Episode 2

On this week’s episode of Harry Swartout Goes Clubbing, I hit the ice to learn about the student coached Women’s Ice Hockey team.

Episode 3

This week, I’m back on the ice…the dimply curling ice. Watch me finally find out what Curling is all about.

Episode 4

Ready for some Disk? I learned about the classic collegiate game Ultimate Frisbee, but found out its about more than hanging out on the quads.

Episode 5

Squash, it’s like racketball right? WRONG! I learned that Squash is its own ridiculously demanding sport.

Martial Arts v. MMA

Since Saturday’s final decision, critics have been complaining that Chicago’s five-round, 25-minute Ultimate Fighting Championship headliner between Rashad Evans and Phil Davis was too long.
Perhaps, but a longer fight has been brewing in Ravenswood, as traditional martial arts and mixed martial arts are locked in a struggle to win over area residents.
Ravenswood’s demographics have long made the neighborhood a traditional martial arts hotbed, with nearly 20 martial arts studios within two miles teaching everything from Chinese Kung Fu to Japanese Aikido.
Consider that the North Side neighborhood has a much greater Asian population – 8.14 percent – than the rest of the city – where the figure is 5.5 percent according to Urban Mapping Inc. With more residents that trained in the cradle of martial arts, Ravenswood can seemingly choose from a larger group of instructors than other parts of the city.
Also, there’s Ravenswood residents’ ability to pay these instructors – and pay them well with ample disposable income. Urban Mapping Inc lists the area’s median household income, for example, just $3,000 above Chicago’s – $49,245 and $46,781 respectively. But sections of the neighborhood chart at $71,000.
Just in the past three years, two local competitive mixed martial arts studios – Conviction Fitness and Urban Strength Institute – have opened shop.
Originally, MMA simply meant a blending of two or more traditional martial arts styles. More recently, the term has taken new meaning with the quick rise of UFC and MMA is increasingly associated with Las Vegas, betting, and caged fighting competitions made famous on UFC televised matches.
The success of last Saturday’s fight shows just how far competitive MMA has come as a sport.
Take the fact that the fight was slated for United Center along Madison Street, which can hold 23,500 spectators – quite a leap from the 18,500 at Rosemont’s AllState Arena which nearly sold out for a 2008 bout. More to the point, Saturday’s fight sold out even though it was available free on FOX Sports, which inked a deal with UFC last summer worth nearly $90 million per year. UFC commissioner Dana White considers the Chicago sellout a major victory for the sport.
“I’ll tell you how important Chicago is,” White began at a recent UFC news conference. “You guys grew up with the Cubs, Bears and Bulls and trying to build a new market with the sport has been tough but we’re getting there. We actually came in here about eight or nine months ago and did a focus group to figure out how to get in here.”
In Ravenswood, meanwhile, not all are so jazzed about the popularity of UFC’s style of MMA. The traditional martial arts studios, especially those offering MMA training, that have thrived in the neighborhood for years now have to deal with students wanting to imitate their UFC idols on TV.
But there’s a catch: The competitive MMA used in UFC is better described as a sport while traditional martial arts are considered, well, arts. Competitive MMA and traditional martial arts teach different things, emphasize different values, and have two completely different goals.
And because the two are so different, they do not need to compete for students. Competitive MMA and traditional martial arts both have a place in Ravenswood.

A Chicago Dog for Chicago’s Big Ten Team

Mustard’s Last Stand has been serving Northwestern Students before football games since the 60s. See why the little hot dog stand is still a go-to-grub-hub on gameday. Thanks to Lonnie and Steve Starkman for their interviews.

Longboarding: Extend the Ride

College campuses are overrun with longboards. These skateboards aren’t the same models that Tony Hawk nailed the 900 on. Longboards hold both skateboarding’s sidewalk surfin’ past and its limitless future.

3-D Printing: A New Dimension

The future isn’t now; the future already happened when we weren’t looking.

3-D printing, the building of 3-D objects by “printing” them a layer at a time, has revolutionized everything from manufacturing to fine arts, but nobody seems to have noticed. From robots making copies of themselves in 1940s pulp novels to the replicator on “Star Trek”, the idea of a machine that could print objects has tantalized the public for 70 years. Surprisingly, while America was distracted by former president Ronald Reagan’s project “Star Wars”, the dream came true with the first “rapid prototyping” 3-D printers.

“Entry rapid prototyping goes back to the mid eighties, REALLY expensive equipment,” says Thomas Easton, a professor at Thomas College in Maine as well as a science fiction author and critic who will release a book on 3-D printing later this year.

3-D Printing Goes From Cutting Edge to Bottom Line

The high cost and slow speed of early 3-D printers kept them out of the public consciousness and in the hands of large corporations and high tech science labs. As research and development departments continued to tinker with the machines, they steadily became faster, cheaper and more reliable. Engineers who worked closely with the printers saw their potential and became entrepreneurs.

“I worked in a research lab with the first 3-D printer, serial number two,” says Scott Summit, CEO and founder of Bespoke Innovations.

Summit packed up his 3-D printing know-how, left the lab and started his own company using 3-D printers to create custom prosthetic limbs.  After 3-D mapping the customer’s body, Summit uses 3-D printing to create prosthetics that perfectly fit his customers.  Not only do the prosthetics fit the customer’s body, but also the customer’s personality. What sets Bespoke Innovations’ prosthetics apart from others is that, like a custom motorcycle, their customers can design how their part looks.

“We call them fairings, a term for motorcycles. 3-D printing gives the sculpture, the beauty, the sensuality, the lines: all the things that a beautiful custom bike has,” says Summit.

Established businesses also began to realize the power of the medium and bought themselves 3-D printers. Workers at Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd. had been modeling real-estate in Chicago for years by hand when they got their 3-D printer. Now they print out a model in one sturdy piece instead of making a building out of many small parts. Their printers need to create models in extreme detail to show potential real-estate buyers an accurate representation.

“Many of them can put in detail as fine as a human hair,” says Catherine Tinker, president and owner of Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd.

Due to their quality modeling and familiarity with the city of Chicago, exhibit coordinators at the Chicago Architecture Foundation commissioned Columbian Model to create a scale model of the entire city to display in their lobby. Even with the printers, each model took a significant amount of work.

“We had to redraw every building in Chicago in 3-D. Then you have to clean, sand and finish the buildings,” says Tinker.

3-D Printing Gets Practical

Still, 3-D printers like Bespoke Innovations and Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd. have cost thousands of dollars. Luckily, creators bent on trying 3-D printing themselves have cheaper options. Those who cannot buy a printer will soon be able to rent a printer.

“I think you’ll see them in Lowes, Kinko’s, and TechShop,” says David Pescovitz, co-editor of BoingBoing.net and research director at the Institute for the Future.

Renting or commissioning printers permits smaller, less established operations to enjoy the power of 3-D printing. Even pioneering artists can afford to bring their ideas to life. Joshua Harker, a Chicago area artist who makes sculptures of tangled masses of woven metal threads, started out working in the design industry and couldn’t have made the career switch without 3-D printers.

“The intricacy and the complexity of the tangles I do just can’t be done in traditional mediums. I’ve tried with wood and stone and wax and clay. You just can’t do it,” says Harker.

Harker’s complex process involves more than just designing the tangle and pressing print. He designs the tangle in 3-D on his computer in a printer-friendly file, prints in plastic, uses that print to make a mold, melts out the original plastic and then fills it with molten metal. The process results in a beautiful metal tangle. And Harker only wants to expand on his use of the 3-D printer.

“I have thought about 3-D printing with ceramic powder and doing a large-scale public art kind of sculpture,” says Harker.

Luckily for him, 3-D printing technology is becoming more versatile. The 3-D printing chambers continue to increase in size (currently, the largest chamber is a cube with sides three yards long), and more and more materials, such as glass, ceramic, metal and even bone, are being outfitted for 3-D printing. Most importantly, printers keep getting cheaper. The technological gains set the stage for a champion of desktop 3-D printers to bring the power of printing to the people.

3-D Printing for the People

Enter MakerBot Industries. In 2009, MakerBot released a home 3-D printer kit for an affordable $750. While design improvements have caused the price to jump to $1,299, MakerBot’s sales nearly doubled from 350 kits in November 2009 to 625 only three months later according a press release from the company.  New orders for kits arrive constantly.

“I can’t tell you what it’s going to be like in 10 minutes the industry growing so fast,” says Keith Ozar, marketing manager at MakerBot Industries.

What he does know is that 3-D printers are gaining popularity and are coming soon to a home near you. But before printing out a new handle for a cabinet or a cool new paperweight, people are going to have to learn how to 3-D model on their computers…or maybe not. To ease the in-home transition, MakerBot started Thingiverse, an online community where 3-D printing files for countless objects are available for download. Instead of having to design it on a computer, customers can simply download objects as they would songs. Also, as schools increase emphasis on computer science more people will know how to develop 3-D models.

“The learning curve isn’t as high as it seems. There are definitely software programs that are very user-friendly. You can design it, convert it, and send it right to the printer,” says Andrew Nelson, 22, a senior in McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University.

With 3-D printers becoming more and more accessible, it is only a matter of time before each home and office has a desktop factory. And that future we missed? Pescovitz thinks we can still get in on it.

“3-D printing is an opportunity for you to make the future.”

Do-It-Yourself: A Profile of MakerBot Industries

MakerBot Industries is like a modern day Robin Hood: getting 3-D printers once reserved for the rich to the citizens who really need them. And just like our hero in tights, the founders of MakerBot know the pain of going without and decided to fight back.
“In 2009 Bre Pettis and the rest of the founders wanted a 3-D printer, but they cost $100,000, so they made their own. They made 20 and sold them all in the first day,” says Keith Ozar, marketing manager at MakerBot Industries.
To bring the 3-D printer to the people, the founders of MakerBot needed to find a way to make them affordable. By making a small unit with a stripped-down design, and scaling back the printing dimensions to 4 inches by 4 inches by 6 inches, MakerBot can offer an assemble-it-yourself desktop 3-D printer priced at $1,299.
“Right now we want to make our machines affordable. People have heard about 3-D printing but we want them to see it for themselves,” says Ozar.
As each kit ships, MakerBot continues to spread the 3-D printing word. One of the ways they are generating buzz is through Thingiverse. Thingiverse is the ultimate do-it-yourself online collective started by MakerBot where contributors from around the world post the files for 3-D objects they have made free for download.
“The MakerBot founders thought of downloading music on iTunes and imagined people would download objects. Thingiverse is where you can do that,” says Ozar.
For those who are not the most computer savvy, Thingiverse provides a database of objects that simply need to be downloaded and printed. For those who know their way around a laptop, Thingiverse becomes a playground of creation.
“We’re doing mash-ups, like song mash-ups, but with objects. Our bunny, the one on our website, has been mashed-up with a dragon head,” says Ozar.
Thingiverse shows the public’s overwhelming response to finally being able to create for itself. Printing a handle for a broken cabinet, printing an art project, printing a model—it all leads back to self-reliance. Some even print themselves a job.
“You can do small runs of unique items, even make a small business,” says David Pescovitz, co-editor of BoingBoing.net.
The power of 3-D printing gives people a new option: the option to do it themselves, which is just what MakerBot intended.
“We want to democratize manufacturing,” says Ozar, “we want to bring the power of 3-D printing right into the home.”

The World of 3-D Printing

There’s NO WAY I could cover all of 3-D printing’s possibilities in one article, so I made this map of what’s happening in the 3-D printing world and where. Click on the links. Your mind will be blown.