Autumn Activities for Kids

As the leaves begin to turn brown, and kids head back to school, it becomes clear that summer is over. But you can still help your kids to make the most of their after-school hours. Here are some creative projects specially designed to help you and your children get the most out of the fall season.

Pages and Petals

Your little ones may not have finished their summer reading list, but they’ll certainly be hitting the books now. One way to make sure those books aren’t left behind in lockers or desks is to personalize them. With a few household items, you and your kids can create these floral bookmarks.

floral bookmark
Image via PBS

Friend-finder

One of the most admirable traits of children is their ability to make friends easily. One classic schoolyard method is trading friendship bracelets. If your children are a bit too young for the complex embroidery of a traditional bracelet, you might want to try a simplified glow-worm bracelet. Just think, your children could have their own googly-eyed companions to follow them wherever they go.

glow-worm bracelet
Image via PBS

For the Birds

A typical autumn school day is a lot like a typical day for a bird. Birds fly off early to learn about the world, only to fly back to the nest for food and rest. With all the care you put into your own home, why not make a separate home—or even just a feeder—for your
feathered friends

bird feeder
Image via PBS

All of the above projects and more can be found on PBS Parents. Do you have any favorite fall crafts? Share them with us in the comments!

Social Skills

10. September 2015 09:37 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

With more than half of American adults using social media on a daily basis, it goes without saying that the process of using it should be made as simple as possible. We’ve mentioned before that ease of use and design appeal can make or break a site. Web designers continue to experiment with minor tweaks while sticking to their winning formulas. The Web’s most-trafficked sites continue to evolve their logos, their interactive capabilities, and even their basic functions.

Success by Design

We recently saw that Facebook went through its first major logo change. While this may be a new thing for the world’s largest social network, Facebook's sleek new design is right in line with the simplified designs of its Silicon Valley colleague companies.


Spotify design
Image via Wired.

A typical rebranding will minimize or eliminate the text while emphasizing the actual function of the service. As shown by the Spotify logo above, the company’s name was removed in favor of an illustrated transmission signal. It also switched to a brighter shade of green and removed the dark borders along the text. Spotify currently being the No. 3 streaming music service, it’s hard to say how much of their success was due to their logo. Still, it doesn’t seem to have hurt.

All Thumbs

For more than a decade, Facebook has changed the way we think of invitations, family photos, and even the word “poke." Possibly the most recognizable and oft-used part of Facebook’s service is the ubiquitous Like button, a one-click option that allows you to show your approval of a friend’s posting with an illustrated “thumbs up." The message it sends is clear, and for years users have campaigned for the icon’s antithesis. Finally, the icon is getting a diametrically opposed counterpart.


thumbs-down logo
Image via Wired.

Facebook's CEO and co-founder generally neither confirms nor denies the eventual presence of a Dislike icon, despite acknowledging frequent user requests for it. At a recent Q&A session, however, he didn't beat around the bush. “People have asked about the Dislike button for many years,” he said. “We’ve finally heard you and we’re working on this and we will deliver something that meets the needs of the larger community.”

It remains to be seen how this oft-requested function will actually work in practice. Knowing Facebook users, it won’t take long for them to Like or Dislike the idea.

One-Click Consumers

For decades, science fiction authors and technical visionaries looked toward a future where shopping is done from great distances at the touch of a button. The Digital Age has made online shopping easier than ever, but it’s only recently that the idea of one-button buying has become a reality.


point and click
Image via Wired.

A recent article for "Wired" highlighted the rise of the Buy button, starting with the proliferation of the personal computer in the late '90s. From Amazon’s filing for a one-button patent in 1997 to Facebook’s purchase programming, the simplification of online shopping cannot be underestimated.

Looking Ahead

With such bold strides in design, function, and interactivity, it’s hard to see where else these companies can go to improve their users' experience. But, then, the defining attribute of innovation is creating something people didn’t know they needed. 

The Future of Preserving Prints

Collecting and recreating images is a practice as old as humanity itself. From cave-wall paintings to Snapchat updates, our species has always found creative ways to preserve moments that would otherwise have faded from memory. As we advance the tools we use to preserve these images, the question arises: How long will a new format last until it must be replaced?

From Print to Pixels

London’s Cambridge University Library is home to some of the most important literary works in the history of the world. One such piece, The Manual of Calligraphy and Painting, is renowned not only for what it contains, but for being something only a few people have seen. The original 17th century Chinese tome, containing over 138 paintings and poems, is a rare book indeed. The Cambridge copy, considered too delicate to open, remains closed within its display. Fortunately, the book has been reprinted many times over the centuries, and those reprints paved the way for the new digital incarnation.

landscape painting
Image via MentalFloss

Since the book holds such historical significance, the library explored several options for making its pages available when the book itself couldn’t be opened. Using one of the older reprints, the library made digital copies of the pages that scholars and the public would be able to view at their leisure. Now everyone can see inside the book that helped revolutionize printing technology.

In a Snap

It may be hard to believe, but most of today’s youth have no idea what it’s like to hold an actual photograph in their hands. These days, posting a photo to a “wall” usually means sharing it on social media. Yet there’s a growing movement looking to bring back printed photographs in the digital age. The company leading the charge is one whose name is synonymous with “point and shoot.”

camera and snapshot
Image via Wired.

The Polaroid camera brought a much-needed simplicity to consumer photography. A camera that took and instantly printed photos, it did away with the need for professional development. Later, with the advent of digital photography, most people went without physical prints altogether.

Yet Polaroid has seen a revival in the Digital Age. Last year saw the introduction of the company’s Cube mini-camera and Zip instant mobile printer. This year will see an addition to their new digital line with the introduction of the Snap (see above). Although the Snap doesn’t have the extensive editing features of smartphone cameras and photo sites like Instagram, it does come with flash, timer, and instant ink-free printing.

The camera is scheduled to hit store shelves this winter for $99.

See what Develops

If the history of technology has taught us anything, it’s that no format is perfect or permanent. Even digital images are subject to degradation. But with each new advance comes the ability to preserve images for generations to come. We’ve come a long way from cave-wall paintings. Now we just need to make sure they're preserved for future tribes!

Give Them a Hand

27. August 2015 13:57 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)

It's said that the first five years of a child's life are, developmentally, the most important. These are the years when children begin to develop their motor skills, personality, and outlook, and it's crucial that children be given every opportunity to meet their full potential.

Not all children are born with the advantages of their peers. Thankfully, advances in technology are helping disadvantaged children stand on equal footing with their classmates and friends. The following stories look at how that 3D-printing technology is helping children with disabilities during these crucial developmental years.

Field of Dreams

It's not easy for a sports fan to steal attention from seasoned athletes, but that's just what happened on August 17th when five-year-old Hailey Dawson—one the Orioles' biggest fans—threw the ceremonial First Pitch with her new 3D-printed arm.

Hailey has a condition known as Poland Syndrome. Her right arm stopped developing while she was still in the womb.

Hailey's parents did extensive research into prosthetics, but quickly found them to be expensive and unable to adapt to a child's growth. That's when Hailey's mother turned to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, whose engineering students were more than happy to help. Using a free online design, the students printed and assembled an arm for Hailey, adorned with the logo and colors of her favorite team. The entire process cost $20.

"[The 3D-printed hand] is operated by wrist movement," says Hailey's mother, Yong. When Hailey's wrist goes to a down motion, the fingers will grasp and when it goes in the up motion, the fingers release." Although Hailey is too young to play professionally, don't be surprised if one day she and her new arm are part of the Orioles' starting line-up!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Just like Hailey, Isabella was born with an underdeveloped limb. Her parents also researched prosthetics only to find them financially prohibitive and developmentally insensitive. Isabella's case caught the attention of Stephen Davies, a fellow congenital amputee and member of Team UnLimbited.

Davies personally delivered Isabella's new arm. (He shot the above video, too, which briefly features his own 3D-printed left hand popping into frame.) The donation is part of a larger campaign by E-Nable to deliver prosthetic limbs to more than 1,000 children in need worldwide. If Isabella's reaction is any indication, they'll also be delivering countless smiles.

The Shape of Things to Come

As both of the preceding stories have shown, two of the most frequent obstacles for those

in need of prosthetics are the issues of cost and adaptability. As innovative as the new technologies may be, these two issues will often keep them out of reach of the people who need them most.

Joel Gibbard, a 25-year-old grad student born and raised in Great Britain as a congenital amputee, decided to design and build his own mechanical hand. He founded the company OpenBionics, which specializes in creating affordable, motorized 3D-printed limbs.

"We're using lower-cost motors than they have in high-end devices, so the overall strength is lower," says Gibbard. The average model produced by OpenBionics could cost around $5,000. That's considerably cheaper than industrial models, which cost as much as $95,000 apiece. With newly found support by Disney's TechStars Accelerator program, OpenBionics hopes to begin selling their models to the public some time next year.

Looking Forward

Technology is defined not by its invention, but by its use. Children adapt to new technologies and surroundings more quickly than adults. Somewhere in between, the human gift for innovation combines with natural development to ensure equal opportunities for everybody involved.

The Whole World is Watching

20. August 2015 13:35 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

A country's flag is, on one hand, just a piece of cloth stitched together from homemade rags. On another, it's the banner by which a nation will distinguish itself among other nations, a symbol that allies will praise and enemies will curse. With so much riding on "just a piece of cloth," it goes without saying that a country should not take its choice of flag lightly.

The Down Under’s New Icon

The flag of New Zealand has remained unchanged for more than a century. Although it appears to be an innocuous representation of the British lineage New Zealand shares with Australia, the flag is also an uncomfortable reminder of colonization and genocide. As such, the New Zealand government decided it was time to replace the flag with a new, inoffensive design.

New Zealand flag options
Image via Gizmodo.

In May of 2015, the New Zealand government held a contest in which its citizens chose the design of a new national flag from 10,000 potential designs. As of this writing, the contest came down to four contenders (seen in the image above). The public will vote on these four in November before sending the winner to face off against the current flag in March. It remains to be seen how the rest of the world will react to a new New Zealand flag, but the citizens of New Zealand have made it clear how ready they are for change.

Where have we seen THIS before?

Being the country chosen to host the Olympic Games is an honor fraught with controversy. Japan has found itself in the middle of a unique controversy as it prepares for the 2020 games. In particular, its logo for the event has raised quite a few eyebrows.

Japan Olympics logo comparison
Image via BBC.

Critics have noted that logo’s use of a red dot against a white backdrop bears more than a passing resemblance to the Japanese flag. What has stirred up even more conversation, though, is the accusation that the T-shaped logo was plagiarized. As seen above, the logo bears a striking resemblance to a 2013 Belgian design for the Théâtre de Liège, as designed by artist Olivier Debie. Debie filed a lawsuit at the behest of the theatre, and Japan withdrew the design. Although Japan has yet to reveal a revised design, it’s safe to say that it—like the games themselves—will have the eyes of the entire world upon it.

Let it Fly

The New Zealand flag is being changed because it represents an offensive chapter in the country’s past, while the Japanese Olympic logo is allegedly a rip-off. If there’s one thing both of these cases prove, it’s that, in choosing an icon, it’s impossible to please everyone.

 

Home Is What You Make It

13. August 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

We've mentioned before that 3D printing is revolutionizing home construction. The technology has freed architects from the restraints of a building's size and shape, and given those constructing buildings a wider range of reliable materials. But it's important not to forget everything that goes into a home. Here are a few ways innovators are looking to improve and exploit 3D printer technology in the home.

Table Topped

Lukas Oehmigen grew up behind the Iron Curtain learning that there were no such things as personal possessions. He also thought that architecture needed to be cold and sterile, prioritizing rudimentary functionality over eye-catching design. But once the budding young architect made his way to art school in the West, he was finally able to combine his practicality with a newfound sense of style. He also discovered a new state-of-the-art technology.


BigRep ONE Timeplapse from BigRep Fullscale 3D Printer on Vimeo.

Oehmigen and a crew of architects created the BigRep, a large scale 3D printer designed to print entire pieces of furniture. As shown in the video above, the BigRep creates entire furniture pieces from its large-scale maker, and emphasizes environmentally friendly materials that cut down on waste. The process of using a BigRep is far from perfect, with the average piece taking as long as five days to print completely. Still, Oehmigen is confident that his machine can one day be used in large-scale construction of cars and houses. "These probably won't look like your ordinary car or house, though," he warns.

Lock and Key

The art of picking locks and forging access to restricted areas extends back nearly as far as human civilization itself. The difficult process of trying to break in hasn't stopped potential burglars from trying. Unfortunately, the world's fastest-growing technology has made their jobs easier. Two researchers at the University of Michigan have created an app that allows anyone in the world to make 3D printed copies of "Do Not Duplicate" keys.

Although the researchers claim that the purpose of the publicly available  app, named Keyforge, is to prove the ineffectiveness of traditional locks, it allows any key to be copied with any consumer 3D printer. No statements have yet been made by law enforcement regarding the app, but the research paper can be read in full at the site linked to above. As with the debate over 3D printed firearms, the debate over 3D printed keys proves that technological advances will always be accompanied by serious ethical questions.

A Sense of Social Media Style

6. August 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

As a company changes and grows, so will the design it uses to identify itself. When two of the world's most recognizable companies began to implement changes to their logos, millions of people took notice.

Simple as ABC

It's hard for Google to make changes and have them go unnoticed. The entire tech world sat up and paid attention when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced the creation of a holding company named Alphabet. And with the creation of this new company came immediate reaction to its logo.

Alphabet Google logo
(via Wired)

The logo was regarded by some as a sign of the 16-year-old company’s maturity. "Their [Larry and Sergey's] design sensibility may have just matured with them," says Natasha Jen of Pentagram. "That’s radically simplified and nuanced from the original Google identity design. There’s an elegance in it that comes with maturity. And I see that elegance in the Alphabet logo." But the design was also criticized as looking unfinished. "I keep getting drawn back to this lowercase 'a', which lacks the subtlety of the other forms, like it missed a week of letterform school," says typographer Tobias Frerer-Jones. "On the whole, I think it’s a well-made mark that could have borne some more polishing." What impact that new company and its logo have on users remains to be seen.

Something to Tweet About

When Twitter altered the background image for its users' home pages, the backlash was immediate: its membership stalled, and the company lost ground to contemporaries like Snapchat and Pinterest. Many in the tech world are pointing to  the company’s design scheme as the chief reason why Twitter isn’t as prominent as it was just a few years ago.

Twitter logo
Image via Wired.

Besides tweaking background images, Twitter has made some subtle changes that only longtime users have noticed. One such change—replacing the "Favorite Tweet" star with a red heart—has already gotten a mixed reaction. "The concern is misguided for a few reasons," says Wired design writer Brian Barrett. "Hearts are intrinsically different from stars, sure, but they’re also much clearer in what they represent. A star can be a superlative, yes, but also a bookmark or a brush-off. A heart carries no such ambiguities." The heart is just the first in a series of planned changes suggested by CEO Jack Dorsey. As he said, "Our goal is to show more meaningful tweets and conversations faster, whether that's logged in or out of Twitter." The micro-blog company has occasionally been accused of trying to emulate the look of Facebook.

User-Friendly

Perhaps neither of these companies will owe their success or failure to their designs, so much as to the experiences they create for their users. Still, it's the first impression that is undeniably the most important. What do you think of the new logos? Tell us in the comments!

3D-Printed LEGO Limbs Help Child Amputees Adjust

Longtime readers of this blog know that we're quite fond of LEGOs and fascinated by the use of 3D printing in the field of medicine. So when news broke of these two elements being brought together, it was only a matter of time before we told you folks about it.

A Man with a Plan

Colombian-born designer Carlos Arturo Torres interned for six months at LEGO's Future Lab. Impressed by the company's dedication to social outreach, Torres convinced them to sponsor a trip back to his hometown of Bogotá, wherein he would observe amputees at Cirec, a rehabilitation center. After spending time in the center’s youth ward, Torres came up with an idea to make a medical attachment out of their favorite toys.

Double Trouble for Young Amputees

As Torres discovered, amputee children not only have to function with a missing limb, but also face a greater social stigma amongst their peers. "My friends in psychology used to tell me that when a kid has a disability, he is not really aware of it until he faces society," says Torres. "That's when they have a super rough encounter."

Introducing Personalized Prosthetics

Torres' design, named "Iko", is for amputees aged to 3-12, covering many of the most important developmental years in a child's life. The attachment allows the child to accessorize and customize the prosthetic as they see fit, helping to build the patient's self-esteem as well as providing functional movement.

After successfully testing the prototypes at Cirec, Torres hopes to have 15 more units ready by this December, with a full production line ready by mid-2017.

High Tech Art and Architecture

23. July 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Arts, Crafts & DIY Projects  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

It’s been said that no man-made work of art will ever stand up to the wonders of nature. For all of humanity’s masterpieces of paint and brush, they pale in comparison to the average sunset or leaves blowing on the branch of a tree. But even if human beings can never match nature’s splendor, they can still use it to create stunning works of their own.

1 + 1 = Breathtaking

The world’s greatest minds agree that mathematics are the only true universal language and that all things, no matter how complex or diverse, can be broken down into a series of numbers. It should then come as no surprise that a new breed of artist has emerged using only numbers in their palette.

binary-Mona-Lisa-Bill-Cook.gif
(via Wired)

In a recent feature, Wired highlighted five such digital artists who use only mathematical algorithms to create their work. They included Andrea Hawksley, who forms geometric designs into clothing and food; Pat Ashforth, who creates optical illusions in fabrics; and Robert Bosch, whose algorithm recreated the Mona Lisa as a single-line binary maze. Just as the universe is comprised of numbers, it was inevitable that the Internet – a system created entirely from numbers – would eventually produce a new artistic medium.

Super Sand Castles

Although summer is starting to wind down, there’s still time to hit the beach. But if you had any thoughts about entering a sand castle competition, you’d better hope you aren’t going up against Calvin Seibert.

Seibert-sand-castle.png
(via mental_floss)

The son of a former ski champion, Seibert has been creating complex sand architecture all over the United States. The designs can take anywhere from eight to ten hours to build, but have drawn favorable comparisons to ancient Mayan architecture. Even though the pieces never stay up for long, they’ve won Seibert a loyal fanbase of intrigued beachgoers.

Pleasing to the Eye

Chris Downey always wanted to be an architect, and when he grew up he built a fine career in the field. But, in 2008, he was told he had a brain tumor. Although the tumor was successfully removed through surgery, it cost Downey his sight. It was assumed that his architectural career was over, but Downey had no intention of giving up his livelihood.

With the help of an inTACT Sketchpad, Downey was back at work within a month. He has since gone on to create several San Francisco buildings, including the Independent Living Resource Center and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is one of a growing number of blind architects around the world. In Downey’s own words, "I’m always careful to say I’m without sight, not without vision."

Summer Fun Activities

It’s that time again. With three months off from school, the kids have no intention of just sitting around. But in addition to all of the swimming, sand, and summer barbecues, they might actually want to spend some time with their parents. Thankfully, there are quite a few home-based activities parents can do with their kids before back-to-school shopping takes place.

Tiny Terrarium

Kids and trees are a winning combination. To kids, trees are an obstacle to climb, shade from the sun, and even mythical beasts that must be slain. No matter what a tree means to them, it’s natural for a child to want one of their very own. Now they can make one.

Using a simple twig, a common glass jar, and some colorful construction paper, you and your little one can create a tiny tree that will never wilt or wither. It’ll last through the summer, the winter, and all year long.

Magic Mini-Tents

Summer and camping go together like fire and marshmallows. But if you aren’t able to get the kids into the woods this season, you can still have fun showing them how to pitch these tiny tents.

With just some stock paper and a few coloring markers, your kids will create tents the right size to fit their favorite toys.

Eyes on the Prize

The older children get, the more curious they become. They want to observe and interact with the world around them. Don’t let distance come between the wonders of nature and your child’s imagination; let them see it for themselves with these homemade binoculars.

PBS-Parents-DIY-binoculars.jpg
(via PBS Parents)

These binoculars are made from yarn, toilet paper rolls, and duct tape. They might not have any lenses, but they’ll teach even the smallest nature-lover the beauty of watching the world around them.

For more summertime craft ideas, visit PBS Parents.

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