Monday, December 16, 2013

Wanted: Elf

Have you ever created a toy or a game?

What if your career was in toy-making---without living at the North Pole?

Check out this video from Hasbro-it talks about the process of making toys:    
Triogenius was surprised to find that, through mergers with other toy manufacturers,  Hasbro makes the following: Tonka Trucks, Playskool, Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Tinkertoys, Mr. Potato Head, GI Joe, Sesame Street, Lite Brite, Lincoln Logs, Pound Puppies, and games like Battleship, Candyland, Cranium, Jenga, Scrabble, Dungeons and Dragons, Ouija Board, and Pictionary.

Here is the design process of how Transformers toys are made:

What steps are involved in the process?

  • Design: does the toy do anything? Does it connect with a computer or phone or controller? Is it part of a series of related toys? Does it have accessories? Does it come in different sizes?
  • Is it a building toy with many parts that fit together?
  • Manufacture--process and product-people need to design the machines that produce the toy
  • Use of motors or mechanics within the toy
  • Materials used to make the toy (plastic, metal, fabric, etc.)
  • Safety
  • Design of outside paint and decals
  • Design of packaging
  • Planned changes for future models
  • Testing: do the mechanics work, if any? Is it durable?
  • Sales-how will you sell the toys? Online? In other stores, or in your own store? How do  you price them?
  • Packaging
  • Website design and maintenance
  • Accounting
  • Law as it applies to patents, copyrights, and liability
  • Marketing, including naming the toy, and tie-in products such as books or clothes featuring that toy
  • Or, for example, Pixar may make a movie and want toys to sell that are related to it-how do you create them?
  • Management
Thus, any number of degrees could tie in to this business: Business Administration, Art, Engineering, Web Design, Marketing, Law, or Accounting, are some examples.

Some toy manufacturers employ child life experts to see what toys are appropriate for which ages, so you may be able to use a degree in Child Development, Education, or Psychology to work for one of these companies.

A video of how K'nex are made:

Manufacturing toy trains:

Here is a great interview with a self-employed toy manufacturer:

Some info about product research at Fisher-Price:

Let's not forget Tickle-Me Elmo (Playskool): What made that toy so successful?
You might want to make a specific kind of toy, such as educational toys.
There is a market for 'green' manufacturing (making things with as little environmental damage as possible); simpler toys, wooden toys,

 dolls, stuffed toys,

building toys
Here is a history of the Lego company, based in Denmark:

....or toys for a specific age group.
There are toys meant to be played with outside...

As well as games and puzzles; and toys for children to imitate grownups:
And don't forget science experiment toys:
What was your favorite toy when you were little?
It's good to have some fun every day---what if you could work with toys all the time?


Monday, December 9, 2013

3D Printers: Problem Solved?

Have you heard the term "3D Printer" and wondered what that was all about?

Here's a basic explanation:

The official term for this process is actually "Additive Manufacturing"  or "Rapid Prototyping," but the term 3D Printer seems to have stuck. It's called "Additive" because the process adds materials instead of subtracting, which is the case with a CNC machine. Those machines waste materials because they make the object but it will have to be trimmed.

A CNC machine:  "CNC" stands for Computer Numerical Control," which can involve milling, a lathe, or a grinder. Notice how large this machine is.

3D Printers make things in layers in order to make exactly what is needed. They can use over 100 different materials, including plastic, metal (even titanium), nylon, and human tissue.  They have been used for over 30 years, but until recently were only used by businesses for commercial use and weren't available to everyone. They have become relatively inexpensive and easy to use so that most of us would be able to purchase one, and to understand the process of making things on these printers in our homes. Programs can be 'user-friendly' to make it possible for anyone to understand.

First, you need a 3D printer. This machine can be very small or very large, depending on how large an item you want to create. You'll also need the materials to feed the machine. Then, you must have a computer program that 'understands' when you are telling it to make something. It's possible to use Microsoft Word when creating an object, but the computer needs to know what to do with your instructions. Once you have your concept of the object the way you want it, you send it to the 'printer' similar to when you send a document to your typical printer. The difference, of course, is that it isn't going to print on paper but rather manufacture what you sent to it using whatever materials your 'printer' is capable of. The printer 'understands' what the computer has instructed it to do.

                                Smallest known 3D printer, about the size of a carton of milk.

These printers are currently available starting at about $100 and up. Some can use multiple materials, some only one. Some can use several colors in one production and others, only one. Producing your object can take an hour or several days, depending on how complex it is.

If you aren't one to design something from 'scratch,' you can scan an item and then have the computer 'read' how it is made, then make a copy, using the right software.

How is this useful?  3D printers can make:
Manufacturer prototypes and models

Glasses frames
Parts for virtually anything from engines to dishwashers
Human organs, using human tissue, especially using the person's own cells to avoid rejection
Prosthetics: Artificial limbs, eyes, etc., braces, and possibly dentures
Musical instruments

Our military has used it to make unmanned drones
In theory, you could make all the parts necessary to make another printer

Imagine being able to make that one part for a car or a replacement part for a broken appliance...especially if the part is hard to find..or plumbing pipes, or a thermostat, or a lock, just by firing up the 3D printer and sending a file to print.

Here's an article about 3D printing as used by Hasbro, the toy manufacturer:  

If a child wants to connect his Legos to Lincoln Logs and you have a creative side, you could design some kind of adapter and print that out on your 3D printer.

                                Action figures made on a 3D printer-some assembly required?

              A 3D-Printer made this model of a house---it would make a fun dollhouse, too.

Innovating medical technology will let us use 3D printers for health purposes as well:
Artificial outer ear with hearing aid, the ear is from human tissue.

         This boy's dad made him an artificial hand for $10.

         This person has made a car using 3D printing.

With a 3D printer, you could make custom-fit clothing.

If you don't have your own 3D printer, as long as you have the instructions in your file, you can upload it to an online service and have someone else 'print' it at a reasonable price and ship it to you. In the future, these 3D print shops may be seen at your local mall just like any other business.

And what about the future? What will 3D printers be used for in a few years?

  • It is already being used for some airplane parts, and this will probably continue. These parts are lighter, making the plane more efficient to fly.
  • In the health field, titanium bone implants, orthodontics, and artificial veins and arteries may be made using 3D printing
  • 3D printers will probably be standard in schools from Kindergarten through college. They can be used to teach, creating models and copies to show students how things work
  • There is some discussion whether it might be a better idea to send 3D printers to disaster sites so that needed items can be produced on-scene---especially for health care
  • Items currently only available at museums could be copied, from historical clothing to animal bones, so that the 'cloned' exhibits can be brought around the country to people who can't travel to places such as the Smithsonian:
  • A discussion on how 3D printers could be used in the space program:
What would you do with a 3D printer?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Be Sure To Slurp Your Soup in Japan

What do you know about basic etiquette? Whether attending a formal dinner or just as a matter of everyday courtesy, here are some basics:

  • If you receive an invitation that says, "RSVP" -- you need to RESPOND. The host needs to know how many people to plan for. Courtesy means you let him or her know just as soon as you know whether you will attend the event.
  • Notice how your invitation was addressed: If it does not say "and guest", then you shouldn't bring a guest. It will be addressed to the specific people who are invited.
  • Putting the host on the spot by asking to bring a guest, or perhaps your children, makes things awkward.
   Mr. Grinberg and Ms. Berniker are invited. Their children, room mates, best friends, accountants, gurus, and dogs are not.

  • Gentlemen: remove your hat when you are in a building.
  • Anyone should open a door for an elder as a sign of respect.
  • It's never wrong to say 'please' and 'thank you' when appropriate.
  • Gentlemen, open the door to a building for the ladies. Ladies, say 'Thank You.'
  • Also open and shut the car door for a lady when getting in or out of the car. If it is a dressy event and especially if she's wearing high heels, offer your hand to help her exit the car.
  • As a courtesy, gentlemen should walk on the 'outside' of a sidewalk and women on the 'inside'.
  • Ladies and gents, conservative dress is always the best choice.
  • Be on time!
  • Be patient and do not interrupt someone who is speaking.
  • When you finish a dance, thank your partner if you are then parting ways.
  • It is always wise not to bring up topics of controversy such as religion or politics.
  • Turn your cell phone ringer off, and put the phone away when you are in a group of people.
  • Respect the personal space of others: don't stand too close, don't look over someone's shoulder unless asked to.
  • Wait your turn.
  • Say 'excuse me' if you sneeze, and cover your sneeze. And use hand sanitizer.
  • If you are ill, call and cancel your attendance rather than expose others to your germs.
  • When in doubt, just smile and nod.

And then....there's the matter of table manners: Does this strike fear into your heart?

                                   Why are there so many of everything, and which is mine??

The basic rule is, when you sit down at the table, you will eat to your left and drink to your right. That is, your plates are to your left, and your drinkware is to your right. Keep this in mind when the place settings are so close together that you can't tell. Start with the fork or spoon the farthest out and work your way towards the plate (for example, salad is served first, then dinner; or, soup and then dinner).

Here's a diagram of what it's all for:

Check this out for instruction:  this doesn't work!!!!

How to behave yourself at a formal dinner:

Basics at the table...
  • Don't chew with your mouth open. Eat as quietly as possible.
  • If you get something in your mouth you don't like, discreetly deposit it in your napkin--without a remark about how gross it was.
  • No elbows on the table.
  • Don't hunch over the table.
  • Put your napkin in your lap.
  • Grooming is done in a restroom or at home, not in public.
  • When unsure, subtly look around you to see what others do.

Have you noticed the way people use their forks and knives in England? Check this out:

In some countries, eating with your hands is perfectly acceptable. In Asian countries, people use both chopsticks and forks, knives, and spoons as we do.

And what of the history of eating utensils?

You may think the number of times you will need to know these rules, will be seldom. There are times, however, when a job interview may include a 'business lunch,' and knowing the right way to manage it will be helpful in relaxing a bit during the lunch. Your potential boss may be watching to see how you handle yourself in that situation.

Just for fun, Triogenius checked out  some etiquette rules in other was rather enlightening:

In England:
Wear a solid tie, rather than a pattern; tie shoes rather than slip-ons; and a shirt without pockets if possible.
Tap your nose if you are talking about something that should be confidential.
                                  Mr. Colbert missed the memo about the patterned tie.
Don't touch others in public, such as a touch on the arm or a pat on the shoulder, or to remove a piece of lint from someone's coat.
Discussing the cost of things, such as how much you paid for your trip or for an item of clothing, is considered in very bad taste.
If you find yourself in a waiting line, or a 'queue' as they call it, just wait---trying to get ahead in the line is very offensive in England.

In Japan:
Do slurp your noodles and soup to show you enjoy the food.

Don't tip your servers.
When you stay in someone's home, when taking a bath, don't drain the bathwater as others will use it. As the guest, though, you are likely to get the first bath. And, ...ew.
Do not stare into the eyes of someone who is speaking to you.
It may be considered impolite to introduce yourself; wait for someone to introduce you to the others.

In Australia:
Dress casually at almost any occasion.
Bring your own beer to a restaurant.

Sorry....couldn't resist...

In Argentina:
Don't wear a soccer jersey, and especially if it's not for an Argentine team. They take their football (they call it 'football') very seriously, and there are deep rivalries.  
Dress well; Argentina is considered a high-fashion country. Ragged clothes and flipflops are not recommended.
When you eat at a restaurant, cross your fork and knife on the table to indicate you're finished.

In Greece:
Don't start eating until your host starts.
Finish everything on your plate.
Join in when they dance.
Take your shoes off when you enter someone's home.

In Russia:
Don't leave the dinner table until you are invited.
Don't give a baby gift before the baby is born: it's considered bad luck.
Give only an odd number of flowers, an even number is only done for funerals.
Don't point with your finger, use your whole hand.
                                    Count these before you give them

In China:
Do not wear brightly colored clothing for a business meeting.
Don't give a clock as a gift.
Don't give a set of four of anything as a gift.
Do not wrap a gift in white paper, white indicates mourning.
Do not finish everything on your plate; otherwise, it looks like your host should have given you more.
Do not whistle.

For a list of other countries and their etiquette customs:


Remember: Sit up straight, be polite, and no gift clocks. Now you're all set.

Monday, November 25, 2013

CSI: That One Strand of Hair.........

CSI programs have been on TV for a number of years. Do you watch them and think: I'd like to do that!?

Remember, what you see on TV is a dramatized account of how crimes are solved. Many are never solved, and they all take much more than an hour to figure out. Results from tests may take quite awhile. There are many different people and agencies that must work together, and that does not always happen smoothly. Not every town has the ability to hire enough help, and there is considerable paperwork involved when investigating a crime. For more comparisons, see:

The definition of 'Forensic' as an adjective refers to evidence used in courts to determine the facts of a crime, and also scientific research that proves or disproves a theory. Forensics is the study of arguments and debate. It comes from the Latin word 'forum'. The word was first used about 1659.

There are a number of different careers you might choose in order to work at crime scenes or with evidence. Job titles vary by location, but three names for someone who works at a crime scene are: Forensic, Crime Scene, or Evidence Technologist.

                                        Evidence is numbered at the crime scene.

A Forensic Technologist typically has a Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science. This person collects evidence such as fingerprints, hair, fibers, clothing, and blood. He might also take pictures of the crime scene. He may testify at a trial as to his findings.

Keep in mind that the title "Tech" doesn't necessarily mean the job requires only a Technical School certificate, although there are some which require an Associate of Science. Some 'Tech' jobs involve a 4 year degree. The term is short for 'technologist.'

                                Types of fibers, microscopic view

  • A Forensic Tech may specialize in fingerprint evidence.
                                 This car has been dusted for fingerprint evidence (what a mess!).

                    Here is a criminologist attempting to make a fingerprint match.

  • Ballistics Experts are always in demand, to determine how bullets were fired and from what type of gun.

                                   All the bullets pictured above have been fired.

 Showing the size of a bullet cartridge. This is likely a mock crime scene.

  • An Arson Investigator-Working closely with the fire department, this person would determine the origin and cause of a fire and whether it was deliberately set: What is the pattern of the burned area? Where did it start? Was it an accident, like an electrical fire, fallen cigarette, or a tipped candle, or did it start 'on purpose' with an accelerant, such as something like gasoline, lighter fluid, paint, or anything else that would catch fire quickly?

An arson investigator would be likely to have a 4 year degree plus added certification in Fire Science and Investigation. A major in Criminal Justice, Science, Engineering, or Chemistry would be an appropriate path towards ultimately being an arson investigator. Frequently, arson investigators have experience as firefighters, on a paid or voluntary basis, in order to become more familiar with fire investigation.

Here is a page describing fire investigation:

                                  How can you tell where this fire started?

You may be interested in doing DNA research as it pertains to crime:

A Criminalist would have a 4 year degree in Natural Science or Physical Science, with an emphasis on Chemistry as well.

                              A casting made of a shoe print found near a crime scene

                 A plane crash requires investigating: What happened, how, when, and why?

There are also criminologists who have a specialty such as Cyber Crime or Computer Crimes; a Digital Evidence Analyst, or a Computer Forensic Examiner. These crimes involve fraud or scams, identity theft, online stalking, pirating music, or 'simply' examining the hard drive of a computer to see what activity is on it. Demand for this specialty has been growing rapidly.

Here is the FBI site on Cyber Crimes:

All of these specialties can be studied after you obtain a degree in Criminology, Law, Law Enforcement, the Court System, Corrections, or Corrections Policy.

Crime scene investigators of most types will work with coroners or Pathologists (M.D.s) to determine the cause of death of a person when a crime is suspected.


Coursework for a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology would include:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Crime Scene Evidence
  • Crime Scene Law
  • Violent Crime Scene Investigation
  • Criminology Theory
  • Research Methods

You may also need to study photography and death investigation to add to your knowledge as you do your work. With new methods and technology becoming available all the time, you will need to continue your education throughout your career.

Be aware that working in this field means you may work any time or any shift during a 24 hour period, in any kind of weather, inside or outside, and sometimes in unpleasant or unsafe environments. You need to have good communications skills, be good at writing, have good critical thinking skills, have solid computer skills and work well with others, and it will be helpful if you are physically fit.

There are a number of schools in Minnesota that offer Forensic Science degrees-again, make sure the school is accredited in order to be sure it is accepted by law enforcement agencies:

Metro State offers a 4 year degree in Computer Forensics, Criminal Justice, Human Services with an emphasis on Corrections, and Law Enforcement as well as a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice:
 Hamline University offers a Bachelors in Criminal Justice; Brown College offers both an Associates and a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice as well.
Alexandria Tech offers both an Associates and a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement.
 Hibbing offers an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement; Inver Hills Community College offers an Associate Degrees in Law Enforcement, and in Criminal Justice.
Winona State offers Bachelors Degrees in Criminal Justice:
MCTC offers an Associates Degree in: Computer Forensics, Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, and Law Enforcement.

Bemidji State offers both an Associates and a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice.

Here is a link to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that may also give you some information on these careers:

Think about becoming a crime scene investigator. Maybe you can find the answers!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Digging Up Dirt: A Career as an Archaeologist

Do you like learning about history? Why not consider a career in Archaeology?

An Archaeologist studies  past cultures based on artifacts, or relics, left behind by people who died many years ago. He might discover tools used by the people in the area, cooking vessels, weapons, or furniture, or even coins. He might find items that have words on them that need to be deciphered.

                      You can uncover the stories of ancient people through knowledge of their languages.

                       In ancient times, people made pottery that was functional and beautiful.

Archaeology is practiced on several levels: you might be an Academic Archaeologist, or a professor of archaeology; that career requires a PhD, or Doctorate degree. A Project Archaeologist would  write a proposal asking permission to do a dig, supervise the dig, and then would write a report afterwards describing what was found at the site. Project Archaeologists usually hold a Masters Degree and sometimes a PhD.

2,000 terra cotta (baked clay)warriors unearthed by farmers near Beijing, China. Learn more about them at:

A Field Archaeologist would be one of many workers sifting through soil and excavating at a dig. This person would likely need a Bachelor of Science degree and would have less authority.

                           Ashkelon --an ancient city uncovered in Israel.

A Museum Archaeologist would receive artifacts to study in a museum, would catalog them into the collection, and be in charge of keeping them secure. This person would likely need a Masters degree as well.

   This is the bottom of a boat, uncovered near London before they hosted the Olympics in 2012.

To work in this field (!) you should be adaptable, tolerate different climates well, write well, enjoy collaborating with others, and have a sincere respect for other cultures. It is likely that you would travel to new places to participate in digs, whether in other states or on the other side of the world, so you would have to enjoy travel.

You may find one particular kind of relic more interesting and specialize in that: Do you like to be the one that 'dates' an object? Do you prefer working with metals? What about specific kinds of pottery? Tools? Particular cultures of people? Burial grounds and customs?

You can also work for the National Park Service, which preserves sites in the U.S: .

               You may work with Archaeological Anthropologists when discovering human remains.

This is Machu Pichu in Peru. Have you ever heard of it?
Check it out:

You might discover a treasure trove like these silver objects, found stashed in the bottom of a Viking ship in Sweden:
Mixed in this pile are armbands and coins; Learn more about it at:
You can even 'dig' under the ocean; here are divers
 exploring a shipwreck:

Ancient ruins are present all over the world, and you can discover settlements, ancient burial grounds, Native American villages, even work with previously undiscovered graveyards, right here in the U.S. 

                                                        Assorted Native American objects

                            Mesa Verda National Park, Colorado: a Cliff Palace

                         This is an old cemetery in Philadelphia: What could be learned here?

Archaeologists have been working at the site of the Jamestown settlement for some time, discovering how they lived, what they wore, what tools and cookware they used. Jamestown was the first permanent colony or settlement in Virginia.

Look at the stunning silver coffee pots and chocolate servers:

Here is a longer video featuring several found objects: 

How can you get started exploring the idea of Archaeology as a career?

 Find your State Archaeological Society: Here is Minnesota's Society:

      A student showing pottery shards to her professor. They hope to carbon-date these pieces.
Here is an organization that sponsors volunteer archaeologists: The name is 'Passport In Time' or 'PIT.'
Here is a site that discusses archaeology as well:

And check out the Archaeological Institute of America:

Think about it: a career spent uncovering and solving ancient mysteries. Interested?

Little metal books about the size of a credit card, found recently Jordan, dated to about 1 A.D.