CME will see further rise, not in share prices but in profit

By Yasufumi Saito

CME group Inc., the world’s largest futures-exchange operator, has been gaining impetus since summer as its contract volume rose due to the high volatility in interest rates and energy markets. Analysts expect a further rise in volume, revenues and earnings, but not in the stock as it’s fully priced.
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3D printing just became more delicious

By: Lucy Vernasco

3D printing is more delicious than ever. With more than 1,000 Kickstarter backers, PancakeBot is the world’s first 3D pancake printer.

“It’s a project I did for my kids to get them inspired. It’s a family project,” Miguel Valenzuela said about his invention. Valenzuela is a civil engineer, inventor and father living in Norway.

PancakeBot was first prototyped as a LEGO model before Valenzuela made it into the current machine.

Launched in 2013, PancakeBot won’t hit stores until mid 2015, but Kickstarter backers can get their own for half the anticipated retail price by pledging $149 dollars.

“I’ve always wanted to dabble with 3D printing, especially since it was coming online with Makerbot,” Valenzuela said. “I learned how to program with LEGO code, pretty much spent six months making a pancake machine out of LEGOs. We posted the video on YouTube and then it went viral. It was all made out of LEGOs except for the ketchup bottle”

The idea originated with a question from Valenzuela’s daughter as he was reading an article in Make Magazine about prototyping with LEGO, Valenzuela said.

“My daughter Lily asked, ‘What are you doing, dad?’ and I said I was reading about a guy who made a pancake stamping machine out of LEGOs. Her eyes opened up really big, and she turned to Maya, her sister, and yelled, ‘Papa’s going to build a pancake machine out of LEGOs!’”

Valenzeula began bringing his PancakeBot LEGO prototype to Maker Faires including one at The White House. After partnering with StoreBound, he began a Kickstarter campaign in order to reach a wider audience and bring the project to stores later this year.  PancakeBot, which comes with pre-loaded designs and an SD card for custom designs, lets users create pancakes in any pattern they can dream of.

And, yes, then you pour syrup on it and eat it. Valenzeula reveals more secrets about his Bot.

How long does the process take?

It depends on the size of the pancake, of course. For a simple one it can trace something out in 45 seconds to a couple of minutes, the outline of it, and then it needs to come back to fill. You can do the fill by hand, or you can do the fill with PancakeBot. You’re looking at three to four minutes for a decent sized pancake with a custom design and logo on it.

How does PancakeBot work?

The way it works is that you import the image for the background into the software. Then you have a window where you trace over the background. You trace lines. There are no curves, just lines. If you want to draw a circle, you draw a bunch of small lines. Once you draw your dark lines, you go back and you click a [15 second delay] into it. That allows the brown stuff to cook and get browner. Then you come back and do the fill. The fill fills it in with a lighter batter. Then you give it a flip and you have your image revealed to you. Every time you flip the pancake you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get, because you don’t know how long it’s cooked. The cool thing is the reveal. Like ‘ooh look at that, it came out perfect.’

PancakeBot printing a butterfly pancake
PancakeBot printing a butterfly pancake

You can print layers, but it’s very limited in the amount of layers it’ll print. The main thing is that pancake batter is in this liquid form, so it’s not like taking an apple and making it into liquid form and squirting it out. So there’s a natal progression of going from pancake batter to pancake. That’s what’s really cool about this. For stuff that has the same viscosity as pancake batter and you can cook it, the sky’s the limit on that. We use 3D printing technology and it uses the idea of food and cooking. It’s the only printer out there that actually cooks food while it’s being made. We went from LEGO to this.

How do you hope people use Pancake Bot?

Number one, I hope people will make pancakes out of it. I don’t want it to end there. I want people to look at what we’ve created here as a tool for learning, a tool for exploration and a tool for inspiring kids to look at technology in a different way. Now what we’re doing is we’re putting a computer system and machine into the kitchen and you can tell it what to do. You’re the artist now. We’re looking into allowing the user to hack it. They can upload their own programs to it, and draw out custom shapes. It would be nice to see it at places like Disney Land, resorts, hotels.

Completed PancakeBot pancake
Completed PancakeBot pancake

Do you ever get tired of pancakes?

The kids still love pancakes. They never get sick of them. I love pancakes too, so I think that shows a little bit. What the challenge is is challenging ourselves to come up with different designs and pushing ourselves to see what we can come up with and things like that.

Have your kids been inspired from you invention?

Totally! Now my kids are inventing stuff and making things. They’re playing with robotics and [are] interested in programming. The kids look at things differently now. They say, “Dad, can you build a robot for this?” They’re seeing now that technology can be used on a daily basis.

This project would not have been possible without the Maker community, because this is one of the reasons we decided to do it, is to inspire kids to get involved with technology. The Maker community has been very awesome in helping us out.

Photo at top: A butterfly pancake created by PancakeBot.

Sound of science: DePaul phonographers tune in to city noise

By Bryce Gray

With car horns, truck traffic, and the buzz of jackhammers and construction blaring through every city neighborhood, local decibel levels make Chicago one of the noisiest places in the country.

That’s according to data released recently by the National Park Service’s Division of Natural Sounds and Night Skies. Continue reading

Food waste in the crosshairs of NUvention entrepreneurs

By Bryce Gray

That tomato on your salad and other produce items across the U.S. endure an odyssey of more than 1,300 miles from the field to your local grocery store. That journey not only costs energy, but also time that cuts into shelf life and contributes to $7 billion worth of domestic food waste annually.

When it comes to freshness, the dizzying logistics of this system require food to be picked when under-ripe and treated with chemicals and costly refrigeration until it reaches far-off consumers.

“This is a very complex system,” said Aidan Mouat, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate and the CEO of Hazel Technologies, speaking at last week’s end-of-term presentations for entrepreneurial NUvention Energy students at Northwestern University. “We’d like to say, ‘Let’s stop all that. Let’s just come up with a solution that works well and drops into a number of different spaces and just stops that senescence process – that ripening process.’” Continue reading

Southeast Siders: No End in Sight For Pet Coke

By Sarah Kramer

Jessica Loy had lived in her new two-story home for three months when her youngest son, Carlos Gonzalez, Jr., 5, started showing the same symptoms of asthma his twin sister, Carla Gonzalez.

Carla has suffered from asthma since she was a baby, Loy said, but Carlos didn’t have a history of the same problems. He’d never needed a nebulizer treatment. Now he does. Now Loy has to convince the energetic kindergartner to sit still for 10 minutes, breathing in vaporized liquid through a small plastic mask, twice every day.

“My doctor asked me what happened, what did you do differently?” Loy said. “Nothing. We just moved.” Continue reading

OPINION: Sharp rumors hurt everyone involved

By Ryan Lund

Patrick Sharp is a hard man to dislike.

With a winning smile unblemished by a 13-year NHL career that landed the high-scoring winger on the cover of Chicago Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful Chicagoans” issue in 2011, Sharp is an instantly recognizable face on a team that seems to deal almost exclusively in recognizable faces.

But despite his very public face, the quick-wristed 33-year-old has managed to keep a relatively low profile.

There have been no bar fights, court dates or social media tirades; no Twitter-backed embarrassment campaigns linking Sharp to domestic violence or drugs, just a clean slate of productive play.

Sharp has netted fewer than 20 goals just once since 2007.

By all accounts, Patrick Sharp is a man that you want to have on your team.

Well, nearly all accounts.

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Teachers sample new science ed tools at national exhibition

By Taylor Mullaney

The National Science Teachers Association hosted its 2015 National Conference March 12 to March 15 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, with almost 10,000 teachers in attendance. The conference included a three-day exhibition of the newest science education products on the market, including games and live animal specimens. According to teachers, these tools can provide a way to engage diverse learners in challenge scientific content. Continue reading

Doctrine or discrimination: the Mormon church’s ‘new’ stance on homosexuality

By Meghan Tribe

Brad Steckelberg assumed everyone knew he was gay. A recent convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – colloquially referred to as the Mormon church—Steckelberg disclosed his homosexuality prior to his baptism. He understood the church’s stance on celibacy. He was willing to live within those parameters. But that became close to impossible once people in the church started setting him up with women.

A younger church member passed along Steckelberg’s email address and phone number to his mother. Another church member’s sister found Steckelberg’s email from the church directory and began emailing him. A missionary asked Steckelberg if he could give his phone number to a woman he baptized in another area, for as he put it, “she and I would be perfect together.”

Perplexed and dumbfounded, Steckelberg reached out to his friend and missionary in the Pure Branch of The Church of Latter-day Saints in Pierre, South Dakota, for guidance. Steckelberg said his friend’s haunting advice to him was, “No matter what you do, keep this a secret. Do not tell anyone about your attractions. And I’m just telling you for your own good, that it won’t end well if you start telling people.” Steckelberg’s friend identified the underlying irony of the Mormon Church’s alleged shift on homosexuality.

In January 2015, Mormon elders held a press conference where they called upon local, state and federal governments to pass legislation “protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation,” so long as these rights didn’t infringe on the constitutional rights of churches or the integrity of the traditional family outlined in Mormon doctrine. Continue reading

Chris Borland’s Early Retirement Raises Questions About Football’s Future

By Bennet Hayes

The Monday retirement of Chris Borland, 24 years young and poised for a successful and lucrative NFL career, has sparked serious concern that on-field safety issues may turn young players away from football.

Dave Jacobs, the VP of Health and Safety for Chicagoland Youth Football League, said Borland’s decision is likely to increase already prevalent concerns about the safety of football, particularly among parents contemplating their children’s participation in the sport.

“For lack of better words, we’re under attack,” Jacobs said. “The game is as safe as it’s ever been, but I think we now have the biggest challenge yet to make sure kids still enjoy the sport and are coming out to play it.” Continue reading

In a TIF: Chicagoans angry about obscure funding method

By Meredith Wilson

Thanks to this year’s elections, Chicagoans looking for an explanation for the city’s financial woes are turning an eye towards an opaque form of municipal funding.

TIF, or tax increment financing, has been vaulted into public consciousness as the city struggles to elect a mayor and find a solution to Chicago’s rising debt and underfunded pensions, which threaten to sink the city financially. Continue reading