Public Affairs

Growing Home produces a bountiful harvest for Englewood residents

By Eunice Wang and Natalya Carrico
Medill Reports

Growing Home came to the South Side of Chicago in 2006 under the Englewood Quality of Life Plan. The organization offers a paid, 14-week job training program for adults with varying employment barriers. Approximately 30 percent of the program participants come from the greater Englewood neighborhood.

The farm stand at 5814 S. Wood is open Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through October 26.

Photo at top: Water drop on a chard leaf in the Growing Home garden. (Eunice Wang/MEDILL)

For Minimum Wage Workers, Affordable Housing is Further Out of Reach, New Study Shows

By Sydney Boles
Medill Reports

A new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that affordable housing is further out of reach for minimum wage workers in Chicago than it was in 2015.

Someone working at the Chicago minimum wage would have to work 1.6 full-time jobs to afford a one-bedroom apartment, up from 1.3 in 2015. In other words, if a minimum wage worker had only one full-time job, they could reasonably afford just $572 in rent, slightly more than half the cost of the average Chicago apartment.

Continue reading

More Than 1,000 Eligible DACA Recipients in Illinois Miss Renewal Deadline, USCIS Reveals

By Griselda Flores
Medill Reports

More than 1,000 eligible DACA recipients in Illinois did not meet the Oct. 5 deadline to renew their temporary legal status application, according to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

By the renewal deadline, 6,670 individuals out of 8,650 eligible submitted their DACA renewals in Illinois, which means that 1,980 had not filed their application by the cutoff date set by President Donald Trump’s administration.

While the percentage of those who didn’t meet the deadline seems relatively low, the number in Illinois is significant given its large population of DACA recipients.

Continue reading

Chicago police to roll out body cameras ahead of schedule

By Em Steck
Medill Reports

The Chicago Police Department says it will roll out its body camera program across all districts before the end of the year as part of the city’s promise for greater police accountability.

A total of 8,157 “body worn cameras” will be deployed to patrol officers in Chicago by Dec. 4 across all 25 districts, one year ahead of the city’s plan to bring more transparency to the police force.

“This is a very aggressive rollout. When we’re done, by the end of this year, every patrol officer in every district that works in the field will be equipped with a body worn camera,” Chief Technology Officer Jonathan H. Lewin said in a press conference.

The body cameras are part of the department’s larger mission to build better community relations with civilians after a string of scandals and controversies, including the death of Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014.
Continue reading

From high school senior to politician, Josh Lafazan continues his political quest

By Caroline Tanner
Medill Reports

SYOSSET, N.Y.— On most days, at just 23 years old, Democratic Nassau County Legislative candidate Josh Lafazan is the youngest one in the room. It’s something that Lafazan is used to by now, since becoming one of the youngest elected officials in the history of New York State. In 2012, at 18, Lafazan was elected to the Syosset Central School Board of Education in Long Island, winning 82 percent of the vote.

Syosset, New York

Now he’s running for the 18th district legislative seat against Republican incumbent Donald N. MacKenzie, 39.

Take a look around his campaign headquarters in Syosset and you might call him a kid among kids. Though he’s certainly not the tallest one in the room, standing a few inches under 6 feet, he may be the oldest. On his campaign team, some interns are as young as 14, marking what is perhaps the most unique part of Lafazan’s campaign and his candidacy — the youth of it all. His campaign team consists of his 25-year-old campaign manager, Rob Silverstein, and about 40 interns, ranging in age from 14 to 21.
Continue reading

Northwestern’s solar-powered house heads to the Solar Decathlon in Denver

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

The house came down piece by numbered piece. In mid-September, the House by Northwestern (HBN) team dismantled the entire home they built over the summer, and FedEx-ed it off to Denver.

The solar-powered sustainable house, Enable is an official entry in the eighth Solar Decathlon competition, sponsored by the United States Department of Energy. Northwestern University will be participating for the first time.

The Solar Decathlon features a total of 11 collegiate teams that includes European teams from Switzerland and Netherlands. The teams compete for a total of $2 million in prize money with the first place team receiving $300,000.

The NU team geared up to the challenge and designed a 994-square-foot house entirely powered by solar energy for the showcase this October in Denver. The competition started in 2002 and is held once every two years. Some of the teams this year are veterans of multiple competitions. And the houses will be open for public tours, showcasing each team’s vision in bringing to life their fully functional solar-powered houses, over two long weekends from October 5- October 9, 2017, and October 12- October 15, 2017.

“This is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors,” says Manasi Kaushik, a member of the Communications team at HBN and a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern.

Continue reading

Build a better planet one photo at a time – Add yours to the global view

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

“Think of how it wraps completely around our planet, connecting us all as one global family – living and breathing under one shared sky,” says Wilmette artist and environmental activist Ben Whitehouse of the sky. “It only stands to reason we should take great care of it for each other,” he adds.

And Whitehouse hopes to bring people together across cultures to reflect on the beauty of the sky with his latest citizen art event – the Sky Day project.

In order to create an awareness about our rapidly changing environment, Whitehouse created an education-focused non-profit organization called Only One Sky. And the Sky Day project is a unique part of this initiative, where 150 organizations from more than 12 nations and photo buffs from across the United States will  take pictures of the sky and tweet them through September 22.  If you’d like to participate in the Sky Day Project,  take a photo of just the sky, and tweet it with the hashtags: #SkyDayProject and #NU_CCRG. You also can go to the Only One Sky website, click on the Sky Day Project to register and obtain a group-specific handle for your tweets. Photo collages of the sky taken from different regions of Earth will appear on the website.

“The art-based initiative provides a launching point for the use and sharing of science and art-based curriculum” through the skydayproject.org website, says Whitehouse’s collaborator, climate scientist Daniel Horton of Northwestern University. In partnership with Horton and “with the input of talented artists, scientists, parents, educators, writers, child development experts and social scientists we are building Only One Sky as an interactive educational platform to offer teachers, parents and kids imaginative lesson plans, inspiring ideas, great articles, innovative projects, forums for discussion and exciting opportunities for international collaboration,” Whitehouse says. Only One Sky is just getting started and has already posted two educational pieces this week.
Continue reading

Freeze-casting materials in space: Meeting the challenges of vacuums and microgravity

Northwestern University’s SpaceICE team, led by Northwestern Professor David Dunand, is preparing to test freeze-casting of materials in space, in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Bradley University. Fabricating materials is essential for a journey to Mars or for future space colonies. The SpaceICE team is pioneering the freeze-casting instrumentation for the small CubeSat, a cubic satellite that UIUC is building for the 2018 NASA-funded mission. Medill reporter Lakshmi Chandrasekaran is embedding with the researchers as the mission efforts rev up this summer.

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

I was meeting with Krysti Scotti, who kick- started the Northwestern University’s SpaceICE project in the Dunand Lab while she was still an undergraduate. She just finished her bachelor’s degree this spring and is starting work on her Ph.D. as SpaceICE readies for a space launch.

While waiting for Krysti to arrive at the lab, I met with another of Dunand’s first-year Ph.D. students, Stephen Wilke, as he completed freeze-casting experiments with iron oxide nanopowder. We chatted for a bit and I learned that his wife (a fifth year Ph.D. student in environmental sciences at NU) is pursuing a career in science writing in California through a mass communication fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It is a small world and I often seem to be running into Ph.D.s, pursuing science communication as a career! That’s what I am doing in graduate school at Medill after working as a science reporter with a Ph.D. in mathematics. The graduate program gives us a chance to embed with science research teams to produce in-depth stories and I am embedding with SpaceICE.

Krysti arrived a bit late for our 11 a.m. meeting and dashed into the lab! “I overslept,” she says. Considering, that she was up until 6 a.m. working on the research, I am not too surprised.

Continue reading

Severe storms lab developing remote flash flood sensing system

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.

Continue reading

Building a better tornado warning system

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.

Continue reading