his memory, and that’s where an unlikely new king was born.
The bar is the watering hole of Massimo Banzi, the Italian cofounder of the electronics project that he named Arduino in honor of the place. Arduino is a low-cost microcontroller board that lets even a novice do really amazing things. You can connect an Arduino to all kinds of sensors, lights, motors, and other devices and use easy-to-learn software to program how your creation will behave. You can build an interactive display or a mobile robot and then share your design with the world by posting it on the Net.
Released in 2005 as a modest tool for Banzi’s students at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII), Arduino has spawned an international do-it-yourself revolution in electronics. You can buy an Arduino board for just about US $30 or build your own from scratch: All hardware schematics and source code are available for free under public licenses. As a result, Arduino has become the most influential open-source hardware movement of its time.
The little board is now the go-to gear for artists, hobbyists, students, and anyone with a gadgetry dream. More than 250 000 Arduino boards have been sold around the world—and that doesn’t include the reams of clones. "It made it possible for people do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise," says David A. Mellis, who was a student at IDII before pursuing graduate work at the MIT Media Lab and is the lead software developer of Arduino.
There are Arduino-based breathalyzers, LED cubes, home-automation systems, Twitter displays, and even DNA analysis kits. There are Arduino parties and Arduino clubs. Google has recently released an Arduino-based development kit for its Android smartphone. As Dale Dougherty, the editor and publisher of Make magazine, the bible of DIY builders, puts it, Arduino has become "the brains of maker projects."
But Arduino isn’t just an open-source project that aims to make technology more accessible. It’s also a start-up company run by Banzi and a group of friends, and it’s facing a challenge that even their magic board can’t solve: how to survive success and grow. "We need to make the next jump," Banzi tells me, "and become an established company."
Arduino rose out of another formidable challenge: how to teach students to create electronics, fast. It was 2002, and Banzi, a bearded and avuncular software architect, had been brought on by IDII as an associate professor to promote new ways of doing interactive design—a nascent field sometimes known as physical computing. But with a shrinking budget and limited class time, his options for tools were few.
Like many of his colleagues, Banzi relied on the BASIC Stamp, a microcontroller created by California company Parallax that engineers had been using for about a decade. Coded with the BASIC programming language, the Stamp was like a tidy little circuit board, packing the essentials of a power supply, a microcontroller, memory, and input/output ports for attaching hardware. But the BASIC Stamp had two problems, Banzi discovered: It didn’t have enough computing power for some of the projects his students had in mind, and it was also a bit too expensive—a board plus basic parts could cost about US $100. He also needed something that could run on Macintosh computers, which were ubiquitous among the IDII designers. What if they could make a board that suited their needs themselves?
Banzi had a colleague from MIT who had developed a designer-friendly programming language called Processing. Processing was rapidly gaining popularity because it allowed even inexperienced programmers to create complex—and beautiful—data visualizations. One of the reasons for its success was an extremely easy-to-use integrated development environment, or IDE. Banzi wondered if they could create similar software tools to code a microcontroller instead of graphics on a screen.
A student in the program, Hernando Barragán, took the first steps in that direction. He developed a prototyping platform called Wiring, which included both a user-friendly IDE and a ready-to-use circuit board. It was a promising project that continues to this day, but Banzi was already thinking bigger: He wanted to make a platform that was even simpler, cheaper, and easier to use.
Read more at http://spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/hands-on/the-making-of-arduino
Ever wanted to make your own Halloween costume, or personalize one you bought from the store? There can only be so many devils and naughty kitties at one party!
If you’ve got the artistic spark, then the Arduino LilyPad can help you put a little techy spice into your clothing.
The LilyPad Arduino is a small circuit board containing a really small micro-controller designed to be stitched into clothing. It can be programmed to blink lights, read data from sensors, make sounds, move servos or motors or any number of things your creative mind can conjure. With very little electronics knowledge and some patience, you can come up with some amazing things! A hat that blinks when you jump, a shirt that displays the strength of wireless signals around you? Sew some tactile pads onto the thighs of your jeans so that when you slap your needs you get a drum beat or a light show. How about a colour organ style light show on your shit that pulsates based on the music around you. Possibilities are endless.
Halloween is the perfect time to show off your creative projects. Feel free to post pictures here in the comments section of this page!
on’t forget to check out YouTube to get some inspiration from others!
You can Google around for a local retailer, or order on-line. In the GTA, you can buy Arduino products and accessories at Creatron. Creatron also does on-line orders. A LilyPad costs about twenty bucks, and then you need some conductive thread and some components!
For ordering LED lights, sensors, and various components, DigiKey.ca is a great source with a flat rate shipping and free shipping on orders over $200.00. For projects where you need perhaps bulk quantities of LED lights, DigiKey price adjusts for volume. That is, you pay less per piece if you buy 10 instead of 5, and even less if you buy 50. If anyone is interested, I have a parts list for some good quality but inexpensive LEDs available from DigiKey.
Also from WhatsYourTech.ca:
More about Tim Teatro
More on digital creativity
A new device for the blind not to hold in hand but inserted into their shoe was made by an Indian engineer from Hewlett-Packard Lab in Bangalore aptly named “Le Chal“, which means “Take me there” in Hindi.
Anirudh Sharma’s Le Chal shoes help the blind to navigate city streets, especially those beset with potholes at every corner or even in the middle of a footpath. These haptic (touch) shoes send vibrations inside the shoe to the holder about the impending obstacle on the road.
The shoe was featured in MIT Review in August 2011. It has four mini-motors which vibrates when ditches or potholes are on the way and it is GPS-synchornized with Google Maps so that the person can follow the route easily. When it vibrates on the left side of the palm, he takes the turn accordingly and the intensity of vibration shows the distance where he or she has to take a turn.
Aided with a Le Chal Android app on a smartphone, the blind gives commands orally on the destination, which is relayed by a bluetooth with Lilypad Arduino circuit board, which takes care of the navigation.
The prototype, priced $20, will be given to 20 persons from a Bangalore blind school on a pilot basis before launching it commercially. “We intend doing about 20 shoes (priced at Rs 1,000 or $20 USD a piece) and distribute them to the visually challenged. After the feedback, we will make all the improvements suggested by the user group before going for future plans,” Anirudh Sharma told the local media.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
John Volakis wants to make the world hands-free.
The director of the ElectroScience Laboratory at Ohio State University, he is trying to end the need for cellphone hardware like the Bluetooth earpiece by fabricating communication devices out of something that most states require we carry with us all the time anyway: clothing.
“You won’t have to hold your cellphone to your ear,” said Dr. Volakis, an electrical engineer. “We’ll eliminate all that. It will be part of your attire.”
His effort is part of a broad technological effort to make “smart textiles”: wearable fabrics with embedded electronics that can collect, store, send and receive information. His lab is focusing on the sending-and-receiving part, trying to transform military apparel, hospital gowns, even everyday T-shirts into antennas.
Aside from enabling a science fiction luxury — simply speaking into your collar when you want to talk to somebody — antenna clothing could offer covert communication for soldiers, wireless monitoring for the sick and much better reception in general.
Though it will take at least a year for Dr. Volakis and his team to develop antenna clothing for civilians, his lab built antennas into a United States Army bulletproof vest last summer.
The vest, with a square antenna panel embedded in the front and three in the back, is like “having more sets of eyes or ears,” said Chi-Chih Chen, the electrical engineer who led the team that developed it.
Antennas lose reception when blocked by a human body — as evidenced by the static an FM radio spurts out when you walk in front of it — and the cumbersome rod-shaped antennas used by soldiers cannot capture signals from directly above. Communication is severely limited when an antenna goes horizontal, as it does when soldiers duck, crouch or crawl.
“This is where a body-wearable antenna will shine,” said Steve Goodall, chief of antenna technology and analysis for the Army’s office of communications and electronics research, development and engineering. “You can flare the antennas out to cover a larger area,” turning a single one-dimensional rod into multiple two-dimensional panels.
Dr. Chen is working with Applied EM, an antenna research and development company in Hampton, Va., to commercialize the technology, with the help of a grant from the Army Small Business Research Innovation Program. According to the company’s president, C. J. Reddy, each unit will start around $1,000, but the price should come down as production volume rises.
Wearable communications equipment dates back at least to the late 1990s, when a team at the Georgia Institute of Technology developed the Wearable Motherboard, an electronic T-shirt with no antennas but with ports for multiple inputs and outputs — including a thermometer, a microphone, a blood oxygen monitor and headphones — to help monitor soldiers’ health.
“If you want information about me, that information has to come from my clothing,” said Sundaresam Jayaraman, the textile engineer who led the team. The patents were sold to a private company in 2000, Dr. Jayaraman said, but the technology was never commercialized.
Dr. Volakis shares Dr. Jayaraman’s interest in using clothing to monitor vital signs. He is working to develop an antenna hospital gown that can transmit data like heart rates to a health professional’s computer. Such wireless monitoring could be used not only in hospitals, but also in people’s houses, to remotely keep tabs on the sick and elderly while they move about unencumbered.
“When elderly people stay home, we want to give them independence,” Dr. Volakis said. “People are not going to be tied to a wire.”
The challenges are different from those of a bulletproof vest, which does not need laundering and whose natural bulk can accommodate antenna panels.
By contrast, an antenna gown needs to flow, so it must be made of threads that not only conduct electricity, but are soft and washable. Dr. Volakis’s team is experimenting with high-tech materials like carbon nanotubes and graphene to try to satisfy these requirements.
Beyond that, he says smart textiles could improve the life of anybody who yearns for a stronger cellphone signal.
“We have a huge amount of room on ourselves,” Dr. Volakis said; why not cover it with antennas?
“I’ll make sure you have five bars all the time,” he said. ”Not even five bars; let’s make it 10.”
A version of this article appeared in print on October 25, 2011, on page D3 of the New York edition with the headline: Wired Textiles for a Phone as Useful as the Shirt on Your Back.
Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/25/science/25shirt.html?_r=1
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Makers of the world
From the favelas of Rio to the alleys of Delhi, Makeshift Magazine is combing the world and documenting the cultural contexts of the emerging global maker movement. Through stunning photography, video, and writing, Makeshift shares the stories and street-level ingenuity of people whose creativity is as much a mode of self-expression as it is one of survival.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Curious if you've got what it takes to program robots, make art with lights, or build speakers? Teagueduino makes it easier than ever to get started with programming electronics. Just grab a board, plug in a sensor, and start developing — no soldering required! Whether you're 8 years old or 80 years old, there's never been a better time to tap into your inner geek.
What is Teagueduino?
Technical DetailsOne full Teagueduino kit contains:
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
See this shirt and even a proximity sensing t-shirt at: http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/interactive/
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
By MOTOKO RICH
Published: August 18, 2011 New York Times
Just over a quarter of the 11.7 million workers in manufacturing are women. But Gadget Camp, a workshop for girls in this suburb west of Chicago, is part of an effort to change that.
Although the economy is wobbling and nearly 14 million people are looking for work, some employers are still having a hard time finding skilled workers for certain positions. Manufacturers in particular complain that few applicants can operate computerized equipment, read blueprints and solve production problems. And with the baby boomers starting to retire, these and other employers worry there will be few young workers willing or able to replace them.
Gadget Camp, sponsored in part by a foundation affiliated with the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, which provided financing to nine other camps this summer, is intended to help over the long haul by exposing girls to an occupation they might previously have considered unappealing, if they considered it at all.
By the last day of camp, Nautika had told her parents that manufacturing was “cool.” Fashioning a lamp shade out of a thin piece of cardboard, she mused, “I have two good careers ahead of me.” Since the fragile recovery began, manufacturing is one of the few sectors that have added jobs. But the image of manufacturing as an occupation of the future has been tarnished by the exodus of factory jobs to foreign sites and the use of machinery to replace workers. Younger people, especially, see more alluring opportunities in digital technology, finance or health care.
“The perception is that there are no jobs in manufacturing,” said Susan H. Palisano, director of education and training at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, a nonprofit group in East Hartford that promotes manufacturing employment and has run summer programs for middle-school students for the last three years. “It seems that everybody had an uncle or grandfather that got laid off.”
Across the country, a handful of companies, nonprofit groups, public educational agencies and even science museums are trying to make manufacturing seem, well, fun. Focusing mainly on children aged 10 to 17, organizations including the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, Pa.; and Stihl, a maker of chain saws and other outdoor power equipment in Virginia Beach, Va., run camps that let students operate basic machinery, meet workers and make things.
Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, the foundation that helped sponsor the Gadget camp in River Grove, has awarded $2,500 grants to 112 manufacturing-themed camps — most of them for boys and girls — around the country since 2004. “It’s not easy getting people into the career field,” said Marcia Arndt, a board member of the foundation. “I think there’s a myth out there that manufacturing is dirty and undesirable, but it’s really highly technological.”
Impressions also persist that manufacturing is a man’s job. Technical fields in general, and those that require scientific or mathematical backgrounds, are indeed dominated by men. Yet a Commerce Department report released early this month showed that women in such fields earn 33 percent more, on average, than women working outside of scientific and technical fields, a higher premium than men enjoy in similar occupations.
Antigone Sharris, who came up with the idea for the all-girls Gadget camp, had worked extensively in manufacturing before becoming an instructor in electronics, welding and computer-aided machinery at Triton College, a two-year public school here that provided some funding for the camp.
Ms. Sharris is a mentor to high school robotics teams and wants to encourage young women to consider a range of technically oriented careers. “Girls don’t naturally gravitate toward engineering,” said Ms. Sharris, a jolly and patient instructor who interspersed practical tips on using a band saw or a drill press with casual explanations of fractions, the concept of leverage and Newton’s laws.
In a windowless classroom and shop on Triton’s scruffy campus, 16 girls aged 11 to 15 designed and constructed a cat feeder, a candy dispenser and various pieces of jewelry and music boxes, using foam board, wood, metal, fiberglass and PVC pipe.
“Not letting your children learn the hands-on component of the theory of science is killing us as a nation,” Ms. Sharris said. “You have to stop giving kids books and start giving them tools.”
To give the girls a concrete sense of what such skills could mean in the workplace, Ms. Sharris invited a human resources coordinator from a local manufacturer to tell them about salaries — starting in the $40,000 range and moving up to six digits, including overtime.
Several of the campers came from low-income and minority communities near the college. Only five of the 16 girls at the camp had paid the $99 fee; the rest were subsidized.
While Ms. Sharris focused mostly on basic technical skills, factory tours aimed at introducing the girls to modern manufacturing work brought out talk that might have fit at a nationalist rally.
During a tour of Tru-Way, which produces precision metal parts, Stan Mastalerz, the company’s president, showed the girls a tiny component used in electronic circuit boards.
Ms. Sharris jumped in. “See that?” she asked. “This is something that might be in your Game Boy that you don’t even know about. The game may be made in China, but there are pieces that are made right here in your backyard.”
The reality of factory life gave a few girls pause. Visiting Tru-Way on a scorching summer afternoon, they noted the extreme heat and noise of the shop floor.
Brittany Orr, 15, who asked questions and jotted notes, said she liked the tasks that involved some thought and analysis. But “I would not want to do a job where you just do the same thing again,” she said. “It seems tedious.”
A tour of MSi Testing & Engineering, a small company in Melrose Park, Ill., that evaluates the strength and quality of metal materials used by manufacturers, showed that it offered more of the work she preferred.
In the end, the campers learned lessons in persistence and problem-solving as well as technical skills. When Nautika began building the lamp she had designed, she wanted to install a rotating shade.
Ms. Sharris brought out a tiny motor. “What you are trying to figure out is what to use to make your lampshade so that it will spin,” she said.
Ms. Sharris rejected Nautika’s first suggestion of foam board: too heavy. Ms. Sharris recommended a simple piece of copier paper, then spied a paper plate on a table. “Humor me,” she said, showing Nautika how to affix the motor to the plate with generous daubs from a glue gun.
Next came wiring a battery. To tutor Nautika in basic electronics, Ms. Sharris recruited Ariana Vargas, a 17-year-old counselor who has competed on her robotics team. Ariana demonstrated how to strip the green coating from the electrical wires with pliers. On Nautika’s first try, the whole tip broke off.
A few fumbles later, Nautika was frustrated. “I don’t know how you did it!” she said.
Ariana replied, “Practice, practice and more practice.”
Finally, the coating came off, exposing bare wire. Her confidence building, Nautika stripped another wire and slid both ends through a PVC pipe and connected them to the battery.
The plate began to spin.
“Yea!” Nautika exclaimed. “I did it.”
Thursday, August 18, 2011
It may stand as the oddest request ever made by a major league umpire:
Hey fellas, could you please turn off your jackets?Yet that's exactly what the crew working the Oakland Athletics-Baltimore Orioles game on Tuesday night had to ask as two men wearing LED-laced clothing sat behind the plate at the Coliseum. With one wearing the green glow of the A's logo on his chest and the other sporting Orioles orange, the pair were very visible from the playing field.
Watch blue flip the switch as Oakland's pro-neon crowd boos: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Lights-out-Ump-halts-game-instructs-fans-to-di?urn=mlb-wp16203
Had these two men not been sitting in Tony Randazzo's line of sight as he worked second base, I'm guessing they would have been fine and Fashion Ump would not have ruled it a faux pas. Then again, given Oakland's small crowd, it's kind of hard to attend a game in such a flashy coat and not be noticed.
I'm not going to lie, either: After seeing this clip, I kind of want one now. If these jackets were actually made by these two guys, they could have quite a fashion hit on their hands.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
With Less to Haul, Drivers Try New Hobbies; Quilting in the Cab
By JENNIFER LEVITZ
WALCOTT, Iowa—Semi driver Dave White happily sequestered himself in his rig at a truck stop on a rural stretch of Interstate 80, waiting to pick up his next haul: 45,000 pounds of Spam. He used to loathe the downtime in his job.
Then, he bought a sewing machine.
Since last year, when the economy left drivers with fewer hauls, Mr. White, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound ex-Air Force mechanic with a bushy mustache, has hunkered down inside his truck in his many off hours, making quilts from patterns with names like "Meet Me In Paris." When he's not sewing, he's daydreaming about it, he said as he ran a square of yellow cotton with little violets through his machine. "Oh, there's many a time you're just going down the road at O-dark-thirty in the morning and you just start thinking about a particular pattern."
Some truckers are finding themselves with more spare time on the road. Loads of goods delivered by truckers fell 15% in 2009, to 170 million loads, the largest drop in modern history, said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. That came on top of a slow downswing in hauls because of what the industry laments as "miniaturization" of goods: It takes less space to move flat-screen TVs and iPods than their clunkier predecessors.
With declining freight, truckers who drive hundreds of miles to make a delivery may not immediately have a load lined up for the return trip. So they bide time at truck stops, where they can shower, dine and sleep in their rigs. A couple of years ago, a driver might drop off a load and pick up a new one in two hours; now the wait can be two days, said Mr. Costello.
Though evidence is anecdotal, industry groups and trucking-company owners say the increase in spare time has spawned more hobbies. "We've got guys who are into opera, photography, skydiving," said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers' Association, a truckers' group.
Mr. White's employer, Iowa-based Don Hummer Trucking Corp., last year started a loosely organized "sewing club," and encourages drivers who are nimble with a needle to show off their handiwork at headquarters. "We want them to pass the time to make themselves happy, rather than get frustrated waiting," said Dena Boelter, Hummer's human-resources manager, an avid sewer who calls the hobby a great stress reliever that can be done almost anywhere.
Kevin Abraham-Banks, a 37-year-old trucker with a shaved head and dragon tattoos, passes time at truck stops with his cocoa and knitting.
Mr. Banks, who lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and hauls romaine lettuce between California and the Midwest, learned to knit last year after load-volumes slowed. Creating something tangible beats sitting around the truck stop "talking about who has a bigger radio," he said. He's finished a scarf and socks, and is working on a sweater for his wife.
"The fact that you can take strands of thread and basically make something out of it, that's awesome I think," he said. "It's pretty cool stuff, man."
Still, trucking can be a macho world that doesn't feel conducive to knitting or sewing. Some 95% of truckers are men, said the ATA. At the Iowa-80 Truck Stop, whose signs bill it as the "World's Largest Truckstop," a top request at the theater is for "Smokey and the Bandit" and the on-site dentist, Thomas Roemer, often sees drivers only after they've tried to yank their teeth out themselves. Crafting with fabric and yarn is "nothing I would do—my mom does that," said Mark Sanchez, 47, a long-haul trucker.
Thomas McConnaughy, a married grandfather from Hemet, Calif., hauls cereal, reads his Bible, plays Sudoku, and talks trout fishing at truck stops. He doesn't let on to other drivers that he keeps 15 coils of yarn in his cab and makes what he describes as "really cute slippers."
"In the truck stops, it's usually a bunch of guys watching football," he said. "If I sat down with my knitting, I think there would be some funny remarks."
Mr. White, the quilter, who is 53, came to his new passion last summer after feeling he was wasting time "waiting on freight."
He drove 2,600 miles a week on average in 2009, versus 3,200 in 2008, even though he spent the same amount of time—about three weeks at a stretch—on the road.
He struggled to find a hobby, having burned out on reading. He tried carting along a remote-controlled helicopter, but it kept falling on him from a shelf in the truck. His wife, Dee, an accountant at their home in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a quilter and suggested he try it. By August, they had outfitted his truck's sleeper cabin with a $179 sewing machine, supplies, and a starter's pattern. "Boy, let me tell you, I created a monster," she said.
Since then, Mr. White has made seven quilt tops, which are finished with a filling and backing between trips. He spends three hours a day on his hobby, sitting on his bed, with his sewing machine next to his mini-fridge. Flowered "project boxes" sit next to neat stacks of blue jeans and baseball caps. Quilting, he said, "gives you a little bit of ownership. You've actually accomplished something with your time off."
He pulled over once to visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., and if time allows, visits fabric stores in towns he rolls through.
In his truck, he showed a quilt with illustrations of fruit, and emphasized the importance of strategically placing quilt blocks so that "you don't get three lemons in a row or two plums in a row."
His blue eyes widened behind his glasses as he moved to the topic of thread. "There is a variegated thread that goes purple to white then back to purple," he said. "Oh! Just beautiful."
Article from WSJ
Thanks to Kristin Searle for the pointer to this article