Lab Journal Archives

Reflections on Shadelab

August 05, 2010 by Nelida

This week was the last week for the interns here at Shadelab. For that reason, the interns made a short video that detailed their thoughts about being a part of the Shadelab team. To see their reflections, click on their respective names.

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Smartluck #6: Justin Massa

August 04, 2010 by Nelida

After six wonderful weeks, our time with Shadelab has come to an end. We had our final Smartluck on Wednesday, August 4. This time, we had a lot of guests come in, including Justin Massa from MCIC. This smartluck was a bit different from the rest because for once, we were the ones that were presenting.

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Smartluck #5: How many balloons can lift up a camera, sensor, and basket?

July 28, 2010 by Michael

Apparently, three 30” diameter balloons were not enough.

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10 Things We Learned from the Alderman

July 27, 2010 by Karla

Meeting with Alderman Maldonado answered many of our questions and helped us learn more about what he does for the community. Here are 10 things we learned from the alderman:

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That’s Hot!

July 23, 2010 by Nelida

We mentioned before that the hottest spot in the neighborhood was the school. What we want to know now is “why?”

Most playgrounds are made of either metal or plastic. The problem with these materials is that as the sun hits them, they retain the heat. As the heat accumulates, the temperature of these playgrounds rises, usually to over 100° F.
 

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Smartluck #4: Jim Cavallo

July 21, 2010 by Nelida

Our fourth Smartluck consisted of Jim Cavallo as our guest speaker. Jim studies energy efficiency, which involves projecting how well buildings perform. He also does energy audits, which are studies conducted to a building to see how energy-efficient it is. Apart from giving us a brief description of what he does, Jim also gave us some very interesting facts. In fact, he gave us so many facts, that I think it would be appropriate to list them for you now:

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Big Thermometers, Small World

July 19, 2010 by Michael

Thermometers are very unique tools and devices. Imagine how hard it would be for high school students to make one? Well, I was assigned the arduous task of building two, 7 ft tall thermometers!
Okay, they were not real thermometers, but they ended up looking very realistic. FedEx boxes in the shape of triangular prisms and tubes were used for the base of the thermometers and were then wrapped with massive sheets of white paper. For one thermometer, an outline of the thermometer was drawn on each of the three sides of the FedEx box. The mercury was colored in with red color pencil. The other thermometer had a round base due to the tubing used. I cut the shape of the mercury from a red paper bag and wrote numbers on the white paper for the temperature reading. When they were done, they looked nice, but only from one dimension. Clearly there was work needed to be done in order to improve them. Many hours were dedicated to the thermometers because they were valuable tools used to attract residents of the community in order to give them an understanding of their environment. We needed them to be perfect.

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Maple Monopoly!

July 16, 2010 by Nelida

We have come across some very devastating news in the Humboldt Park area. Of all the trees in the neighborhood, 14% are Honey Locust, 21% are Ash, and 29% are Maple!

Why is this so devastating? Well, the lack of diversity amongst trees is obvious, and tree diversity is essential for a healthy urban forest. The city of Chicago has noticed this as well (over one-third of all the trees in Chicago are Maple). Noticing a need to change this statistic, the City of Chicago has established a goal to have no tree species represent more than 15% of the street tree population.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why is tree diversity important?” When you have trees of the same species, you have a monoculture. Monocultures are very vulnerable because a single pest or disease can wipe them out. Right now, the planting of Ash trees is prohibited in Chicago due to the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer. That pest could easily wipe out 21% of all the trees in the neighborhood! However, if we have diversity amongst trees, the Borer would not be such a threat.

So go forth, plant more trees, and diversify the city of Chicago!

Read more about Chicago’s tree diversity ordinance.

Smartluck #3: Erin and Joey

July 14, 2010 by Jeisson

ShadeLab’s third weekly SmartLuck gathering led to a whirlwind of ideas brought to light, and select changes to the Shadelab goal being produced. For the meet, Joey Nakayama of Project H Design and Erin Koch were invited to help with our newest challenge. In addition, Krisann Rehbein of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and Norman Teague who teaches architecture in Clemente high school also joined us in tackling our challenge.

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What are you guys doing?

July 12, 2010 by Nelida

For the past couple of weeks, the Shadelab team has been walking down the streets carrying large thermometers, wearing protective goggles, and sporting some over-sized lab coats. It’s no doubt residents noticed.

We’ve received countless comments over our appearance in the neighborhood. They range from questions like “What are you doing?” to “Can you take my temperature?” It’s quite certain that residents are curious about what is going on in their neighborhood.

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Where are the children?

July 09, 2010 by Nelida


Two playgrounds, both well equipped with numerous slides and colorful handle bars. What’s missing? The children.

Von Humboldt Elementary School has two playgrounds that are open all day for children to play at. However, there are hardly any children there. The Shadelab team was curious and decided to investigate. We started taking temperatures of different areas in the playgrounds. What we discovered was jaw-dropping.

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Smartluck #2: Shannon and Karen

July 07, 2010 by Nelida

Our second Smartluck was held in the office today, with Shannon Downey and Karen Kranz as our guest speakers. The topic today was “Designing a Social Media Plan.” At first, Shannon gave a presentation about Pivotal, a company that’s committed to “designing, planning, and producing events that will have everyone talking.” In other words, they are great at putting a project out there so that people know about it. After her amazing presentation, the team divided up into groups to discuss ways we can get people interested in what we are dong.

We brainstormed for about half an hour and came up with some brilliant ideas. Some examples include getting the Humboldt Park community involved by setting up a system where residents identify “sick” trees and replace them with ones of their choice. Another idea was to put up trash receptacles or set up a “Clean Up Day” where residents can help clean up and polish their neighborhood. Everyone’s contributions were exciting and we hope we can actually make some of them happen in the coming weeks.

How long have you lived here?

July 07, 2010 by Daniel

Interviewing a person can be an awkward and scary procedure, or it can be an exciting way to get to know a person and their ideas towards a certain subject. It all depends on how both parties feel about the subject and the style of the interview.

Preparation is key. Not only do we have to be ready with questions we will certainly ask and some that we may or may not ask, we also have to be prepared for the interview to take some turns and allow it to kind of flow. The interview can simply be questions and answers where we decide every single detail said, or rather more of a discussion where the two parties can decide where the interview goes next. Through the whole process we must be noting what is being said and evaluating every note.

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What is the City Senspod?

July 06, 2010 by Alex

Two of the biggest challenges in gathering data that is useful for the neighborhood, the City, our community partners and our architecture firm (Landon Bone Baker Architects) are the tremendous meticulousness required to do it properly and then the ‘sifting’ to make the information legible. I must say that we have been absolutely blown away by the skill of our teen interns- they have churned through both gathering and processing data in a manner that is jaw-droppingly impressive to watch. That being said, recording temperature, humidity, air quality, time of day and location at sixty different locations in the neighborhood, particularly when that data is time sensitive, is a real challenge.

What if it could happen seamlessly, allowing for observation of neighborhood use, conversation with passers-by and exploration of other possibilities?

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Those tall things with leaves on them

July 02, 2010 by Nelida

Yes. We are talking about trees.

I believe it is safe to assume that most trees in the neighborhood do not get a lot of attention from residents. They are there mostly for show, as they are very aesthetically pleasing. But they provide much more than that. Trees within our urban forest improve our air, protect our water, save energy, and improve economic sustainability. But how do they do this, you might ask? Well, allow me to explain.

You see, during photosynthesis, trees remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and emit oxygen into the atmosphere. CO2 is a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect. Trees therefore help us by acting like a carbon sink, removing the carbon and storing it.

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Smartluck #1: Scott Mehaffey

June 30, 2010 by Nelida

Today was Shadelab’s first Smartluck! Our guest speaker was Scott Mehaffey, the City of Chicago landscape coordinator. He gave a presentation to us about the city’s tree plan and about the benefit of trees. He also elaborated on how the process of acquiring a tree works, the factors that affect the environment such as cultural norms, economic backgrounds and such, and how there are so many organizations willing to help our project.

After his presentation, we broke up into groups to discuss ways we can improve our data collection in regards to trees, and how to market our project to the public (maybe having a free tree give-a-way?) and how we can turn our data into useful information. Overall, it was a very informative and exciting Smartluck.

A project we love: Jeff Warren’s Grassrooots Mapping.

June 30, 2010 by Alex

In this day and age, Google has made satellite imagery of our neighborhoods and important landmarks an everyday reality. It’s such a pervasive part of our existence now, can you remember the day when we didn’t have ready access to such materials?

Maybe it’s the lack of coffee, but I can’t.

My brain inherently wants to skip from what we have today and the wonderful, mysterious world of Cold War super satellites and faster than the speed of sound spy planes. Remarkably, Google and clan have done such a good job of making these and more images readily available, it almost feels like this type of imagery is now a god given right. I certainly find myself entirely unreasonably annoyed when an area on a satellite map is blacked out for lack of information or the bird’s eye view leaves something to be desired.

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Calipers? Is that a type of bug?

June 29, 2010 by Karla

No. A caliper is a device used to measure the distance between two opposing sides of an object.  We used them to measure tree trunks and balloons!

How do you make a caliper?
You can make a caliper out of almost any material you want. You can make it from cardboard, paper, foam, wood, or even from an old tire you have. In order to decide on the material, you need to know what you are measuring. You can’t imagine how useful calipers can be! You can measure the width or diameter of almost anything you want no matter how big or how small.

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