Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Investiture Ceremony of Vijay Kumar

Chicago Innovation Awards - UPSHOW

AT&T Hackathon at Kaplan Institute

New INC Magazine Blog Post by Kaplan Institute Exec Director Howard Tullman

Getting Refocused on the Photo Op

Is there anything more insipid than a politician participating in a photo opportunity with school children? Why the media plays along is beyond me. We need to use these empty news events as an opportunity for meaningful changes in our education system, so our kids are better prepared for the jobs that will await them.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology @tullman

 I used to think that there was nothing more painfully staged or artificial than the mandatory "sharing" sessions where some world leader or political candidate, sitting in a classroom in front of a group of elementary school kids and allegedly reading meaningful passages to them from some picture book, would be "casually" observed by a noisy posse of reporters and clicking cameras. These saccharine set-ups were regarded by most of us as just slightly more shameless and time-wasting as the mandatory state fair baby-kissings or the shots of someone chomping down on a steaming ear of fresh-grown country corn or a mustard-slathered corn dog.
Those of us of a certain age sadly recall a major media kerfuffle in 2002 when then President George Bush was photographed in just such a session holding a book he was supposed to be reading to some students.But the book's cover appeared to be upside down. Turns out that the photo was a photoshopped fake, but the message about authenticity was still loud and clear and everyone else (except maybe the kids in the class) was pretty much in on the joke. Complaining about the sloppy staging of a photo op is pretty much like sending your Big Mac back and complaining that you asked for it "medium rare" and not "well done" as if a Big Mac of any doneness is ever actually done well.    
The press whines about how and why they lost all their credibility with a large part of the American public but one of the root causes may have been repeatedly subjecting us to scenes like this (ripe for selfies and social media) and insulting our intelligence as well as serving as the worst kinds of willing flacks for the politicians. This seems to me to have been the beginning of the latest shift and sowed the newest seeds of the slippery slope into the cesspool. As we used to say, never interrupt your opponent when he is making a fool of himself. The media were more than willing accomplices to their own demise and, in their continued desperation for photo-ops and click bait, the decline just goes on and on.
I also often wondered if the politicians themselves would ever reach a point where they decided that it was just too embarrassing to continue to be party to such specious spectacles, but, at least to date, that doesn't appear to be the case. Even the ones who you would imagine have some semblance of dignity and seriousness can't resist the directions and dictates of their managers and the blandishments of the people that move their bodies (like hunks of meat) across the country and along the campaign trail according to the same time-old and time-tested conventions.
But more recently, I've come to realize that some of these sessions can and do serve an entirely different and beneficial purpose for the politicians and for those of us who understand the need to radically change our schools and our entire system of education. Today our schools - especially K-12 - continue to mortgage our kids' futures with processes and programs that haven't changed in a hundred years. The schools continue to put a premium on posture and punctuality rather than productivity, and on memorization and imitation rather than imagination and innovation. Sadly, we're not born bored; it's something we learn to be at school. And it's gotta change.
We're not equipping our kids to succeed in "new collar" jobs in a future where we know that the skills they will need are vastly different from the ones we learned so long ago. Today the only constant in their lives is constant change and the rate of the changes taking place continues to accelerate. And frankly, the only recourse that we as parents (and prospective employers) have is to convince the very same politicians doing these "dog and pony" shows in the schools that we need their help in recognizing, funding and effectuating some real changes in our schools. And that we need those changes yesterday.
The somewhat encouraging news is that as cynical, jaundiced, and beaten down as most of our representatives are these days, they still have something inside them that responds powerfully to seeing and interacting with young kids who are still curious and passionate about learning. Of course, they do have to be pretty young kids these days so that they don't talk back or say something snotty. But if you surround these guys with the right kids, the magic and their love of learning does come through.
Kids who still have a sense of ownership and agency in their futures and the imagination to think about how bright and wonderful those futures could be. Kids who haven't had their dreams snuffed and their naïve and native creativity crushed. And, at least in those moments, the optimism, the energy and their faith in the future is contagious and you have to hope that maybe just a little bit of it rubs off on their visitors.
Way back when, it really didn't matter how President Bush was holding his copy of the book because the kid was reading to him, not the other way around.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The State Journal-Register : Candidates for governor offer different economic visions

Candidates for governor offer different economic visions

In late 2017, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s reelection campaign debuted an adfeaturing three Republican governors from surrounding states sarcastically saying “thank you” to House Speaker Michael Madigan for “raising Illinois taxes” and “helping create new jobs” in their states.
The ad was an opening salvo in a campaign that has seen Rauner and his Democratic critics blame one another over who is more responsible for economic growth that lags behind most other states.
The state added slightly more than 50,000 jobs between September 2017 and last month, representing a year-to-year increase of just 0.8 percent, the fourth-slowest rate of job growth of any state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Such news has become a common refrain over the past few years, and it’s the economic reality that in part motivated Rauner to run for office in the first place. And now, it’s part of the reason why billionaire J.B. Pritzker is attempting to unseat him.
When Rauner first ran, he said that as a businessman without prior government experience, he would have the independence to make politically tough, but necessary choices to get the state’s struggling economy back on track.
Literature from his campaign website that year claimed the state was in a “jobs crisis” with the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest and among the highest in the nation, calling it “unacceptable.”
Since Rauner took office, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 6.1 in January 2015 to 4.1 percent now. And the state added slightly more than 200,000 jobs in that time.
But Illinois’ unemployment rate stubbornly remains higher than the national rate and that of most its neighboring states. And government statistics indicate the rate of job growth has been slower during Rauner’s tenure than the final years of former Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration.
The governor’s critics say he made the state’s already dire fiscal position worse by refusing to compromise on a budget, which led to a two-year impasse that was only broken when a handful of Republican lawmakers joined Democrats to override his veto.
In that time, the state’s already-soaring pension debt climbed, its backlog of unpaid bills ballooned to more than $16 billion and the uncertainty created hampered economic growth around the state.
In this backdrop, here’s what the candidates for governor have said about dealing with the state’s economy and creating jobs:
Republican Bruce Rauner
The governor pins most of the blame for the state’s economic woes on state Democrats and, specifically, Madigan, D-Chicago, who he argues stymied his agenda, which he claims would have helped turn around Illinois’ economy.
“The Madigan Machine has stood in the way for decades, obstructing necessary regulatory and spending reforms that would grow jobs and revive the Illinois economy,” Rauner said. “Instead, Madigan forced through a 32 percent income tax hike without spending reform that does nothing but drive business and jobs away from our state. When we reduce the tax and regulatory burdens on businesses in Illinois, the economy will thrive.”
Rauner said he would seek to lower the cost of doing business in Illinois by freezing property taxes and reforming the state’s workers compensation system. He also supports the creation of “right-to-work zones,” which would allow local municipalities to decide if workers should be required to join a union.
He said such reforms are necessary for the state to compete with its neighbors, which have less generous workers’ compensation laws and, besides Missouri, are all right-to-work states.
Rauner also opposes changing the state’s “flat” income tax structure to a “graduated” scale, which would allow the state to tax wealthier people at a higher rate than middle- and lower-income folks.
Instead, Rauner has proposed rolling back the 2017 income tax increase in the form of a $1 billion tax cut. However, he has not disclosed how he would close the hole the tax cut would create in the state budget.
And while state funding for higher education was decimated during the budget impasse, Rauner was a major proponent of launching the Discovery Partners Institute/Illinois Innovation Network, a University of Illinois system-led initiative meant to drive economic growth across the state through research and innovation.
The state budget that he signed in early June included $500 million in seed money for the initiative.
“We have fantastic research universities doing world class innovation,” Rauner said. “We need to make sure that we collaborate, coordinate, communicate, partner and accelerate the economic development that can come from that kind of innovation and fundamental research.”
Most pro-business groups, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers Association, are still backing Rauner, crediting him for holding the line during his first term on regulations and tax increases in face of a Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
“We’ve seen federally what happens when you take the shackles off job creators,” said IMA vice president Mark Denzler. “You see what the president has done in Washington with tax reform, reduced regulations, and that’s kind of created a spark across the country. Unfortunately, in Illinois, we haven’t had as much success because of the policies that have been enacted largely by the Democratic General Assembly or the reforms they’ve blocked.”
If he is reelected, however, Rauner’s allies acknowledged he would have to change his approach given the strong likelihood the legislature will remain in Democratic control.
“When he rolled out 48 items for a turnaround agenda in his very first State of the State address, that was overreach, no doubt,” said Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch. “However, Democrats have been the defender of the status quo, and I don’t care if you’re a conservative Republican or a liberal Democrat, almost no one is satisfied with the status quo.”
Democrat J.B. Pritzker
Pritzker, a venture capitalist and heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, has made his record as a businessman central to his campaign to unseat Rauner.
In its endorsement of Pritzker, Crain’s Chicago Business described the billionaire as “a known quantity in Chicago’s moderate business community,” and in many ways, “its unofficial mayor.”
Pritzker was instrumental in creating 1871, a Chicago-based tech incubator that has created an estimated 7,000 jobs since opening in 2012.
Former 1871 CEO Howard Tullman said the project would not have been possible without Pritzker’s leadership.
“1871 wouldn’t really exist without J.B.,” Tullman said. “Not simply because he was a part of the visualization and the conception, but because we wouldn’t have had a physical location without his willingness to underwrite the lease for the initial space.”
Pritzker said he would take a similar approach to job creation in the state by expanding the availability of microloans to increase access to capital for small businesses. Pritzker also proposes restoring and expanding Small Business Development Centers that provide mentorship, training and support to business owners.
Pritzker’s economic plan also includes a capital bill to invest in the state’s infrastructure, investing more resources into higher education and jump-starting the state’s manufacturing sector.
“Having engaged in building a fast-growing startup environment in Chicago, I know Illinoisans’ creativity and entrepreneurial drive is the best creator of new jobs for Illinois,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker, however, has caught the ire of business interests wary of his proposal to change the state’s flat income tax to a graduated rate. Such a change would require amending the state constitution. They say job creators in the state already face too high a regulatory and tax burden.
And there has been a level of uncertainty created as Pritzker has repeatedly deflected when pressed to provide proposed rates and tax brackets under a progressive system. Pritzker said such details will have to be negotiated with the General Assembly.
“Our biggest problem with J.B. isn’t that he’s not a good businessperson ... but it’s that he’s bought into this Bernie Sanders track of the far-left liberal ideology that is just completely inconsistent with a thriving, growing economy,” Maisch said.
And Pritzker’s more loyal backers dating back to the Democratic primary have been labor unions, which leads some in the business community to believe he will not make the tough, but necessary decisions when it comes to pensions, worker’s compensation and other reforms to make the state more business-friendly.
But Pritzker’s supporters say the billionaire is pragmatic and will ultimately be a governor who listens to the concerns of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Tullman, who has worked with both Pritzker and Rauner in the past, said Pritzker’s collaborative approach would be an asset in the Governor’s Mansion.
“So I’ve known both of these guys, and I would say that J.B.’s diverse experience, his ability to delegate and his ability to get along with all kinds of different people — and entrepreneurs are not easy to get along with — I think that all of those skills will be beneficial in trying to get his arms around the structure of the bureaucracy, which is the state government,” Tullman said.
And Pritzker, if elected, said he would serve as the state’s “chief marketing officer,” which he said would be a contrast from Rauner, who he believes “made our state’s problems worse by repeatedly bad-mouthing Illinois.”
Libertarian Kash Jackson
In keeping with his party’s ideology, Jackson believes a key to making the state more business-friendly is to get government out of the way.
“Illinois already has high taxes and compliance costs, but the constant increase in these taxes, fees, and regulatory requirements makes Illinois an unattractive place for businesses to want to set up shop,” Jackson said.
Jackson believes that fees associated with opening a business should be reduced to a bare minimum and that state occupational licensing should be greatly reduced, arguing that red tape and high costs hamper job growth.
The Libertarian also believes the state should lower the minimum wage, which he said will help small business owners struggling to make ends meet.
Conservative Sam McCann
McCann, who is running as a pro-union, social conservative, said he would work to restore “economic liberty” to Illinois.
He said he would work with the legislature to reduce the overall tax burden and to overhaul the state’s property tax system, but has offered very few details on how he would accomplish this.
Contact Brenden Moore: 788-1526, brenden.moore@sj-r.com, twitter.com/brendenmoore13.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Honored to have Artist Will Kurtz on hand as We unveiled his Einstein Sculpture at the Kaplan Institute

CRAIN'S PIX of the New Kaplan Institute

Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship by John Ronan Architects

Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship by John Ronan Architects

Photo © Steve Hall

It’s a big deal for any architect to build at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). It was a big deal when Rem Koolhaas did in 2003—the last major construction on Mies van der Rohe’s celebrated Chicago campus until now. In designing the latest addition, John Ronan, a Chicagoan and professor at the school’s prestigious architecture program, has more skin in the game. But Ronan wasn’t afraid to take risks, from a technical point of view, and with respect to history; his just-opened building embodies the spirit of Mies while at the same time representing a complete break.

The Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship—which hosts a variety of collaboration spaces for IIT’s team-based endeavors, contains state-of-the-art prototyping and fabrication facilities, and serves as the new home for the formerly downtown Institute of Design—is the first academic building completed at IIT in over 40 years. (Rem designed a student center; Helmut Jahn built residence halls the same year.) Dimensionally, the innovation center, as it’s more succinctly known, is a perfect fit within Mies’s orthogonal master plan, and it follows Mies’s 24-foot-square grid that served as the structural module. The low, rectangular building is similar in footprint and height to its neighbor to the south, Hermann Hall, a 1962 SOM version of Mies’s campus buildings from the 1940s and ’50s, including Crown Hall (1956), considered among his masterworks.
In terms of appearance however, the innovation center is nothing like the originals or later facsimiles.

Most obviously, Ronan’s building is all white—the only such one on campus—and a sharp contrast to the strong black palette to which even Koolhaas and Jahn adhered, and the 19th-century redbrick buildings originally part of the Armour Institute, IIT’s predecessor. And while Mies obsessed over the curtain wall, and integrating the structure into it—which SOM’s later buildings failed to fully do despite mimicking the roof girders of Crown Hall—Ronan turned the whole thing on its head with a startling choice for the facade. His puffy ETFE envelope is a first not just for this campus, but for the city. Says Ronan, “I wanted it to be like a cloud against the heaviness of Crown Hall.”

Indeed, while the other campus buildings seem so firmly rooted in both the ground and Mies’s rigid plan, the innovation center—its ETFE-wrapped upper level slightly cantilevered over the glass-enclosed ground floor to provide sunshading—hovers above the quad on one side and a parking area on the other. Though employed more prevalently in buildings in other parts of the world, ETFE’s architectural use in the U.S. has been limited mainly to sports and transit facilities. Fortunately for Ronan, his client, then president of IIT John L. Anderson, is a chemical engineer. As Anderson puts it, “ETFE is a hybrid of teflon and polyethylene. I like it.”

ETFE is also a material that was unavailable to Mies, which made it appeal to Ronan. The long bands of ETFE flowing along the exterior and interior of the 302-foot-long building remain permanently puffed, while two inner layers of the polymer membrane move back and forth pneumatically, responding to the amount of daylight. When the inner layer is pressed against the fritted outer layer, the offset dot patterns overlap to reduce light transmission. A building automation system “talks” to the facade, triggering fans, similar in size to those in CPUs, that circulate low-velocity air within the layers to mitigate glare and heat gain. The dynamic facade adapts throughout the day to changing weather in real time to minimize energy usage and maximize daylighting potential. As an assembly, the ETFE walls retain a rather opaque outward appearance during the day while providing somewhat transparent views from the inside. At night, they becomes more translucent, the luminous floating bands like a giant lantern on campus, according to the architect.

Ronan intentionally designed the 72,000-square-foot building to be so horizontal to make it easy for students and professionals from different disciplines to collaborate, resulting in vast areas not unlike Mies’s “universal space.” Given the choice of several locations, Ronan selected this site on the north end of campus because it was the only one that allowed him to spread out, and because of its proximity to buildings for various academic departments. The lot was once used for parking but was then planted; the mature trees, which had to be felled in any case because of emerald ash borers, were turned into wood for tabletops in the new LEED Gold–accredited building.

Within that long two-story volume, Ronan inserted two courtyards that bring daylight deeper into the structure. They are faced with a unitized curtain wall clad in low-E-coated insulated glass. These areas also provide stormwater detention by means of openings in the gutter around the courtyard, letting water run unrestricted down rain chains to the gravel-covered surface below, which is planted with serviceberry, hornbeam, and eastern redbud trees. On the upper level, a terrace walkway of galvanized-steel industrial planks wraps around the courtyards.

Despite its renown, IIT is not a wealthy university. Construction costs were kept to under $400 per square foot. Finishes are raw—concrete floors, visible steel columns sprayed with fireproofing, and exposed metal deck ceilings—though all cabling is white to maintain the cloud-like aesthetic inside and out. (Pops of Post-It Note colors enliven the Tribune Stair, an assembly space on the ground floor, and furnishings throughout the building.) In another sustainable move, Ronan merged HVAC systems with the structure by way of water-filled tubing embedded in the building’s floor slabs, to provide radiant heating and cooling. The ETFE foil is approximately 1 percent of the weight of glass, reducing the amount of required structure, and, when used as an exterior wall assembly, significantly less expensive than one in glass. Layered as it is here, it also has a higher insulation value than glass. One drawback of ETFE is its inability to serve as an acoustic barrier. Open studios and lounges, which are less disrupted by outside noise, line the perimeter of the upper level along the ETFE walls, where it does indeed feel like being in a cloud, or at least Bubble Wrap. Enclosed spaces for offices, conference rooms, classrooms, and project rooms are located within the core.

With so little construction at IIT, each addition is especially significant. Ronan’s choices for this building, even if surprising, were good ones. The first structures after Mies were inferior copies. A new wave of more daring construction had Koolhaas and Jahn simultaneously introducing curves to what was until then an inflexible campus aesthetic. Seventy-five years after Mies’s first building at IIT, Ronan is pushing things further. His design addresses 21st-century needs for collaborative space, sustainability, and cost efficiency while experimenting with materials and systems to channel the pursuit of innovation that its users aspire to and that Mies so memorably brought to the campus.

John Ronan will be speaking at RECORD's annual Innovation Conference on Thursday, November 1.

An aerial view of the school grounds shows Crown Hall in the foreground with the white innovation center on the opposite edge of campus.
Photo © Michael Goss

The ETFE facade appears opaque during the day.
Photo © Steve Hall

The building contains two planted courtyards; a stair leads to an upper-level terrace walkway.
Photo © Steve Hall

On the second level, open spaces line the ETFE walls while, deeper inside, project rooms are enclosed.
Photo © Steve Hall

The Tribune Stair is a gathering space on the ground floor.

Photo © Steve Hall

The building becomes a lantern at night.
Photo © Steve Hall

THYNG 5.0 Demo at the Kaplan Institute Grand Opening

Kaplan Institute - Grand Opening - Ribbon Cutting Remarks

Grand Opening Press Conference 
Remarks of Executive Director Howard Tullman


I want to start by advising those of you sitting on the Pitch that your seat cushions can be used as flotation devices in the event of a water landing during our flight. All kidding aside, as we formally open the Kaplan Institute today, the flight imagery couldn’t be more appropriate.

This is a place originally envisioned by our past President John Anderson as a launching pad where our student entrepreneurs and innovators could have their ideas take shape, their businesses be born, and ultimately their dreams come true. Dreams aggressively driven by a concrete commitment to the hard and ceaseless work needed to change our communities, our city and the world for the better. The basic culture of Kaplan couldn’t be simpler or clearer: you don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.

Along with Presidents Anderson and Cramb, Ed Kaplan (and the many others who have helped to make their vision into a reality) imagined an interdisciplinary institute combining all the resources of the university in a single place that would help to more fully equip and enable our graduates to enter the working world with the skills and talents necessary to succeed tomorrow in an environment where the only constant is change. 

Besides a solid technical grounding, the critical skills for the “new collar” economy include effective communication, empathetic leadership, a tolerance for ambiguity and goalless planning, a digital-first mindset, and an appreciation for the criticality of human-centered design in all we do. This is why we are so excited to have the Institute of Design here as a major part of the Kaplan Institute. The possibilities for collaboration, interactions, and serendipity are endless. And I want to acknowledge Vic Morgenstern’s extraordinary contributions in making ID’s return to the main campus a reality.

The vexing challenges of the future won’t be neatly packaged or suitable for silos; they will demand cross-disciplinary skills and team-based solutions that extinguish the boundaries between many disciplines and combine the best thinking and strategies of our students and faculty into unique and game-changing solutions.

One thing we know for sure is that no one today does anything important all by themselves. I’m proud to be building a new team here at KI including my Deputy Director Barbara Pollack and Jeremy Alexis who will head up our new, re-imagined and reinvigorated iPRO programs. We’re excited that Kaplan (working closely with faculty and students from our Engineering school) will host some of the exciting new VR visualization and planning technologies developed by Dassault Systemes of France – one of our newest corporate partners – and that we will be providing new Magic Leap MR equipment to our students as well thru our ongoing work with AT&T.

The broad and exciting projects we will undertake here (with the support and enthusiastic engagement of both our best faculty and our many business and industry partners) will help us address the serious needs, critical concerns, and enormous challenges ahead for all of us at a time where we‘re surrounded by both instances of enormous abundance and of shocking scarcity – often within the same communities – and at the same time.

Charity, compassion and kindness will help us solve some of these inequities, but ultimately only education and technology will provide the paths forward to real change and access for all to the opportunities that the most fortunate of us see all around. Part of the mission of Kaplan besides educating our own students is to reach out to the communities that surround us and help lift them (and especially their youth) up as well.

This is why we’re so excited to be partnering with several CPS schools including the Dyett High School for the Arts and with the talented engineering teams from Softbank Robotics to expand and offer some of our KI robotics programs to their students. 

Talent is everywhere in our great city, but opportunity and access to crucial resources doesn’t happen by itself. We need to make it happen and we need all of you to help.  
And speaking of help, let me introduce two of our newest Kaplan team members from Softbank Robotics. Pepper – can you give us a hand? 

Hello everyone. And thank you Howard! It is great to be here for the opening of the Kaplan Institute. I’m very excited about my new role here. It will be great working with the students to help everyone have a better understanding of robotics.

Excellent. Welcome to the team Pepper.

I’m also excited to take my talents to the Chicago Public Schools to help inspire more children to explore science, technology, and other STEM fields.

Howard: That’s great Pepper. Speaking of excitement, let’s cut the ribbon so we can officially open the doors. Can we get some help?

Pepper: Sure Howard. We’re more than happy to help out. (Ribbon is cut, and Pepper claps hands.)

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