Photography is definitely the gift that just keeps on giving—and in different forms! Thank you, Louis Daguerre, for inventing photography; without this gift we would not be able to document momentous events in our life (like my first time at the White House to help out at the Easter Egg Roll 2013), take #selfie duckface pics to post them on Instagram, or upload quick vids of ourselves to Vine.
If you haven’t explored the wonder of Vine, it is a product that Twitter acquired that allows for sharing quick, six second, looping videos. Brevity is key here, something that Twitter’s 140 character messages do so well. It doesn’t seem like very long, but it’s surprising what you can share in six seconds, especially when you get creative. Vine Vids are all about abbreviation—”The shortened form of something larger.”
Our Meta-Meme-Modern age of documenting and categorizing every moment of our lives, and then sharing it with the masses in small digestible chunks, is done with such urgency, yet some do not think about the technology behind it. It’s fun to see these various digital methods reference the past. All of those wonderful filters that various apps use reference the analogue processes—Van Dyke Brown, Cyanotype, Cross-Processed, Black and White filters—that have been done in darkrooms with hazardous chemicals for decades. I have quite a bit of experience producing images the old-school way and love it! However, I also love that I don’t have to risk my life anymore using potassium cyanide or silver nitrate. Working in the darkroom was never a quick process, but more of a zen experience—something that could never be rushed. Current digital technology is often almost instantaneous.
I find it quite interesting these days that videos/gifs appear to be the next best thing to push content out into the aether. These small, bite-sized videos serve as an appetizer to an idea, concept, or expression, allowing the user to carefully create a potent and concentrated snippet of their world. The small size of the files not only makes them faster to upload, but also easier for the viewer to digest. Do small files equal short attention spans? Has the advancement in technology in photography spoiled us to seek a quick turn around for visual pay off?
Recently, I picked up a book in the library, Photography Changes Everything, a collaboration between Aperture and the Smithsonian, which is a fascinating collection of images and responses to how the image changes and shapes everything in our lives. Many experts, writers, inventors, and public figures from different professional backgrounds have contributed to this book, telling the stories of how their lives have been shaped or changed by photography. Contributors include the Smithsonian’s Curator of Photographic History Shannon Thomas Perich as well as John Baldessari, John Waters, Hugh Hefner, and others. Check out the book or visit the Photography Changes Everything website and see how the photographic image does indeed change everything around us. Photography has certainly changed my life and made me into the New Media Specialist that I am today here at the Lemelson Center.
When I was a child, my father was nearly always working on a home improvement project of some kind. My dad refinished basements, renovated bathrooms, erected walls, and once even put in a new staircase where one hadn’t been before. I liked to help him with these projects (though, truth be told, I’m not sure if I was a help or hindrance in those years), and often took on the role of “scribe,” taking notes for my dad, writing down measurements, making shopping lists. Growing up in this kind of DIY household engendered a definite “can do” attitude in me, so when I bought my first home, it seemed normal to take on projects myself.
Every spring I tackle a different home improvement project. To date, I’ve repainted the entire interior of my house, replaced all the closet doors, refurbished a fence, installed new light fixtures inside and out, and renovated two bathrooms. Some of these projects (the bathrooms) have been more challenging than others (the painting), but all of them have required more creativity and innovative thinking than I would have imagined at the outset—something I didn’t really take away from the home projects of my childhood. My father is very analytical and logical, and from my perspective, his home improvement projects were too—well planned, well organized, and completed without a hitch. It was only when I started my own projects that I realized that for all the logic and thought these things require; they need an equal amount of creative thinking and problem-solving.
When I decided to renovate a bathroom last year, I was pretty confident I knew what to expect since I’d redone the master bath two years before. But, the project didn’t go quite as I planned: I discovered moldy drywall, a hole, and a bare, concrete floor when I removed the old vanity. I also found out that most contemporary vanities don’t work with my 1984 plumbing. So I put my inventive thinking cap on and got to work.
I eradicated the mold, replaced the drywall, and patched the bare hole. Those were pretty basic repairs. The bigger challenge came when I had to figure out how to cover the concrete floor so that it would match (or at least blend with) the existing tile. After scouring every home improvement store and flooring outlet for a match—and coming up empty—I decided I’d have to come up with my own solution. Using a combination of paint and tile I was able to create a patch of flooring that blends beautifully with what was already there. My most creative solution, though, came when I crafted my own flexible, leak-proof plumbing contraption to make the new sink and vanity work with the old pipes. I felt a little like MacGyver, using traditional plumbing supplies, hardware, auto supplies, and some super strength putty.
Though I thought this renovation project would take just a weekend, it took nearly a month, and was by far the most frustrating of all my home improvement projects (so far, anyway). But it’s also been the most satisfying and most creative. I encountered unexpected problems and developed innovative solutions, bounced back from what I originally thought might be insurmountable challenges, and ultimately came up with a beautiful end result. Since I’ve become my own contractor, I’ve realized that the projects I witnessed as a child weren’t perfect. Like me, my dad surely encountered problems and came up with solutions, switched gears, and found creative ways to use materials and tools. And though I’m not inventing something when I take on a new project at home, I often follow a process similar to that of an inventor—coming up with a new idea, sketching out a plan, creating or building something, and then tweaking it make it better before arriving at the final product. (My projects seem to be especially heavy on the “tweaking” part of the process.) Though sometimes lengthy and frustrating, it’s exactly this creative and innovative—and messy—process that I find so rewarding about working on my home.
The northwest coast of Iceland in January is a stunningly beautiful place. Waterfalls tumble over steep cliff edges, forming rainbows in their spray. The clear, crisp blue of the sky reaches down to the even deeper blues of the fjords. Volcanoes dot the landscape, boiling pits of mud and minerals the colors of agate fill the air with the smell of sulfur, and it seems that steam leaks from the smallest cracks in the earth wherever you go. And this year, the snow sat in islands surrounded by lava and moss.
Icelandic horses grazing near Akureyri in January 2013. Photo by Joyce Bedi.
Like most visitors, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty and bounties of Iceland—the bracing clean water, the fresh seafood, and the abundant geothermal power. As I traveled around, I heard Icelanders express their gratitude for these resources and affirm their deep connection to their natural environment. But they also talked about changes that their land is experiencing, from higher winter temperatures to the increased economic importance of mackerel to the fishing industry as warmer ocean temperatures bring these fish farther north.
Mud, minerals, and the smell of sulfur in the Icelandic landscape, January 2013. Photo by Joyce Bedi.
The perspectives of the people who live in Iceland reflect this year’s theme for Earth Day on April 22: “The Face of Climate Change.” People around the world are submitting photos and comments to the Earth Day website, offering their personal observations on climate change and their dedication to doing something about it. Looking through those images and reading the thoughts of so many people from so many places made me think not only about Iceland but also about another place closer to home.
Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins, Colorado, June 2012. Photo by Joyce Bedi.
Last summer I traveled to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a week of research on developments in cleaner, more sustainable energy sources (we will be featuring Fort Collins in the Lemelson Center’s upcoming Places of Invention exhibition). The people I interviewed there shared the feelings of responsibility for the environment that I had witnessed in Iceland. I also saw firsthand their efforts to effect change through invention and innovation.
Inventor Amy Prieto in her lab at Colorado State University, June 2012. Photo by Joyce Bedi.
One of the inventors I met was Amy Prieto, an associate professor of chemistry at Colorado State University and the founder of Prieto Battery. Her work centers on inventing a rechargeable battery that will last longer, charge faster, and won’t be made with toxic materials. Still in the prototype stage, the heart of the battery is a thin slice of copper “foam” that, like a sponge, is full of holes. This 3-dimensional structure increases the amount of surface area and allows electrons to move more freely and over shorter distances than in conventional batteries. This means that the Prieto battery is expected to last longer and recharge faster than traditional lithium-ion batteries.
Some components of Prieto’s prototype battery, June 2012. Rectangles of copper “foam” are top center. Photo by Joyce Bedi.
Prieto’s work represents a new way of thinking about batteries. “The journey is an exciting one and one we believe in,” the team at Prieto Battery asserts. “Beyond changing how people power their lives, Prieto Battery believes strongly in retaining why we started in the first place—a diverse, highly collaborative, environmentally conscious team driven to deliver on our promise to create the world’s most advanced rechargeable battery. This is what powers us.”
Amy Prieto will soon be sharing that driving sense of commitment—to teammates, to invention, to the environment—with a group of elementary-school students in Mississippi. Last fall, the Lemelson Center’s hands-on invention center, Spark!Lab, partnered with ePals, an education media company and safe social learning network, for the second annual “Invent It! Challenge.” The contest asked students to think about real-world problems and invent something that could help solve them. The ePals Choice Award went to the “Solbrite,” a “solar-panel purse LED light,” invented by a 9-year-old girl named Marlee. Her prize is a video chat for her and her classmates with inventor Amy Prieto.
From the shores of northern Iceland and the valleys of the Colorado Rockies to a classroom in Mississippi, invention and innovation remain important tools for conserving natural resources, reducing pollution, and confronting global climate change. Who knows, perhaps a Prieto battery will be part of the “Solbrite” one day.
I grew up in Wisconsin, a place well known for its waters and woods. It seems like you can’t go more than a few miles before running into a stream, pond, or lake. But little did I know that the waterways I grew up on were the same as those of an inventor and were the inspiration for his invention.
Ole Evinrude emigrated to Wisconsin in 1882 when he was five, growing up in Cambridge, WI, on the shores of Lake Ripley. Like Ole, I also grew up in Cambridge, went swimming and fishing in the lake, and enjoyed meals along its shore.
Sunset over a Wisconsin lake. By peterrieke (Balsam Lake Sunset) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Cambridge is about thirty minutes from Madison, so I spent plenty of time not just at Lake Ripley but also on the four lakes the capital is built around. Ole spent plenty of time in Madison too, gaining experience with machinery from various positions in machine shops. In addition to his hands-on experience, he used the university’s library to teach himself advanced mathematics, mechanics, and engineering. After briefly working in Pittsburgh—where he had first hand experience working with steel—he returned to Wisconsin for positions building engines.
Both of my parents grew up in Milwaukee and most of my family lives still lives there. Ole moved to that city to work and began building his own engines during his spare time in the basement of his boarding house. All the times that I drove to and from Milwaukee (about an hour past lakes and woods) I never guessed that the blue waters of Lake Okauchee that I saw from the road was the site of an event that got Ole thinking about using his homemade engines to power boats in a new way. On an outing on Lake Okauchee, Ole, his future wife Bess, and some friends rowed their boat across the lake. They bought some ice cream that they intended to take back across the lake with them but it melted by the time they reached the other side of lake, two miles away). This inspired Evinrude’s idea to clamp a motor to the stern of a boat.
Although forms of outboard motors for boats had existed since 1896, and had even been patented in 1905, in 1907 Evinrude designed the first commercially and mechanically successful outboard motor. His outboard motor had a mechanical arrangement that became the standard for all outboard motors.
Patent drawing for “Marine Propulsion Mechanism” by Ole Evinrude.
Evinrude tested his invention on the nearby Kinnikinnic River. Having myself canoed on the Kinniknnic on many occasions, with its mix of forested, beach, rock, and house lined shores, I can easily picture Ole’s first trial. Without a muffler, when the motor started it was so noisy that it brought dozens of people to the river bank. It obviously needed a little tweaking before being sold, but Ole was able to go about five miles per hour. Ole’s first motors (built in 1909) were all hand-built, weighed 62 pounds, and had two horsepower. They sold quickly and in 1910 Ole had nearly 1,000 orders. By inventing the first commercially and mechanically successful outboard motor Ole forever altered the boating world. Outboard motors can be easily removed for repairs, storage, or use on other boats. Can you imagine a world without water skiing or motor boat racing?
After World War I, Ole utilized new techniques and processes of using aluminum to develop a lighter (48 pounds), two-cylinder, three horsepower outboard motor. He also invented a quieter underwater exhaust system. This new motor was on the market in 1920. Over the years Ole continued to develop lighter motors with greater horsepower.
Evinrude’s 1910 and 1924 motors. Courtesy NMAH Archives Center.
Wisconsin is known for its waters and woods. Growing up in a place where a body of water nearly is never far away is not only beautiful and enjoyable but inspiring. Ole Evinrude designed the outboard motor we use today, but perhaps Ole would have invented a motor for an entirely different purpose if hadn’t been surrounded by the waterways that we both grew up on.
One of the coolest inventions I have seen recently is an adorable little robot named PLANTANIMAL. This autonomous garden-robot prototype was created by Pittsburgh-based inventor/artist/scientist, Jason Bannister. PLANTANIMAL is designed to wheel around its home seeking a warm sunny spot to soak up some rays. This ensures the plants living in PLANTANIMAL get plenty of sunlight.
PLANTANIMAL by Jason Bannister. Courtesy of Mechanimal http://mechanimal.com/.
Inspired by PLANTANIMAL, I decided to create my own robotic garden using items already in my office workshop. After several versions were created, tested, and tweaked, I came up with a robotic garden made from two broken RC cars, miscellaneous craft supplies, and a small Spark!Lab hydroponic garden.
A random sampling of “potential robot treasures” collected from my office/workshop for this project.
My robotic garden, named GROWBOT, finds sunny spots via radio control, attracting a lot of attention at the museum.
GROWBOT, Spark!Lab’s Robotic Garden Prototype.
Tips for inventing your own robotic garden:
Take a trip to the local garden center! Decide what types of plants you want to grow. How about a robo-veggie garden, or an herb-bot for your kitchen?
Consider the possibilities! Sketching ideas on paper may help or let your ideas be inspired by the “trash-ures” gathered from around your house.
Get to work! Let the potential robot gardens take shape—build and then tweak your design.
Share! Don’t leave the robotic gardening community waiting! Share a photo or video with us at email@example.com, or on Facebook.
One of my job responsibilities is to coordinate the Lemelson Center Staff Projects Initiative, an internal grant program in which the Center makes modest grants to our NMAH colleagues to stimulate new research, exhibitions, and programming on innovation. One of our grantees is the Create: Smithsonian project, directed by Susan Evans and Amy Bartow-Melia in the Museum’s Office of Education and Public Programs. With Create: Smithsonian, Susan and Amy developed a yearlong series of six workshops designed to inspire a Smithsonian organizational culture of creativity, innovation, and risk-taking, while having fun and building esprit de corps with our colleagues. The workshops draw upon literature (like Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come FromandAndrew Hargadon’s How Breakthroughs Happen) suggesting that, in order to foster innovation, organizations must create opportunities where smart people from diverse backgrounds and experience can collaborate. This mashing together of disciplines, techniques, and perspectives can spark unlikely partnerships, leading to all kinds of creative outcomes. So it’s been fun to attend the Create: Smithsonian workshops to see how the grant funds are being used and find out what happens when the Smithsonian’s zookeepers, fundraisers, housekeeping staff, vertebrate biologists, art historians, and docents all come together.
The Create: Smithsonian workshops are one of the Lemelson Center’s grantees. Courtesy of Susan Evans.
On January 31, I attended the latest Create: Smithsonian workshop, which focused on what we as an organization can learn from the history and artistry of jazz. We were treated to a talk by Dr. John Hasse, the NMAH’s jazz curator extraordinaire, who described the various leadership lessons we can learn from jazz masters like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. For example, it sounds basic, but in jazz (and on your work teams) you must listen closely to your band mates. Bandleaders must recruit and nurture great talent—like when Miles Davis recruited sax greats Cannonball Adderley AND John Coltrane to play on the seminal Kind of Blue. Finally, team leaders, like bandleaders must create a basic structure for the tune, but loosen the reins and let their best players improvise occasionally.
John then walked to a table where he described some of the treasures of the NMAH’s musical collections. He picked up a pair of black sunglasses and said casually “So these are Ray Charles’ Ray Bans….”—there was an audible gasp! Then he showed us Ray’s special chess set for the blind and his Braille copy of Playboy magazine—he really did read it for the articles! Then it was on to Ella Fitzgerald’s Grammy and Duke Ellington’s conducting baton—real treasures of American musical history.
Ray Bans worn by Ray Charles. Photo by Eric Hintz.
Grammy Award won by Ella Fitzgerald. Photo by Eric Hintz.
Then we got a DEMONSTRATION! A trio from the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra—Ken Kimery (drums), James King (bass), and Chuck Redd (vibraphone)—played a few selections, demonstrating how to listen, how to lead and sometimes follow, and how to improvise. But the most amazing part of the performance was Chuck’s instrument—he was playing the vibes donated to the museum in February 2001 by the late, great Lionel Hampton!
Lionel Hampton’s vibraphone, donated to the National Museum of American History in February 2001. It still sounds awesome. Courtesy of Eric Hintz.
Chuck Redd of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra playing the vibraphone donated by Lionel Hampton. Photo by Kate Wiley.
I play the drums and have dabbled a bit in the other members of the percussion family, so it was thrilling to think that I was so close the same set that Lionel himself had played “The Price of Jazz” and so many other classic tunes. I left the Create: Smithsonian event feeling even more energized than usual about working at the Museum—clearly the grant funds were going to good use!
Legendary vibraphone virtuoso and bandleader Lionel Hampton graces the 2013 Jazz Appreciation Month poster. Courtesy of Smithsonian Jazz.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), and we do it in style here at the National Museum of American History, with a full schedule of donation ceremonies by jazz legends, talks on jazz history, and several live performances. Lionel Hampton is featured on the 2013 JAM poster and to kick things off on April 9, his vibes again emerged from the Museum’s vaults to be played in a tribute performance by members of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Quintet.
So, like I said at the top, I have a cool job. For a music buff like me, working at the Smithsonian is Seriously Amazing!
Case in point: the current Spring 2013 nail art phenomenon of the ‘caviar manicure’. Unlike a normal manicure, which consists of one or several colors of nail polish, a caviar manicure uses a base coat of nail polish combined with a top sprinkling of tiny pearlescent beads. The result is a 3-D effect that adds attention-grabbing, high fashion texture to everyday looks.
While the caviar manicure wasn’t invented this season, it’s become a big deal through major celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel. Considering that I’m not always the world’s most inspiring fashion plate, I thought I’d take a risk and try it myself. However, the brand name kit to create this nail art is pretty expensive, so I started searching for a more affordable DIY alternative.
Some of the materials I found around our office included model toy paint, aluminum foil, cake sprinkles, and clay. I also had a brand new bottle of pretty lilac nail polish I’d purchased, so I thought about what colors would look good, what combinations would be fresh and interesting, and what I could live with for a few days.
The result: I used a base coat of Essie “lilacism” polish with a top sprinkling of clay on just one finger. To be honest, I don’t think it’ll become the next fashion trend, but I’m proud of my foray into haute nail couture. And although I think I’ll be sticking to plain polish in the future, I’m glad I invented my own unique combination.
Have you tried the caviar nail trend, or come up with your own inventive nail art? Share with us and your friends! Tweet it at @SI_Invention using #BrightNails.
I recently went to Pittsburgh wanting to know more about this sound for the Lemelson Center’s Places of Invention (POI) Affiliates Pilot Project. When the POI exhibition opens in 2015, the story of Pittsburgh jazz innovation will be featured on a large, digital interactive map at the center of the exhibition and website. The Senator John Heinz History Center, one of our most active Smithsonian Affiliate museums, is creating content for the project with Dan Holland of the Young Preservationists’ Association of Pittsburgh. The story will focus on the 1920s–1960s. Ken Kimery and Marty Ashby, Executive Producer of Pittsburgh’s MCG Jazz, are advising the team, directing them to additional experts and resources and making available oral histories and other multimedia. When the exhibition opens, the public will have opportunities to comment on the story and add recollections of their own, making the map another repository for the growing body of documentation about the city’s jazz history. We’re especially eager to see material posted by the Pittsburgh jazz and preservation communities.
The thesis of the POI exhibition is that place and community matter; that advantages and limitations of geography and resources drive innovation when combined with new ideas shared and refined through social networks. If I had any questions about Pittsburgh geography, they were answered on my drive into the city to visit the POI team. My car went up and down and around steep hills, past rocky slopes, and over railroad tracks and wide rivers moving large chunks of ice. As I wound through neighborhoods of brick houses, I couldn’t help but lean into each curve and think of the geology that helped drive the city’s famous steel and glass industries. Buildings I passed on rocky outcroppings looked more like cliff dwellings than urban homes.
Clockwise from top left: Crawford Grill sign, Art Blakey House, Crawford Grill, August Wilson House
I learned even more about Pittsburgh’s landscape on a tour of the city’s Hill District led by Dan Holland. His knowledge of the area—the things that live even when the physical structure might be gone—was not only impressive but also moving. Smithsonian Affiliations’ Jennifer Brundage and the Heinz History Center’s Sandra Smith and Kate Lukaszwewicz also joined and provided helpful insight. As we passed the homes of Art Blakey and August Wilson, we saw storefronts and row houses clumped together on otherwise razed blocks. The Crawford Grill nightclub held its own on a street corner behind a blue historical marker. At the New Granada Theater on Centre Avenue, signs of community involvement and recovery were evident.
Details of the New Granada Theater featuring Pittsburgh jazz legends. The building was originally built as a Pythian Temple for the Knights of Pythias, an African American craftsmen lodge.
Dan also took us to a special spot on the Hill for the tour’s most dramatic view: a panorama of “the city of bridges.”
View of the Strip from the Hill: The Heinz History Center’s Sandra Smith and Kate Lukaszewicz with the Smithsonian’s Jennifer Brundage and YPA’s Dan Holland. Remains of old funicular to the right. Allegheny River in the background. Zoom in for detail.
Nearby, we could see the remains of the old Penn funicular from a time when gravity planes transported coal and people up and down the Hill to the Strip District.
Click on the image to go to “Pittsburgh Then and Now,” a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette site. Photo copyright 2004 Carnegie Museum of Art, Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive.
So how did the city’s geography, community, and networks shape Pittsburgh jazz? Our team is exploring this question in detail, taking into account the research and documentation that has been lovingly preserved in its cultural institutions. Does it come from the people dining with—celebrating with—worshipping with—playing with—laughing with—surviving with each other in segregated Pittsburgh? From a strong African American middle class with money to spend at the lively social spots that lined the Hill? From the mix of ethnicities that came to live and work together? From the many schools and institutions promoting music education? From the building trades-inspired apprenticeship system? From the clubs serving mill workers whose shifts ran around the clock? From the artists who could actually make a living performing and teaching in the city? From the visiting musicians bringing new ideas and inspiration to the music scene while on layovers between New York, Chicago and New Orleans?
Or was it something else? The very rhythm of the city itself? Can the answer be found in Teenie Harris’ photographs of musicians and good-timers packed into the Crawford Grill and Goode’s Pharmacy? In images of children in classrooms clapping to live piano or playing brass instruments and bongos on the street? In performance shots of Roy Eldridge blasting his trumpet, Art Blakey on drums, a
Boys, possibly from Herron Hill School, playing brass instruments on steps, circa 1938-1945. Charles “Teenie” Harris/Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Click on image for NPR’s story “The Big Legacy of Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris” about the photographer and the opening of a CMA exhibition of his work in 2011.
young Ahmad Jamal at the piano, and Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn backstage at the Stanley Theater? In the movement of the dancers and Lena Horne captured in a night at the Loendi Club? In Mary Lou Williams sitting at the Syria Mosque’s piano, surrounded by Earl “Fatha” Hines, Erroll Garner, Billy Eckstine, and Maxine Sullivan?
Ahmad Jamal Trio
Renée Govanucci and Marty Ashby (MCG Jazz), Dan Holland (YPA), and Sandra Smith and Kate Lukaszewicz (Heinz History Center). The team met to discuss the POI project and collaborative opportunities.
My colleagues and I are enthusiastic to learn more and see how the Pittsburgh POI team develops its story. My trip was deeply rewarding and full of exuberant conversations about the project and the importance of telling this often overlooked story of Pittsburgh invention. We welcome all to join us as we celebrate the ongoing innovation of the Pittsburgh jazz sound.
My mom makes the best mashed potatoes. The best. I’m sure your mom’s are good, but not this good. (Ok, I guess I can admit that I’m probably a little biased here.) And I love mashed potatoes. So I find it incredibly frustrating that I have thus far been unable to recreate my mother’s mashed potatoes.
These are not my mom’s mashed potatoes. By Renee Comet (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This conversation has been had more times than I can count ever since I moved 350 miles south:
“Mom, seriously, how do you make them so good?”
“Well, I use whatever I have. If you have some sour cream you can add that.”
“Ok, well how much sour cream?”
“I don’t know, Kaitlin, whatever seems like the right amount.”
So with that not-exactly-precise recipe, I attempt, over and over, to make my mom’s glorious mashed potatoes. And every time, despite claims from my boyfriend that they taste just fine or even really good, they always fall flat to me.
The Motherspoon. Will this gadget finally explain my mom’s recipe-less cooking to me?
But maybe technology is going to finally allow me to faithfully recreate Mom’s mashed potatoes. Cruising Pinterest the other night, I stumbled across a kitchen gadget by Electrolux called The Motherspoon. The gadget is explained as such:
“Basically what happens is that you and your mom buy your own pair of Motherspoon and register onto a dedicated platform for file sharing. So when your mom cooks her recipe and uses the spoon to taste her food, the sensor laden spoon picks up the ingredients and deciphers the recipe. When you put it on its cradle, the spoon loads the recipe to the sharing platform so that you can access it, even if you live miles apart.”
Is this the answer to my mashed potatoes angst? I don’t know that I’m going to rush out to get this gadget, but I will admit that I’m completely intrigued at the idea of technology showing precisely how my mom makes hers so delicious. But in the end, Mom’s mashed potatoes are as good of an excuse as any to make the trip home, and I think I’ll be ok never really knowing if her secret ingredient is a few teaspoons of onion powder or—as she claims—love.
Me and my mom in London, when my family visited me there for Christmas in 2008. And yes, I made her make me mashed potatoes.
Faculty and students all over the country are transforming their learning spaces into Places of Invention.
How do we know?
On March 22, the Lemelson Center hosted our partner NCIIA (National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance) and a student invention showcase, part their annual conference, Open Minds. Part of the program was “Spaces of Invention,” six Ignite talks by students and faculty who describe their Design Kitchens and maker spaces from the collegiate through K-12 arenas. Speakers include: