Turkey and technology collide at Great Lakes Science Center’s ‘Turkey Tech’

This story originally appeared in The News-Herald and The Morning Journal

Great Lakes Science Center

The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland is shown in July 2009. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

When you think about Thanksgiving, science and technology might not be the first things that spring to mind.

Sure, there’s the chemistry of starch behind the family recipe for gravy. And in the last four hundred years since the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621, kitchen gadgetry has come a long way. But, robots, 3-D printing and vacuum chambers aren’t the images that are typically conjured when turkey day draws near.

This year, the Great Lakes Science Center, 601 Erieside Ave. in Cleveland, aims to change those perceptions with Turkey Tech, a holiday-themed event Nov. 27-29 “where turkey and technology collide.” Regular admission to the Science Center gives access to the planned activities and presentations, with additional registration required for a couple of the items due to limitations on space and participation.

With the potential for chilly outside temperatures and the long weekend many look forward to from school or work, Science Center Communications Director Joe Yachanin explained that the event programming sought to give families a fun option for how to spend the holiday time.

There’s a bit of Thanksgiving-themed stuff developed just for the event, plus a holiday theme to several mainstays like the Big Science Show, he said.

“We thought, what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving weekend with the people in your family than coming downtown and visiting the Great Lakes Science Center,” said Yachanin. “We’re always looking for things to do that can engage multiple generations.”

On top of all of that, Yachanin said, the timing worked out for the debut of National Geographic’s “Robots 3-D” film in the OMNIMAX theater on Nov. 27, showcasing the latest successes and failures in robotics research.

“It’s a tour of robotics labs around the world, so that people can see what sorts of advancements are being made in the world of robotics,” Yachanin said.

RoboThespian, a humanoid robot actor designed to interact with humans in a public setting, acts as the film’s narrator. Viewers will be introduced to several high-profile robotics projects like CHIMP, ATLAS, Herb the Butler and more.

For more robotics, VEX Robotics exhibitions are scheduled all day for all three days. Builders will be demonstrating how to design and build robots with the VEX Robotics Design System, a platform geared towards students.

One of the more intriguing Turkey Tech exhibitions, which will run all day throughout the weekend, is the vacuum chamber floor demonstration. Attendees can see what happens when different Thanksgiving side dishes are put into the chamber to have the air sucked out of them completely and then put back in.

“It works really neat with whipped cream on top of pumpkin pie — to see the whipped cream expand and contract right before your eyes,” Yachanin said. “It works really well because there’s a lot of air in the whipped cream. It’s really neat to watch the food literally change size right before your eyes.

“And the education person doing that demonstration can of course explain the science behind how changing the air pressure affects the food.”

Both the Maker Workshop and Family Turkey Launch Tournament are free with regular admission, but require additional registration due to space and material limitations. The Science Center is asking for a donation of canned food for this event as well.

In the Maker Workshop, scheduled for Nov. 27 at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., participants will get an introduction to 3-D printing and make their own cookie cutters.

The turkey launch, scheduled for Nov. 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., challenges teams to construct a catapult using a basket of household objects provided. The catapult will then be used to launch plastic turkeys, with the winner being the team able to propel their turkey the closest to landing in a pot, with a bullseye for getting it to land inside.

“The closer you get, the more points it will be worth,” Yachanin said. “It’ll be tournament style, and the top teams will go home with a turkey trophy.”

Visitors who have been to the Science Center before may not recall seeing any bowling lanes on the premises. Nevertheless, Turkey Bowling is scheduled Nov. 27-28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Nov. 29 1-4 p.m. Set up in open exhibit space, participants will get to make and decorate their own head pins and then hit the boards for a chance to roll their own turkeys, or three strikes in a row — a term that originated when bowling tournaments handed out grocery items (like turkeys), eventually becoming part of the vernacular.

A staple of the Science Center, the Big Science Show will have a few surprises in store for anyone who’s seen it before. Turkey Tech-themed elements were integrated into the show, scheduled to run on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m., Nov. 28 at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. and Nov. 29 at 2:30 p.m.

“One of the new demonstrations is an explanation of why Thanksgiving Day parade balloons are full of helium instead of hydrogen,” Yachanin said. “And another one we’re doing is called the Tesla Turkey. We’re going to be conducting electricity through a turkey on a giant Tesla coil.”

For parents looking to take advantage of Black Friday shopping, the center is also offering a one day camp-like program called “Parent’s Day Out” on Nov. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. By registering in advance, children ages 6-13 can be dropped off at GLSC for a day of supervised scientific fun with hands-on activities, a pizza lunch, an OMNIMAX film, the Big Science Show and more. The cost per child is $30 for nonmembers and $25 for members.

Like the Spooktacular Science Day in October, Turkey Tech continues a programming schedule of holiday-themed events. Coming up, GLSC plans a whole week of wintry/cold themed activities for Winter Week, Dec. 26-Jan. 2.

“Lots of kids are home from school, on winter break,” Yachanin said.

“We’re trying to put in a bit of added incentive with fun, wintry-themed activities. We’ll probably do some fun stuff with liquid nitrogen that week.”

Events like carpet skating will take place, with plans to run a snow machine inside GLSC to complete the wintry atmosphere for visitors.

“We basically just want people to make family memories,” Yachanin said.

“Come down and have a little fun with science. Hopefully we’re going to make it engaging and expose people to some level of creativity that they don’t normally associate with science.”

GIS Day at Lakeland Community College showcases geographic software

This story originally appeared in The News-Herald and The Morning Journal

GIS Day 1

Dakota Benjamin from Cleveland Metroparks shows the E384 unmanned aircraft during a presentation by GIS Manager Stephen V. Mather (left) to guests during GIS Day at Lakeland Community College on Nov. 18. The craft is part of a fleet used by Cleveland Metroparks that includes rotorcraft drones and kites for surveying land and gathering geospatial data.

Since 1999, the third Wednesday of each November has been designated as GIS Day, a grassroots global event developed by Esri — an international supplier of GIS software — that lets users and vendors of the geographic software to showcase their applications to the public.

On Nov. 18, Lakeland Community College hosted a GIS Day event, organized by Lisa Stanich, geospatial technology program assistant, and Mark Guizlo, professor and chair of the department of geography and geospatial technology.

The free and public event took place across two rooms set aside for presentations and demonstations, and a third room for exhibitors.
Lakeland also uses GIS Day to showcase their Geospatial Technology program. Developed in 2011, it is the first program in the state that’s aligned with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Geospatial Technology Competency Model designed to produce a skilled workforce.

“We set ours up based on the needs of the industry,” Guizlo said.

While developing the program, Guizlo attended professional meetings for the industry, noting that there were few academics there at the time. At the meetings, he began building relationships with industry leaders to help shape the program.

“We used the (Labor Department) model to guide what we are doing, and no we have a very professional, skills-based approach.”

GIS program participant Caroline Petersen, who manned the department’s exhibit table, was enthusiastic about her experience.

“It’s an amazing program that’s opened up so many doors for me,” she said.

Fellow student Joe Gragg agreed.

“From what I’ve heard, students coming from Lakeland’s GIS program are a year or two ahead when they go on to four-year programs,” he said.

Starting off the day, GIS instructor Bobby Oliver showed attendees a selection of free and open mobile apps for geospatial data collection. She explained that casual users and consumers can take advantage of app capabilities to gather useful information for things like fitness and health tracking.

One of the apps, Endomondo, can track workouts like running or biking, measuring speed, distance and elevation. Using the data, the app provides feedback on how to meet exercise goals.

“There’s lots of free software out there for your phones,” Oliver said.
Most of these sorts of apps are designed to sync with users’ social media networks, making it easy to share your successes or compare with other enthusiasts.

Sharing large swaths of data across multiple entities is one of the broader uses of GIS data, exemplified by municipal organizations like the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

Robert Stoerkel and Dennis Quigney, both graduates of Lakeland’s GIS program, presented attendees with a variety of ways NEORSD collects, uses and shares data.

With over 1 million customers in a 355-square-mile service area and over 90 billion gallons of water treated each year, managing geospatial data is vital.

Customized data logged in their Enterprise GIS system is used to aid many other departments, including Homeland Security, in order to coordinate infrastructure projects and ensure safety and stability for both consumers and professionals in the coverage area.

“Everyone in the district is using this app once a day,” Stoerkel said.

Michael Foley, GIS specialist with CT Consultants, a local municipal engineering and planning firm in Mentor, echoed Stoerkel’s sentiments about the importance of geospatial data.

“People don’t care about maps, they care about apps,” he said.
Situated in the exhibit hall, Foley explained the work that went into developing and managing a comprehensive database and map for the city of Euclid’s sewer system using aerial photos and other techniques. The resulting web application allows the city to access and input data as needed.

Aerial photography was also the focus of Cleveland Metroparks presentation, where GIS Manager Stephen V. Mather showed what his department’s fleet of unmanned craft can provide.

Using OpenDroneMap, an open source toolkit, in conjunction with both fixed wing and rotorcraft drones as well as kites, they’re able to reconstruct the world using series of overlapping photos from repeated drone flights.

The highly-detailed maps created allow for precise attention to problems like erosion, stemming invasive species like phragmites and promoting healthy vegetation growth.

GIS Day 2

A selection of quilts on display at GIS Day at Lakeland Community College on Nov. 18 created by Debbie Berkebile, owner of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures. Berkbile uses GIS data to create artistic representations of geographic locations, including (from left) the Painted Desert, Eye of Sahara and Sustina Glacier.

Exhibitor Debbie Berkebile, owner of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures, puts her GIS training to use for an artistic pursuit.

Using image data from various locations around the globe, she creates quilts and uses topographical information to hand-paint landscape features on them.

“Each one has characteristics of what the colors really mean,” she said.

“I’ve been quilting for over 15 years, but this I just started after graduation. I like mapping.”

LCCC hosts regional InnovateHER competition

This story originally appeared in The Morning Journal

Photo courtesy of the Economic and Community Development Institute  Glynis Byrd (center) with business partner Sam Bigham pitches the TidyCup to the InnovateHER 2016 regional judges' panel. Byrd and Bigham developed and patented the product, which is designed specifically for women to collect mid-stream urine samples. Byrd's pitch won first place, giving her a chance to pitch in the national round in Washington D.C. in March 2016.

Photo courtesy of the Economic and Community Development Institute Glynis Byrd (center) with business partner Sam Bigham pitches the TidyCup to the InnovateHER 2016 regional judges’ panel. Byrd and Bigham developed and patented the product, which is designed specifically for women to collect mid-stream urine samples. Byrd’s pitch won first place, giving her a chance to pitch in the national round in Washington D.C. in March 2016.

As director of the Small Business Development Center at Lorain County Community College, Lisa Hutson had been looking for a project to partner with the Women’s Business Center of Ohio on along with Jan Conrad, WBC director in Cleveland. So when it came time for the national InnovateHER 2016 competition, she knew she’d found it.

“I’d like to host this,” Hutson said of the competition, aimed at addressing the needs of women and their role in the economy. “It’s a great way to highlight Lorain County and some of the things going on here.”

Geared specifically for entrepreneurs whose products or services directly enhance the lives of women and their families, LCCC hosted the regional finals on Nov. 12 at The Richard Desich Business and Entrepreneurship Center, 151 Innovation Drive in Elyria. From a field of about 25 applicants who submitted business plans, ten finalists were chosen for an opportunity to pitch a panel of judges, with the first place winner moving on to a final round and a chance to pitch in Washington D.C. in March 2016 for a shot at winning $70,000 in prizes provided by Microsoft.

As put forth by the U.S. Small Business Administration, InnovateHER challenges entrepreneurs to present products and services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, have commercialization potential and fill a need in the marketplace.

“We would have had more (competitors), but they didn’t meet the women-centric criteria,” said Conrad. “Even so, paring the submissions down to just ten was difficult.”

The finalists who were chosen to pitch presented a diverse array of ideas, from a babysitting exchange app to a program that helps women get training and placement in sustainable employment. Slotted in ten minute blocks, presenters entered the room to pitch and field questions from a panel of four judges, exiting when done so that none of the finalists heard the others’ presentations.

“It’s really cool that this is a women-centered competition,” said Muhga Eltigani, who pitched her startup NaturAll Club, a home delivery service for organic hair care products she makes herself. Eltigani, whose YouTube channel has videos demonstrating how to make her products at home using natural ingredients like avocado and banana, recognized a need from her viewers who said they didn’t have time to spend making their own products.

After all the pitches had been made, the judges left the room and all the competitors gathered to await the announcement of winners.

Judge Dennis Willis, a business coach from ActionCOACH in Elyria, described the judges’ difficult task in choosing a winner.
“The tough thing is choosing between good and good,” Willis said. “You all did really awesome.”

Third place winner of the InnovateHER competition was Laura Steinbrink’s Brilliency, a software platform that helps consumers see their utility usage on a website and teaches them how to save money with consumer-engaged efficiency.
“Our goal is to shift the paradigm of how energy is bought, sold and traded,” said Steinbrink, noting that Brilliency can be useful for both homeowners and renters alike.

In second place was The Digital Mosaic, a website and app launched by Natalie Bauman. Her background in video production, writing and documentary storytelling inspired the service, which helps users capture moments on video to craft their own stories.

Coming in first place was Glynis Byrd’s TidyCup, a patented product designed specifically for women to collect mid-stream urine samples. Byrd, who has over 30 years of experience in health care, saw a real need for a product like hers. With her business partner Sam Bigham, they’ve spent the last 8 years doing research, developing the product and getting it patented.
Although Byrd said the pitch process is “nervewracking,” she was happy for the opportunity and exhilarated to come in first place.

“We’re the independent inventor,” she said. “We like these sorts of contests because we can be on an equal playing field.

“You’ve got to keep pushing forward and don’t give up.”