On February 2, more than 3,000 Donald Trump supporters crammed into an athletic club in Milford, New Hampshire to hear the Republican candidate speak. The place was buzzing with excitement. Before Trump came on, a group of people went onto the stage and delivered speeches. This included some of Trump’s campaign managers and former United States Senator Scott Brown. Continue reading
A little girl gets a life-changing gift.
It all started in 2013, when Shea Stollenwerk, then eight years old, asked for a new hand for Christmas. Shea was born with a partial right hand, which restricts her ability to do things that other kids take for granted.
“My mom went online” to look for help, says Shea, who lives in Mukowango, Wisconsin. Shea’s mother, Ranee, soon learned about a community of artists, designers, and scientists who are making big breakthroughs with prosthetic (artificial) hands.
Frankie Flood, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, was among the designers who saw Ranee’s online request. Flood enlisted help from fellow professor Adream Blair and their students, who were learning how to make designs using a 3-D printer, a device that can create layers of material, like plastic or metal, one on top of the other, to produce solid objects.
“We made a mold of Shea’s hand out of plaster,” Flood explains about the beginning of the process. “We made a cast, and then we 3-D scanned her hand.”
A LOW-COST SOLUTION
Flood emphasizes that Shea’s “robo-hand” is not like devices that medical professionals make for people who have lost limbs. Such devices can cost thousands of dollars, whereas a “robo-hand” can be printed for less than $50.
While being fitted in Flood’s laboratory, Shea got to choose the color of her new hand. She went with bright pink. She now has a pink hand, a purple hand, and a purple and pink one, and can do things that she couldn’t do before, like peel potatoes, pick up objects, and catch a ball.
Flood and his team have since built hands for six other local children. Indirectly, they have helped dozens more, by posting their designs online so that people around the world can print them out. Flood is also working on prosthetic legs for military veterans who were injured on the battlefield. “Without a covering, the [prosthetic] leg is kind of ugly and plain,” Flood says. “Soldiers want something that will restore the shape of their leg and make it cooler to look at when they’re playing sports.”
As for Shea, the aspiring musician can now play her viola with help from an adaptive device that Flood’s team created. “Nothing is ever going to hold her back,” Shea’s father, Steve, told a local reporter. “She is going to do what she wants to do, and we are going to be there to help her.”
In 2006, sculptor Mark Borella felt helpless when his friends’ son was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Borella wanted to give the friends something to honor their son, but he couldn’t think of anything suitable. Finally, he turned to a jar of leftover clay and molded the clay into smiles.
On the last day of the young man’s life, Borella brought a handful of smiles to his friends’ house. “I know there is nothing I can say or do to make you feel better,” he said. “So I thought I would bring you some smiles to help you get your smile back. I call them ‘Seeds of Happiness.’”
When word spread about the little sculptures, and people kept asking to buy them, Borella decided to start a business. Soon, his staff grew too large for his house, and Seeds of Happiness settled into a small building in St. Louis, Missouri, where about a dozen people work.
“We’re very laid back,” says employee Sophie Williamson. “We have a lot of fun. We always say that all this fun we have, we put it right back into our work.”
Each month, Seeds of Happiness ships more than 40,000 “seeds” to customers in the United States, Canada, Germany, England, Australia, and elsewhere. The company also sells T-shirts, caps, and other clothing.
To make a seed, clay is shaped into a ball, and then the eyes and mouth are drawn in. “We poke the eyes with chopsticks,” says Borella. Next, an employee adds other features, like a hat or a beard. The seed is then put into a kiln to bake. About 15,000 seeds are baked at a time.
When the seeds come out of the kiln, an employee presses the bottom of each one so that the figure can stand up. The seeds are then baked a second time. Finally, they are painted and ready to be shipped.
“Everything in here,” says Borella, “is based on smiles, happiness, and being funny.”
How can you ski if there’s no snow? When the temperature is unseasonably warm, and no snow falls from the sky, experts go out at night to make artificial snow. These people are called “Snowmakers.”
One such expert is Ken Mack, the Manager of Snowmaking at Loon Mountain Ski Resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Starting at the age of 10, Mack groomed the slopes of the local mountain every weekend with his Grandpa Roy. Using a specialized machine called a groomer, grandfather and grandson would move and flatten the snow to make it easier to ski.
“I always loved being on the mountain at night,” said Mack, who was hired at Loon Mountain as a groomer before learning how to make snow. Now in his 16th season at Loon, Mack has done such a great job directing his crew of about 40 that he was nationally recognized in 2014 with HKD’s “I AM a Snowmaker Award.” HKD sells snowmaking equipment and honors a top snowmaker each year.
Mack is pleased with the snowmaking system of tower guns that Loon recently installed. You have to pump air and water into a hose, which travels up the “tower” part of the snow gun. Pressurized water then shoots out the top of the machine and hits the atmosphere, freezing into snow before it hits the ground. Although snow can be artificially made in temperatures of up to 28 degrees, the ideal conditions are around 10 degrees with no wind. “It’s hard to control a ‘snowstorm’ in the wind,” Mack said.
Mack works with Ralph Lewis, Vice President of Skiing Operations at Loon. Instead of checking emails each day, Lewis checks the ski slopes. He takes a ride to the top of the mountain and then skis the trails, evaluating the conditions. He wants to ensure a great day of skiing for everyone. Later in the afternoon, he starts planning the snowmaking for the coming night.
Lewis said that artificial snowmaking can make or break a ski resort. Loon invested in snowmaking early on, when other ski resorts did not. Some of those resorts had to shut down. When asked where Loon would be without snowmaking, Lewis said, “There would be no ski area. Snowmaking gives us the flexibility to open the mountain.”
Snowmakers work through long, cold nights, but they truly believe it is worth it. “It’s fun to see the smiles [afterwards],” Lewis said. “That’s the rewarding part of the job.”
What thrills do you seek when you visit an amusement park? “People come into the parks, and they want something different and unique,” says Joel Kornbluth, Vice President of Totally Bananas, a Florida-based company that manufactures treats made from frozen bananas.
This year’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) trade show began on November 16 in Orlando, Florida. More than 1,000 exhibitors took advantage of the “nine miles of aisles” to showcase everything from “Ninjago,” an interactive 3-D ride that lets visitors throw snowballs at a digital screen, to “Honolulu Hot Dogs,” which are topped with tropical fruit.
“New technology and new innovations always fill the trade show floor,” said Colleen Mangone, Director of Media Relations for IAAPA. “That makes the show exciting and fresh each year.”
Throughout the week, industry representatives from 120 countries toured the show. Some people even brought their kids to try out the rides and sample the food. For this reporter, the ultimate thrill came on the “Kuka Coaster,” a robot-based ride that had me swiveling in wild rotations, wondering what would happen next as I hung upside down. The coaster, which seats two people, lets passengers customize their experience from “gentle” to “x-treme.” I chose the latter. Watch the video here, and tell us in the Comments: Would YOU ride this roller coaster??).
Other highlights included testing my sports skills with interactive games and simulating the experience of falling 500 stories on the “Finger Coaster” designed by SMAAASH Entertainment, a company based in India. The coaster lets you make your own ride by drawing it out with your finger, which is how it gets its name. A virtual-reality headset allows you to choose the setting for the experience, like a beach or a lake.
This year’s show, Mangone said, “was all about how rides are incorporating new technology, specifically virtual reality, to add a new dimension to the visitor experience.” Whether you were twisting and turning or getting frozen treats, there was something for everyone!
First Lady Michelle Obama opened the White House to military families on December 3, displaying Christmas decorations that she had helped create with volunteers. Mrs. Obama invited members of the military and their families to enjoy festive displays and celebrate the holiday season. “I want to honor all of the people who sacrifice,” she said.
Meet the actor who plays the most famous hairy giant in movie history. Few movie characters are as well known as Chewbacca from the Star Wars films. But what about the person inside the giant Wookiee suit? He’s Peter Mayhew, a British actor who stands 7 feet 3 inches tall. Mayhew, age 71, returned to his famous role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (rated PG-13). The seventh film in the series opened on December 18. Here’s what he recently had to say about playing Chewbacca and being a real-life giant. Continue reading
It was a cold and rainy day, but hundreds of people gathered near the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on November 29 to voice their concerns about climate change. The march was organized by a branch of the Global Climate Movement, a worldwide campaign that is working to raise awareness about the threat that climate change poses. The organization sponsored 2,300 similar rallies in more than 150 countries over the course of the weekend. Continue reading
Olivia B. is only 12 years old, but she has already gotten the attention of a presidential candidate. Last month, she wrote a letter to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton about the importance of a good education for children with learning disabilities. Olivia’s letter went viral after Secretary Clinton posted it on Twitter. Olivia even got to go to Clinton’s birthday party and take a selfie with her. Continue reading