Five labs to blow your mind at Chicago Ideas Week

Click here to check out our interactive preview of Chicago Ideas Week. Map by Michael Epstein.
Click here to check out our interactive preview of Chicago Ideas Week.
Map by Michael Epstein.

By Michael Epstein

Chicago Ideas Week kicks off Monday with a deluge of more than 180 enlightening things to do, including tours and hands-on activities at some of the city’s most innovative businesses. Now celebrating its fourth year, Chicago Ideas Week brings together world-class minds for discussions, events and demos.

“You go the West Coast,” said Chicago Ideas Executive Director Jessica Malkin. “You go the East Coast. There tend to be a lot of ideas-style platforms that bring lots of thinkers together and people from a lot of different sectors come to one place to interact and learn. Despite the fact you have so many Fortune 500 companies here in the Midwest and a good deal of major educational institutions, we were in a desert.”

Here are a few upcoming highlights to get excited attendees out their seats and into these new ideas. If you’re looking for more, you can check out the complete schedule for Chicago Ideas Week 2014 on the Chicago Ideas Week website.

A 3-D printed spine will be among the plastic parts shown at ProofX's lab for Chicago Ideas Week 2014. Photo by Michael Epstein.
A 3-D printed spine will be among the plastic parts shown at ProofX’s lab for Chicago Ideas Week 2014. Photo by Michael Epstein.
  1. ProofX Bio FabLab: Printing Body Parts in 3-D — Monday, 10am-12pm

Biomedical 3-D printing company ProofX works with doctors to print custom life-size replicas of patients’ organs. Surgeons can practice or modify complex procedures on exact replicas of their patients, theoretically saving time and reducing risk.

After a tour and presentation with some examples of the kind of 3-D printing they can do, the ProofX team will show off the first step of the process: a “virtual fly-through” of an area of the body based on an MRI or, for a few willing participants, a scan done on-the-fly.

It’s like a “Magic School Bus” video game with a level based on your own body!

ProofX Bio Fablab Printing Body Parts in 3-D will be held at the University of Illinois – Chicago’s Health Technology Innovation Incubator, 2242 W. Harrison St.

  1. Gastrophysics With Charles Spence — Tuesday, 3pm-4:30pm

Most of our enjoyment of food comes from context, not from our taste buds, according to experimental psychologist Charles Spence.

Spence, head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford has worked with restaurants and companies to maximize the flavor of foods, based on what we see, hear and smell, in addtion to what we taste. Even the color and shape of your plate can affect how sweet your dessert tastes.

After a diagnostic test to establish your distinctive palette, Spence will perform a series of short experiments showing some of the many ways our other senses can alter taste, including the “jelly bean test” where people will taste jelly beans in different ways and, according to Spence, discover how much flavor comes from their noses, instead of their mouths.

Gastrophysics With Charles Spence: Feeding Your Mind will be held at the Aon Center, 200 E, Randolph St.

A graphic recording of a discussion created by The Ink Factory during Chicago Ideas Week 2013. Image provided by The Ink Factory.
A graphic recording of a discussion created by The Ink Factory during Chicago Ideas Week 2013. Image provided by The Ink Factory.
  1. Think Like Ink: An Introduction to Graphic Recording with The Ink Factory — Wednesday, 9am-12pm

Do you ever doodle instead of taking notes in class or at work? After taking a class with the team from graphic recording studio The Ink Factory, your doodles will become your notes!

Graphic Recording is essentially the art of transcribing presentations — lectures, presentations — into mural-like visualizations. Like a hand-made infographic, their projects fall right into the sweet spot between information and entertainment.

The Ink Factory is hosting not one, but two separate tutorials over the course of the week where you can start to learn how to take what Malkin, who has worked with the Ink Factory on all four Chicago Ideas Weeks, describes as a “more efficent, effective and beautiful” way of taking notes.

The Ink Factory will be hold tutorials at Catalyst Ranch, 656 West Randolph St., on Monday, Oct. 13, and at the Ink Factory Studio, 1828 N. Milwaukee Ave.

An aquaponic device, similar to the ones made by The Sweet Water Foundation. Photo by Ryan Somma
An aquaponic device, similar to the ones made by The Sweet Water Foundation. Photo by Ryan Somma
  1. Sweet Water Foundation: The Mycelia Project — Wednesday, 1:30pm-4:30pm

The Sweet Water Foundation, an organization promoting sustainable living in urban communities, will teach participants about the wonders of aquaponics, self-contained growing devices that can grow fruits and vegetables just about anywhere, including your living room.

Participants at the lab will get the full aquaponics experience, from building a growing apparatus, to tasting food grown from an aquaponic set-up.

“This is not just an opportunity to see what an aquaponics laboratory looks like,” Malkin explained, “but to make your own aquaponics piece, understand what goes into creating that ecosystem and try out the food that they are creating in-house.”

The Mycelia Project will be held at The Sweet Water Foundation, 5749 S. Perry Ave., on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

The BonFyre/DigitasLBi technology showcase will feature a litany of gadgets. Image provided by DigitasLBi.
The BonFyre/DigitasLBi technology showcase will feature a litany of gadgets. Image provided by DigitasLBi.
  1. BonFyre and DigitasLBi: Fostering Creativity and Innovation Through Technology — Wednesday, 2pm-5pm

Commune with your inner techie! Check out all the technology you’ve been reading about but haven’t gotten the chance to try: Google Glass, the newest version of the Oculus Rift, more 3-D printing!

Given how many stories about new devices come and go, it’s easy to forget how novel that first experience with a game-changing gadget can be.

BonFyre and DigitasLBi: Fostering Creativity and Innovation Through Technology will be held at DigitasLBi, 180 N. LaSalle St., on Wednesday.