By Puja Bhattacharjee
Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, the oldest church camp in Oklahoma, hosts more than 50,000 kids and teens who come for summer camp each year. Falls Creek originates from the Washita River in Murray County and flows directly into the campgrounds named for it.
But flash floods now menace the camp and the facility all but closed after a 2015 flood left a few hundred campers stranded for more than 36 hours. So far, scientists do not know what caused the flooding.
With warming global temperatures, though, flash floods are becoming an increasing threat across many area of the US. So on a balmy April morning this spring, three researchers from the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in Norman, Okla., drive more than 60 miles to the camp in a black pickup truck crammed with instruments in big boxes.
By Jiayan Jenny Shi
Kelly Summers, 44, is a Chicago-born Native American who volunteers with Native Scholars, an after-school tutoring program at the American Indian Association of Illinois (AIAI). Every Tuesday afternoon, native children across Chicago meet at a church basement in Andersonville where they get homework assistance and cultural instruction.
Summers learned cultural traditions at a Menominee Indian reservation and from her late father. Now she tutors native children as a way to give back to the community and continue her father’s dream and mission.
Photo at top: Kelly Summers assists native children in their homework at the after-school program on May 16. (Jiayan Jenny Shi/MEDILL)
By Puja Bhattacharjee
People start trickling into the National Severe Storms Laboratory holding coffee cups and laptops. By 8 a.m., eight people fill a room for the Spring Experiment. The laboratory in Norman, Okla., is open all year. But now it’s tornado season.
Researchers, forecasters, software developers, IT personnel and scientists from different parts of the country have come together for the annual experimental program held during the spring severe weather season to test and evaluate new techniques and tools for hazardous weather forecasting.
One of the goals this year is to continue testing software that could possibly eradicate false alarms, issue more accurate and detailed warnings for tornadoes and other severe weather. “The false alarm ratio of a one-hour forecast of a tornado should be smaller in the future if the research pans out – meaning fewer one-hour forecasts of tornadoes will be wrong,” says Greg Stumpf, who heads this program.
This summer a team of Northwestern University undergraduates will finalize instrumentation designs for a NASA satellite mission that will test the manufacturing of materials while in orbit. The students are building the device for SpaceICE to study freeze-casting, a process that could eventually be used to build materials on other planets in space colonies.
“In terms of science fiction, the perfect use [of freeze-casting] would be to use soil on Mars and on the moon” to make bricks or other necessities. “We hope we will impact the creation of the first space habitats from planetary sources,” said materials science Professor David Dunand, the lead advisor for the SpaceICE project.
By Allie Burger
It’s now…or maybe not for a long time for the Cleveland Cavaliers if they don’t win the 2017 NBA Finals. Here’s a breakdown of all the moving parts in their organization that could be affected if they lose.
Photo at top: The Cleveland Cavaliers are tied for the oldest team in the NBA and do not have a draft pick until 2019. (Allie Burger/MEDILL)
By Lily Williams
A combined team of undergraduates at Northwestern University and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are working together to build a satellite and instruments to test the fabrication of building materials in space.
The NASA mission is due to launch into orbit in the summer of 2018. It has two parts: a box-like satellite called a CubeSat (UIUC’s job) and a payload of instruments (NU’s job at the SpaceICE lab) to test freeze-casting . The instrumentation will freeze suspensions and study the corrugated structures of materials left behind in the freezing and thawing process. The undergraduate-only collaboration will determine if freeze-casting could be a viable mechanism for fabricating many different materials, from fuel cells to cocoa tablets, both on Earth and eventually on other planets.
The work is complex, rigorous and constantly evolving, especially because, as students graduate, they need to be replaced and re-trained from the ground up. Each university team not only has to design and test their own product, but also make sure that CubeSat and the SpaceICE payload work together.
Below are some photos that attempt to chronicle the day-to-day tasks of both teams, at NU and UIUC, where the satellite makers need to configure their spacecraft for the instrumentation.
Members of the Northwestern University SpaceICE lab present a preliminary design for their freeze-casting instrumentation via conference call with NASA. Materials science Professor David Dunand, (right) directs the SpaceICE lab.
Krysti Scotti solders a new computer for taking temperature readings on suspension samples. The lab mixes suspensions of microscopic particles and water to freeze and thaw. As they freeze the suspensions, they take temperature readings to see how the suspension structures change with the corresponding colder temperatures.
Krysti Scotti teaches Jonathan Young, a SpaceICE undergrad, how to use their multiple hand-built computers for taking temperature readings of suspensions.
Notes and instructions for making the suspension the students will test in freeze-casting. The students have to make their own suspension for testing. It took months to even decide what kind of particles would compose the best kind of suspension for freeze-casting in space. They decided on silver-coated glass particles because they don’t coagulate and they can also remain in suspension for long periods of time without settling out of the suspension.
The circuit board SpaceICE uses is composed of multiple computation systems. The team can order parts of it online, but they ultimately have to manually assemble the boards in a way that will allow them to conduct their own specific experiments.
The spinning fan will take a few hours to freeze the suspension above it in the white container. SpaceICE designed and built this fan instrument.
As part of his senior design project, Jonathan Young sets up the computer program that he will use to test the nucleation point of a suspension he has made. That means the exact moment the suspension begins to freeze.
Three members of the SpaceICE team from left to right: Jessica Li, Yingda Hu and Andy McIntosh. The three have come together for an electronics meeting to discuss some new parts they need to order for the testing instrumentation.
Yingda Hu sketches out a simplified design flow for the electronics of the freeze-casting payload during an electronics meeting. In addition to the programming and electronics team, SpaceICE also has science and engineering teams. Each meet weekly.
UIUC’s clean room. UIUC’s role in the NASA-funded mission is to design CubeSat, the bread box-sized satellite that will house NU’s freeze-casting payload from the SpaceICE lab. The plastic curtains prevent excess dust or potentially harmful debris from contaminating their satellite parts. Students are required to dress in lab coats and gloves before entering the clean room to work on the CubeSat.
Inside UIUC’s clean room, the CubeSat and it’s myriad parts await assembly and testing.
UIUC equipment for designing and conducting experiments. Undergraduates with appropriate training and knowledge will use liquid nitrogen, extremely hot ovens and intense vacuums to study the potential effects of space on their satellite designs.
Every surface of the UIUC lab is covered in instrumentation as CubeSat construction moves forward. Some of this instrumentation is relevant to the project, other instrumentation is there just to satisfy the engineer’c constant curiosity.
A UIUC workstation where undergraduates and graduates can come in to plan and design the CubeSats. UIUC began working on CubeSats in 2001, and students are currently working on five different CubeSat projects. Much of the actual construction work is done in the clean room.
Students at UIUC devised this chamber for testing all of their satellites in zero gravity. The CubeSats will go inside of the cage-like structure, which will detect signals bounced off the instrumentation inside and translate it into data the researchers can interpret.
A list of tasks the UIUC lab teams plan on completing before launch. Each lab has a different mechanism for recording and dividing duties. With so many students coming and going, a white board is a logical way to keep everyone updated.
UIUC students designed and constructed this device for building their own machinery. It could save them time rather than having to outsource production of all of their designs.
Despite designing highly sophisticated instrumentation, UIUC students still rely on post-it notes for reminding others not to interfere with sensitive equipment.
Photo at top: Northwestern materials science and engineering senior Jonathan Young spoons his suspension into the collection vestibule of the freezing instrument SpaceICE has specially designed for their research. (Lily Williams/MEDILL)
By Alissa Anderegg
At the annual Mole de Mayo Festival, thousands of hungry Chicagoans come to explore the authentic Mexican flavors of the Pilsen neighborhood. This year’s festival marks the eighth anniversary of the event, where locals and visitors come to taste some of the best mole dishes in Chicago. Each year Mole de Mayo features a mole contest, where restaurants compete with their versions of the Mexican staple. The festival is organized by the Eighteenth Street Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that has been serving the Pilsen neighborhood for more than three decades.
Mole tacos are served at the eighth annual Mole de Mayo Festival. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)
By Grace Austin
Today’s food co-ops in Chicago are not your hippie commune cooperatives of the 1960s and 1970s. They are for-profit businesses that are focused on local, healthy and sustainable produce and goods. But they are keeping the democratic nature of a traditional co-op as well as the emphasis on community engagement and philanthropy work.
Within the past few years, there has been a resurgence of co-ops across the country. Currently, there are about 150 that belong to the National Co+op Grocers association and about 130 are in the start-up phase.
In Northern Illinois, there are co-ops opening in Elgin, Rockford, McHenry, and Batavia.
By Mike Davis
Sometimes success forces businesses to take a step back. That’s what happened to the Midnight Mac and Cheeserie in Rogers Park.
After a crazy opening weekend in which owner and chef Antony van Zyl ran out of mac and cheese three days straight, he decided it was time to expand. Since then, he’s doubled the dining area, the kitchen space, and even hired more people.
Van Zyl didn’t anticipate the crowded start from day one.
“You have to build your business, you have to fight to get it going,” van Zyl said. “And that’s the way things normally work…it didn’t quite work that way.”
The Midnight Mac and Cheeserie operates daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Photo at top: The Midnight Mac and Cheeserie re-opens in Rogers Park after a busy first weekend. (Mike Davis/MEDILL)
By Wenjing Yang
Deshawn Bell, 35, is a fast food worker in Chicago. He has been working at a McDonald’s restaurant for the past ten years and struggles to make ends meet. He joined a march on May 23rd in downtown Chicago that drew 1,500 demonstrators from across the nation to call for a $15 minimum wage. The march was organized by the union-backed advocacy group ‘Fight for $15’ and was timed to send a message the day before the McDonald’s annual stockholder meeting.
McDonald’s Corp. had revenue of $24.62 billion in 2016. Every year, the company and its franchisees employ hundreds of thousands of people, but has long been a target of complaints about the wages it pays those workers.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast food giant increased its hourly wages to $1 above local minimum wage at corporate-owned restaurants in 2015.