Sunday, November 30, 2008

Only Three More Weeks!

Just a reminder that we have only three weeks left in the fall session of Tech Club. In December, we'll be meeting on:

  • December 2nd
  • December 9th
  • December 16th

and then that's it for the fall session. Of course we'll resume in 2009 in our usual Tuesday night slot, and I hope to see some more of you sign up for the spring session! I think technology is a lot of fun but if we need a break from learning, we can always persuade Steve to bring in his Xbox.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Photo Friday

Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, IL
To everyone spending time traveling this weekend:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Solar Cemetery

From the BBC, I've learned that the Spanish city of Santa Coloma de Gramanet, near Barcelona, has definitely found an unusual place to generate renewable energy; to wit: the local cemetery. Like many European cities, the cemetery at Santa Coloma de Gramanet has mausoleums, and their nice wide roofs were a perfect spot for solar panels since they were one of the few open, sunny places in the crowded city.

To date, 462 solar panels have been installed over some of the cemetery's mausoleums. It's projected that these panels will create enough energy each year to supply the needs of 60 homes and keep about 62 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year. Very green, very nice. The current installation covers less than 5% of the cemetery's total surface area, and there are plans to install more solar panels.

This is another in the continuing posts on interesting ways to apply technology. But before you think this is just some crazy European thinking, let me remind you that the Obama-Biden comprehensive New Energy for America plan will help create five million new jobs (that's 5,000,000):
  • by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. (

This is expanding a whole new area for applying technology. Think about it. And then think about which classes you'll sign up for in school.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NASA's Juno Mission

Attention all fans of science and technology: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced on Monday that they're moving forward with a mission to conduct an in-depth study of Jupiter. That's right -- space exploration!

From the NASA news release:

Called Juno, the mission will be the first in which a spacecraft is placed in a highly elliptical polar orbit around the giant planet to understand its formation, evolution and structure. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our early solar system.

Why Jupiter? Again, from the news release:

Understanding the formation of Jupiter is essential to understanding the processes that led to the development of the rest of our solar system and what the conditions were that led to Earth and humankind.

The Juno mission is a part of NASA's New Frontiers Program and is actually the second spacecraft designed under that program. The first was the Pluto New Horizons mission, launched in January 2006 and scheduled to reach Pluto's moon Charon in 2015. Juno is scheduled to launch in August 2011 and will reach Jupiter in 2016.

So, to all who have an interest in technology and/or science, here is an example of how following your interest can lead to a fascinating career. Oh and by the way, software programmers are needed to get these spacecrafts launched and ready to perform the tests needed by the scientists.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No Tech Club on November 25th

Just a reminder, there will be no clubs or tutoring/mentoring sessions during the week of Thanksgiving. Both clubs and tutoring/mentoring sessions will resume during the week of December 1st.

If you have any questions about the schedule please call the office at 312-492-9614.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Photo Friday

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken
~ Robert Frost

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Web 2.0 Government?

Continuing with the openness started by his internet-fueled candidacy, President-Elect Barack Obama will be posting his weekly address as a YouTube video on his site.

As a Tech Club, we applaud the use of technology as a tool to making government transparent and furthering Mr. Obama's platform of government openness.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Music Mashup

Continuing my previous post on the Audacity of Sound, today in Tech Club we started into our exploration of sound -- integrating different elements to create something new. Our base layer is an mp3 song, to which we'll apply the different tools Audacity offers: speed up some parts, shorten others, fade in and out, etc.

We'll then bring in a couple of sound files (car crashes and screams seemed to be the most popular) and weave them in and out of the music in our base layer. Steve told us about a great site to find free sound sample. At the Find Sounds site, you enter your search terms, say, car crashes, and they'll search the Web for sound effects and musical instrument samples that match your search. All you have to do is download them to your computer and import them into Audacity.

Remember, Audacity is a free, open-source audio editor and recorder. Try it, along with some sounds from the Find Sounds site, and see what you can create.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Final Frontier -- Yet Again

star trek logo
Slated for a summer 2009 release is the latest in the Star Trek franchise, this one produced by J. J. Abrams ("Lost", "Alias", "Mission Impossible III") with screenwriting by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("Transformers", "MI:III").

Regardless of whether you're a friend or foe of the Star Trek movies, check out the movie's official site for some great graphics, navigation and flow in their flash movie.

Also, note that the site is hooking into existing community sites (facebook and myspace), along with social bookmarketing sites such as delicious and reddit, as a way to get out the advance word about their movie.

Oh and if you really must, here's the trailer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fun with Words

Tag cloud of this blog, compliments of Wordle.

From their site:

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide [editor: either text that you enter or text from a blog if you provide the url ]. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

You can change the layout, colors or the font. Have fun playing!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Photo Fridays

Chicago El

Did you know that Google Maps is the engine behind the CTA's trip planner?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tech Talk

Google Flu Trends
It's getting cold here in Chicago which means two things are right around the corner: winter and flu season. But what if we could predict outbreaks of the flu? Think of what you could do with that information: avoid traveling there during that timeframe; reroute medicine to those areas; plan on having hospitals at full staffing; maybe even plan your sick days.

Crazy tech talk, right? Well, not really. It seems that Google has come up with such a tool: Google Flu Trends. This clever tool aggregates the terms used in searches to track outbreaks of the flu and seemingly can spot disease trends up to 2 weeks before the Centers for Disease Control data can.

Here's an explanation from the New York Times:

What if Google knew before anyone else that a fast-spreading flu outbreak was putting you at heightened risk of getting sick? And what if it could alert you, your doctor and your local public health officials before the muscle aches and chills kicked in? That, in essence, is the promise of Google Flu Trends, a new Web tool... unveiled on Tuesday, right at the start of flu season in the US. Google Flu Trends is based on the simple idea that people who are feeling sick will tend to turn to the Web for information, typing things like 'flu symptoms; or 'muscle aches' into Google. The service tracks such queries and charts their ebb and flow, broken down by regions and states."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Get Out the Vote!

We have an upcoming election here at Cabrini Connections. Fourteen students have thrown their hat in the ring and announced their candidacy for the “Cabrini Connections Youth Leadership Council”. Here's our general election schedule:

Up this week: each of the 14 students will have 2 minutes to pitch their ideas and convince tutors and fellow students why they deserve their vote for one of the 6 available spots on the Youth Leadership Council.

Next week: Cabrini Connections is hosting a town-hall style debate, where the candidates will field questions from tutors and students via a moderator pertaining to what ideas and leadership they will bring to the council.

Elections will be held on Nov 19th and 20th to determine which 3 students from each tutoring night will make up the council for the remainder of the 2008-2009 academic year.

Your vote will directly impact you because students elected to the Leadership Council have a voice in determining things like: house rules, snacks and field trips. So, take a page from President-Elect Barack Obama's campaign and participate: listen to what the candidates have to say, participate in the town hall and make sure you vote.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Photo Fridays

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, N.C.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Emulator: that which imitates

Tuesday was a quiet day at Tech Club this week -- some students weren't able to get here because their moms were busy voting (our sincere thanks to everyone who made the time to vote) so rather than get too far ahead with learning Audacity, we had a play day.

Sean took center stage and showed me the Gameboy emulators that are available online. For those of you not familiar with emulators, here's a good tech definition from wikipedia:

An emulator duplicates (provides an emulation of) the functions of one system using a different system, so that the second system behaves like (and appears to be) the first system.

In other words, running the Gameboy emulator on your computer makes it behave like a Gameboy and allows you to play the Nintendo games.

Where I work, we use emulators to develop software because it's easier to write the code and test it on your computer, rather than writing the code and then transferring it to another device, such an iPhone. I didn't realize, though, that Gameboy had an emulator so thanks, Sean, for sharing!

Monday, November 3, 2008

College Visit on Friday, November 7th

The next College Visit organized by Cabrini Connections is scheduled for this coming Friday, Nov 7th. Students will be visiting Chicago State University and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

From the Cabrini Connections blog:

During our College visit series we are trying to expose students to the wide variety of schools in the Chicagoland area, everything from 2 year community colleges to elite schools such as Northwestern and The University of Chicago. The idea is to expose not only our Juniors and Seniors to various schools but also our underclassmen, so that they might be better able to visualize themselves at College in a few years and have something to strive for during their High School years.

If you didn't attend, be sure to read about the Westwood College visit, and don't forget to sign up for this Friday's visit.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Audacity of Sound

Now that we've recovered from the Haunted House, Tech Club is picking up where we left off with our exploration of digital audio. Our tool of choice is Audacity, a free, open-source audio editor and recorder. We downloaded version 1.2.6a, which is a stable release, and at this time opted not to use version 1.3.6 Beta. We did debate the pros and cons a bit, but decided our mission was to first learn the software; later on we may opt to be Beta testers.

We'll see you on Tuesday!