Marketplace - American Public Media

Subscribe to Marketplace - American Public Media feed
Updated: 47 min 24 sec ago

PODCAST: Theme park traffic

Fri, 2015-07-03 03:00

On today's show, more on the shrinking stock market in Shanghai, which took a tumble today. Plus, we're headed into the thick of theme park season, and around the country-parks are adding new attractions, scarier rollar coasters, and wilder rides. We take a closer look at the role of a new ride in driving theme park traffic.

What's holding back wearable tech?

Fri, 2015-07-03 02:00

Personal health and wellness technologies are projected to be a $5 billion business this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association

Even President Barack Obama wears a wearable wellness device — a Fitbit — on occasion.

But, as it turns out, wearable technologies have a big obstacle to overcome: sensors — the miniaturized devices that measure things like speed and motion.

They are technically called MEMS, or microelectromechanical systems. We are most familiar with them in the forms of the accelerometers and gyroscopes that help smartphones and tablets keep track of motion. This is how we play games on our smartphones by just tilting and moving them, and how wearable wrist trackers count up our steps. 

"The sensor market today is being driven by mobile technology," Charlene Marini, vice president of marketing of embedded segments at ARM, said earlier this year, in an interview with Marketplace at the Consumer Electronics Show. "There's a huge volume, of course, in mobile.  And so mobile technology is being reused in things like wearables."

That reuse has had its limits. In wearable devices, current MEMS sensors have not been able to keep up with some of the rigors imposed on them. For example, they have not been as power efficient as needed.

They also do not perform all the functions that wearable device designers dream up. 

"A lot of these wearables end up in a sock drawer," says Karen Lightman, executive director of the MEMS Industry Group. "After you watch your steps for one week you're like, 'Yeah, I get it. I understand. I need to walk more. OK, that's not helpful.'" 

But what if you could track more than just your steps or your heart rate? There are efforts to do that by addressing the shortcomings of current MEMS sensors in key ways: building new sensors, creating software that better operates those sensors in more rigorous conditions, and better understanding the data coming out of current sensors.

The Chicago-based startup Rithmio is taking the latter approach. You can see the function of a program they've created in the video below:

Rithmio co-founder Adam Tilton is working on a program that can track all exercises by learning the unique patterns of movement from each exercise, as performed by each individual user. In a demonstration, he showed how Rithmio's program could recognize a new weight-training exercise within four repetitions, consistently, in multiple attempts.

"So, if you give me 10 seconds of motion-sensing data, I'll tell you whether the user did 10 jumping-jacks, or five bicep curls or whatever," Tilton says. 

Tilton could make his program even more accurate, if he had more sensors — ones embedded in clothes. But put those clothes in a washing machine, and the sensors would be ruined. Current sensors can't be washed.

"There's still issues with respect to interoperability. There's still issues with respect to energy and ... power management," says Lightman. "And for wearables that's a big deal." That's because consumers will want wearable devices (even smart shoes and T-shirts) that don't need recharging too often. 

There's a race to overcome these limits. Recently, Samsung came out with a new all-in-one chip that's more energy-efficient and has better communication. Intel has announced a similar chip.

Merini says sensors for wearables are quickly evolving, and within a few years there will be a "greater use of new types of sensors, that might not be applicable to phones. For instance, body type sensors, heart rate sensors, etc."

Mehran Mehregany, an engineering professor at Case Western Reserve University, is keeping track of technological advancements in wearable sensors. He says there are efforts to improve sensor technology so that they can measure not just our external activities and surroundings, but also what's happening inside our bodies.

"For example, it would be fantastic to do long-term, non-intrusive blood glucose monitoring," Mehregany says. "The sensor technology is not there to be able to do that type of measurement reliably."

Mehregany also points to accurate, reliable blood pressure monitoring, which he says is the "Holy Grail" for wearable sensors. Right now, MEMS sensors for consumer-grade wearable gadgets still can't reliably perform that measurement either, Mehregany says. 

But, he predicts that in 25 years, sensors will measure many vital signs and will be embedded in us, acting like a biological black box. Just as black boxes today keep track of the mechanics of an airplane.

Philadelphia: the largest city to legalize Airbnb

Fri, 2015-07-03 02:00

Philadelphia has legalized Airbnb and agreed to tax rentals booked through the site. The city is preparing itself for two huge events — The 2016 Democratic National Convention a year from now. But first up, the pope’s visit.

According to Philadelphia’s tourism bureau, more than 1.5 million visitors are expected to descend on the city for the Papal event.

Philadelphia has 15,849 hotel rooms. That might not be enough. And when there aren’t enough hotel rooms, prices go way up. Georgios Zervas, marketing professor at Boston University, has studied this. “If people want to be in Philly when the pope is visiting, and prices are extremely high,” Zervas says. "Then they might decide not to visit the city at all.”

Which would explain why the city would legalize and tax Airbnb rentals. But how many people even know that in a lot of cities, Airbnb still isn’t legal? Well, if you’re someone wanting to rent out your place you could look at Airbnb’s “Terms of Service."

It clearly states it’s up to you to check. But if you’re like most people: “We scroll to the bottom, click on agree, and move on,” says Cait Lamberton, who teaches marketing at the University of Pittsburgh. Usually at this point in the transaction, people intending to rent out some space are going to do it, Lamberton says.

“You know they’ve probably taken some pictures, they’ve probably written a description, they’re probably thinking about the rate they should charge,” she says.

In other words the legality of the transaction is kind of an afterthought.

Silicon Tally: We go together like guac and peas

Fri, 2015-07-03 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news? 

This week, we're joined by Brad Jenkins, Managing Director of Funny or Die’s DC office.

Walmart brings greeters back to the front door

Fri, 2015-07-03 02:00

If you’re planning on shopping at a Wal-Mart on this holiday, you may encounter a throwback from the company’s past. The Wal-Mart greeter is making a comeback at the front of some stores. In about 300 of its 4,500 stores, the company is testing a new program to cut down on theft.

“A few years ago, greeters were moved from the front door entrance to what’s called ‘action alley,’ which is over by the self-checkout area,” says Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick. Now the company is experimenting with moving them back, to greet customers as they walk in and let would-be shoplifters know someone is watching.

“They serve a twofold function,” says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems Research. “Ideally they make you feel welcome and, theoretically, they nip a few basis points off of shrink.”

“Shrink” is the industry term for merchandise lost to shoplifting, employee theft, and vendor fraud. It cost retailers an estimated $44 billion last year, according to a new survey by University of Florida criminology professor Richard Hollinger.  

Wal-Mart greeters will sometimes check receipts at the door. In other stores, the company is adding “asset protection” specialists in bright yellow vests.

When "internet famous" turns into just "famous"

Fri, 2015-07-03 01:30
$20 million

That's how much analysts say Digitour, a traveling show featuring teen social media celebrities, is set to make this year. Buzzfeed embedded a reporter on the tour, which has been packing sold-out theaters with centennial girls who want to catch a glimpse their favorite Vine and YouTube personalities. It's unlikely you've heard of them,  but Digitour's acts together boast tens of millions of followers, and a sponsored six-second video from them costs six figures. It's big business, big enough to potentially blur the line between "internet famous" and just "famous."

2

That's how many black-owned banks are in Chicago -- half as many as there were just a few years ago -- and one is on the brink of shutting down. That's a pretty major loss; during segregation those banks would give out loans to black homeowners and entrepreneurs when no one else would, and today community banks still diffuse racial prejudice in loan applications.

300 stores

That's how many of Wal-Mart's stores will be testing out greeters at the front entrance as an anti-theft measure. After having been moved to the self-checkout area for the past couple years, the greeters will be returned to their spot front and center — the idea being potential thieves will be deterred by the knowledge that someone is watching. Last year, theft cost retailers an estimated $44 billion.

19 percent

That's how far ratings dropped from last year at Viacom's cable networks, Bloomberg reported. The company at MTV in particular, all part of Sumner Redstone's media empire, is having trouble adjusting to disruption in the industry, but the reason why is divisive. Executives blame poor audience measurement, while others blame Redstone's alleged health problems and an unwillingness to take risks on programming.

10 percent

That's the percentage drop in digital music sales in the first half of 2015, according to a report on Nielsen stats by Billboard. But as the Verge reports, even more startling is the fact that people are streaming music twice as much as they did during the same period of time last year.

Richard Nixon 'wanted to be a good prince'

Thu, 2015-07-02 12:56

Nobody includes Richard Nixon on their list of the country’s best presidents, but Nixon had a lasting impact both politically and economically. Author Evan Thomas looks at the psyche of this anxious introvert and takes readers deep into Nixon’s mind in his latest book "Being Nixon: A Man Divided."

“Nixon's become kind of a cartoon to us. We think he's wicked and evil. I just didn't believe that,” says Thomas. “He wanted to be a good person. Late at night, he would take his yellow pad — his aides called his yellow pad his best friend, because he liked being alone with his yellow pad — and he would write notes to himself about who he wanted to be.”

Nixon aimed to be compassionate, joyful, generous … all of which he was not, or at least not often.

“Nixon was an intellectual, he really was. He read deeply and widely, but mostly about international affairs," he says. “For some reason, he neglected economics to his grief, and actually to the grief of all of us, because the stupidest thing he did was wage and price controls, which had a real cost.”

Nixon may have failed as a president in many ways, especially for breaking the Constitution, Thomas says, but he did make a lasting impact in other regards, such as opening up China, expanding Social Security benefits for the disabled, the Clean Air Act, arms control of the Soviets. Nixon was an activist … clever and Machiavellian.

“Machiavelli wanted to be a good prince. Nixon wanted to be a good prince. He wasn’t always a good prince, but he wanted to be.”

Read an excerpt from "Being Nixon":

 

Black-owned banks are dying. Here's why it matters.

Thu, 2015-07-02 12:54

Just three years ago, Chicago had four black-owned banks. Now there are two, and regulators have told one of them — Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan— to raise more capital or risk a shutdown. The decline is part of a national trend. Unlike the more-segregated days when these banks were founded, African-American customers can now take their business elsewhere.

However, black-owned banks provide a link to a proud history— and, research says, they may do something a lot more important.

At its height, in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, the South Side’s Bronzeville neighborhood was Chicago’s version of Harlem.

“Bronzeville used to be known as the Black Metropolis,” says chef and entrepreneur Clifford Rome at his new restaurant, Peach’s, across the street from Illinois Service.

“You had all these pioneers who put their businesses on the South Side of Chicago. So you could go to the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, right?” he says. “You had these great banks, you had all these entertainers.”

For example, pianist Earl Hines — who started playing in Bronzeville with Louis Armstrong in the 1920s —  spent the '30s playing national broadcasts from 39th Street. By the middle of that decade, a local teenager named Nat Cole — later nicknamed “King” — started getting some notice.

“Having all that meant you didn’t have to go anywhere else,” Rome says.

Nor did Bronzeville residents have the opportunity to go anywhere else. Segregation was in full force, and white-owned banks did not cross the color line to make loans.

That’s where Illinois Service Federal came in. As the bank’s CEO, Norman Williams, tells the story: “We were started in 1934 by 13 African-American men with $7,000.”

One of those 13 founders was his father.

“The bank grew very slowly,” Williams says. “Its mission was simply to provide home loans and help people open savings accounts.”

Today, with around $110 million in assets, the bank still has deeply loyal customers— like Clifford Rome. In addition to Peach’s, he runs a catering business, an art gallery and another restaurant on King Drive — and Rome says he has kept multiple accounts with Illinois Service for years.

He recalls his first visit to the bank. “Once I walked in the doors, it’s like a throwback,” he says, laughing. The bank’s current headquarters looked ultra-modern when it was built almost 50 years ago. “But it has this unique quality. It feels community.”

Rome says he banks with Illinois Service for the same reason he uses the dry cleaner next door and the bakery down the street: to support neighborhood institutions.

“You need a community bank — you do,” he says. “Even if that community bank doesn’t have the bandwidth to do everything larger banks do. It’s here.”

However, the financial crisis and the recession hit banks like Illinois Service especially hard. African-Americans, like Norman Williams’s borrowers, were more likely than others to lose their jobs. And miss mortgage payments.

“People didn’t abandon their home — they just got behind,” he says. “Good, decent people, but…” thanks in part to new banking regulations, their problems became Illinois Service’s problems. And that’s why regulators have the bank in their sights.

John Taylor, who runs the Community Reinvestment Coalition, sees community banks like Illinois Service disappearing all over the country.

“That’s really the challenge,” he says. “Disappearing with them is the personal commitment of boards of directors to make sure that those communities, those neighborhoods, prosper."

Taylor believes the issue here is not losing black banks but losing community banks. “The local is more key than the race of the bank president,” he says.

However, research shows that race plays a role too.

For a study published last year in a journal from Oxford University Press, a team of researchers from Rutgers, Brigham Young and Utah State universities sent “mystery shoppers” into about 80 banks. They posed as small business owners looking for a loan. They all had the same story and the same outfit — and were even selected to be equally tall and good looking — but some were black, some were white and some were Latino.

As one of the researchers, Rutgers business professor Jerome Williams, puts it: “We found significant differences.”

The study found bank officers asked tougher questions of minority applicants. For instance, they wanted to see more years of financial records.

The mystery shoppers also used hidden cameras.  According to the study, everybody who saw the tapes agreed: bank officers were just nicer to white applicants.

With white applicants, Williams says, “There was a lot of bantering, interaction, jokes — being very, very friendly.”

With the black and Latino mystery shoppers, not so much.

It led to a simple conclusion. For black and Latino entrepreneurs looking for a bank loan, “The playing field is not level,” Williams says. “There’s already a mark against you in terms of your background in applying for a loan.”

In that context, banks like Illinois Service seem even more important.

CEO Norman Williams says he is looking for community-minded investors, and thinks he’ll make it. “But it’s certainly something that does keep me up at night,” he says. “I do think how much good we could do, how much work needs to be done on the South Side of Chicago.”

Right now, he needs about $7 million in new capital to keep Illinois Service doing that work.

Univision plans its IPO

Thu, 2015-07-02 12:47

We direct your attention now to Securities and Exchange Commission form S-1, officially titled a Registration Statement Under the Securities Act of 1933, filed today by Univision Holdings. The country's biggest Spanish-language broadcaster is going public. No word yet on how many shares it'll offer or what those shares might cost.

But experts say Univision is at the top of its game. It's often beating the big networks during prime time among the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic. It's got local television stations at the top of their markets.

"Their numbers are up, their advertising rates are up, they're just doing a great job with the Latino community," says Alex Nogales, CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

And the Latino community is a community that advertisers want. Moody's analyst Carl Salas says Univision viewers are in "the perfect demographic." It's a demographic that's growing, that's young. And, Salas says, "the consumer spending represented by Hispanics is only increasing over time."

By some estimates, the spending power of the Latino community in the United States is around $1.5 trillion.

Angeline Close Scheinbaum, at marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks the very public fight between Donald Trump and Univision could be an important part of the IPO story. 

The decision by Univision to sever ties with Trump after he insulted Mexican immigrants, Scheinbaum says, allowed Univision to show potential investors its values. "From a consumer psychology lens, I think this couldn't have been better."

It's the sort of brand awareness that would be tough to buy.

Jobs report in 4 charts: who's working, who's not

Thu, 2015-07-02 12:46

The economy added a couple hundred thousand jobs in June — 223,000 if you’re counting — and the employment rate dropped slightly, to 5.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even so, “disappointing” was the word of the day, in part because the labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age people who have a job or are looking for one, fell to its lowest level since the late 1970s.

Teens looking for a summer job may have a slightly better outlook than last year, but there are a lot of “missing workers” in prime-age range of 25 to 54, says Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. She says these are potential workers who, because of weak job opportunities, are neither employed nor seeking a job.

Gould believes the fact that over two-thirds of missing workers are prime age is a “sign that economy is not that strong, and they don’t see a place for themselves in it right now.”

Turning to baby boomers: even though it’s well documented that many older workers are staying on the job longer than before, Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution, says it’s not enough to make up for the large number of boomers who are retiring.

“At age 65, more and more people are participants, and more and more of them are employed," he says. "Well, that might be a surprise, but nonetheless, it’s a small offset.”

Moving from age to gender: men left the labor force in June in big numbers, the continuation of a multidecade trend.

But after steady increases in the participation rate of women toward the end of the last century, they’ve also fallen off in recent years, says John Silvia, the chief economist at Wells Fargo.

"It may be that oftentimes the female is the second bread winner,” he says. “And the cost of her going to work, taking care of the kids, the marginal tax rates just don’t provide the incentives for the second bread winner, whether male or female, to go out there and get the job.”

Bubble wrap abandoning its signature pop

Thu, 2015-07-02 12:45

Take a moment to mourn the simplest of childhood pleasures: popping bubble wrap.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there's a new version set to hit the market.

It's called — for some completely indecipherable reason — iBubble Wrap.

And sadly, it won't pop.

 

BP reaches $18.7 billion settlement over 2010 spill

Thu, 2015-07-02 11:59

The final tab for BP — five years after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history — just got a whole lot more clear. The company settled with the federal government and five Gulf Coast states for $18.7 billion dollars on Thursday. That money will go towards environmental damage, legal penalties and state economic claims.

In all, BP’s total liability will exceed $40 billion dollars. So the question is, is the oil industry safer today?

"In a lot of ways, yes," says Marketplace’s Scott Tong. "The rules have changed. There are more audits of safety protocols than existed before. There is now a federal agency that exclusively does offshore oil safety, which did not exist before."

Click on the media player above to hear more.

Coding boot camp? There may be a Pell Grant for that

Thu, 2015-07-02 11:49

Coding boot camp students may want to get in the financial aid line. The Department of Education is considering making Pell Grants available to them.

The experimental program, which is still in the planning stages, would enable accredited colleges to “contract out entire programs” to coding boot camps that teach programming skills, allowing their students to receive the need-based grants.

Ben Miller, a senior director at the Center for American Progress, says he thinks the Department of Education’s plans stems from frustration about the cost of higher education.

“This is a chance to test out whether new actors can do as well or better than established colleges for potentially less money,” he says. 

How funds will be doled out, along with other details, have yet to be announced.

Accredited universities and colleges must adhere to Title IV requirements for their students to receive federal funding, Miller says. If a student drops out early in a program, the money must be returned.

“The thing that complicates it a little bit is this experiment authority they have allows them to waive some of those [stipulations],” Miller says. “So we just don’t know ... they might not have to deal with it.”

The Pell Grants could help coding programs attract a broader audience, he says.

Miller also says that the funding experiment should proceed carefully.

 “It’s important to conduct this as a true experiment, to measure quality and make sure it makes sense, and expand cautiously,” Miller says. “[It’s] making sure that you ... don’t expand eligibility so far that you’re letting in a bunch of providers who just aren’t as good." 

Why do some movies open early?

Thu, 2015-07-02 11:41

We're smack in the middle of summer movie season. Superheroes, dinosaurs and potty-mouthed teddy bears are duking it out at the box office, while rock monsters, secret agents and a vogue-ing Channing Tatum wait in the wings.

Heading into the holiday weekend, listener Erich Arabejo wrote in with this question:

"I've always wondered why movie studios release their movies on Fridays but start them on Thursdays or Wednesdays if it's a potential blockbuster hit."

Those types of debuts, at midnight or earlier, ahead of wide release, are usually geared toward the most dedicated fans.

"When I get into a movie, I want to find the way to see it as soon as I can," says Austin, Texas filmmaker Lex Lybrand. He and his wife regularly go to early screenings and midnight premieres. "If that's the soonest we can see it, that's what we're buying a ticket for."

In 2008, they didn't just buy tickets for the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight," they went to two shows in a row and then saw the Batman movie twice more over opening weekend.

Letting those types of super-fans see the movie first is key, film analyst Vincent Bruzzese says. They don't add much to the opening gross — they'd have likely gone opening weekend no matter what — but they help market the movie.

"The theory is if you get the diehard fans out first to see the movie on a Wednesday or Thursday, they're also the ones who are going to be most likely to spread positive word-of-mouth," Bruzzese says. 

Plus, the novelty of these special screenings — staying up all night or sitting through a huge marathon to be the first at a big blockbuster — generates a lot of coverage like this:

"If you're the film that gets in before the weekend, you begin to build buzz," says New York University professor Al Lieberman, a former film and television marketer. "It's out in the press immediately and on social media right away."

The "Harry Potter" movies hit a sweet spot, Lieberman says. They were popular with a broad audience, and many of those fans had the time over summer vacation to stay out late. The enthusiasm compounded over eight movies, and the series had some of the biggest midnight openings ever.

That's part of the reason the early release is a de-facto requirement for summer tentpoles. It's also why those debuts are happening earlier, sometimes starting at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday or earlier.  A super-early opening is usually reserved for the biggest of the big blockbusters, Bruzzese says, or an extremely competitive weekend.

The fervor around opening weekend dates back decades, Bruzzese says, to deals struck between film studios and movie theaters.

"[Studios] decided ... 'Since we get more of the box office receipts earlier in the run of the movie than later, we're going to try and front-load it,' " he says. "And that's sort of where opening weekend was born."

This arrangement is worth it for theaters if they know they can sell out the early shows, Bruzzese says, because that means by adding just a few more staff, they can move way more high-margin concessions than they normally would on a Thursday night. Opening early gives people more opportunities to get to the theater, and maybe even see a movies multiple times, like Lybrand and his wife did.

There are some risks of opening early. People are even more likely to spread the word about a movie they didn't like, Lieberman says, especially if they're a diehard fan who has stayed up until the wee hours to see it. Sometimes early word-of-mouth is exactly what studios don't want Bruzzese says, and they'll skip the early openings to avoid more bad buzz.

"When you're front-loaded so heavily with the super-fans and it doesn't knock it out of the park, I think you definitely do see a big falloff," Lybrand says. "You've got the guy who you know it going to love it in the office, and you ask him what he thought, and he says, 'Meh, it was OK.' "

What do you buy for an anniversary?

Thu, 2015-07-02 11:17

We asked people on the streets of downtown Los Angeles about the last anniversaries they celebrated. What do you buy for an anniversary? Who's influencing that? And who is making money off our emotions?  We asked Cassie Mogilner, an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to find out about the business behind anniversaries. 

 

Michael Jackson makes more money dead than alive. How?

Thu, 2015-07-02 10:09

At the end of his life, Michael Jackson was asset rich, but cash poor. The King of Pop was nearly $500 million in debt.  Today, his estate has grown by nearly $1 billion, as MJ mania reaches a younger generation. Six years on, the moonwalker continues to release hits and perform from beyond the grave:

To understand how this happened, we spoke with Zack O'Malley Greenburg, senior editor for Forbes and author of "Michael Jackson Inc."

What's your financial legacy?

Thu, 2015-07-02 08:45

Next week, we're talking about legacies on the show. We want to hear your stories of financial legacies: what's your legacy? How will you be remebered? Maybe you have a legacy without an heir, maybe you're building something for your future....

We want to know. Tell us about the economic legacies in your life.

Write to us! Reach out on Marketplace's Facebook page, send us an email or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND.

U.S. Army recruits young innovators

Thu, 2015-07-02 08:14

In a hotel in suburban Baltimore, kids file into a conference room wearing Army-issued white lab coats and safety goggles. The middle schoolers are among the finalists in the U.S. Army’s annual eCYBERMISSION STEM fair—20 teams selected from more than 7,000 around the country for their problem-solving projects.

Before the big competition, they break into small groups for some training.

“We’re actually going to have you guys do some inventing,” instructor Ralph Tillinghast tells his group, passing out packs of colored clay. He asks the kids to spend a few minutes designing a product to make their daily lives better. Twelve-year-old Kaleb Ruthardt gets to work sculpting a tiny robot.

“At our school, we aren't allowed to carry around backpacks, so we have to carry about five or six binders,” he says. “My ideas is to make a binder carrier.”

Kaleb is from a small town in West Texas, near Lubbock. School officials are not concerned about what kids might keep in their backpacks, he says.

“The teachers have tripped on the backpacks before, because our classrooms are kind of small,” Kaleb explains.

Asked if the teachers might also trip over a robot, he pauses.

“Well, maybe we could leave it outside,” he says. “I don't know.”

He’s still working it out, and that’s part of the innovation process. The workshop is designed to teach kids how to take an idea, test it, patent it and bring it to market.

Yes, these are 12- and 13-year-olds.

“There's no royalties to the Army,” Tillinghast says. “It’s really to help them, just inspire them to know they can take their idea and bring it to the world.”

Tilllinghast directs the Collaboration Innovation Lab at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center — where the guns and bullets are designed. The Army has a big stake in inspiring the next generation of innovators, he says. The competition is one of several Army initiatives to promote science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education.

“We can only hire U.S. citizens, so we need a pool in America of students who are competent in the STEM areas,” Tillinghast says.

To inspire those students, he shows them how to make a prototype using a 3-D printer and how to write a pitch sheet.

Shri Chander’s son Rushil is part of team from the Dallas area that developed an app to help first responders communicate in emergencies. She says it’s no wonder kids are motivated by the idea of commercial success.

“I think it’s all around them,” she says. “What they are watching on the news is ‘Oh, here’s a 12-year-old who showed up at the Apple developer conference because his app was rated No. 1 in the app store.’”

Chander herself is a scientist who now works on projects like the internet-connected car at AT&T.

“Pure science is sometimes so abstract that it's hard for 12-, 13-year-olds to kind of visualize it in their head,” she says. Apps and products they can touch and play with, Chander says, “that, I think, to them I think is more concrete.”

Several of the teams are already on their way to marketing their ideas.

Conglomerates DuPont and 3M have expressed interest in a more comfortable hazmat suit one team developed. Another team has filed a provisional patent application for its device to prevent drowsy driving. Kaleb Ruthardt’s group from West Texas designed a system for reclaiming wastewater from the fracking process. A Texas business has asked to check it out.

“It feels amazing, but we're doing this mostly for the environment,” says 11-year-old team member Dwayne Scott.

And for the thrill of making it to the finals, says his mom, Sharon Scott, who advised the team. They ended up beating out the hazmat suit to take home the top sixth-grade prize: $5,000 in savings bonds for each kid on the team.

“The importance was the idea, she says. “Bringing it to market, that's just the gravy.”

 

PODCAST: Rice in Cuba

Thu, 2015-07-02 03:00

It would appear people are dropping out of the American labor force in spite of new jobs created. More on that. Plus, as the U.S. announces plans to open a full embassy in Cuba, we look at the American rice industry, which is poised to benefit from more normalized relations, and ask how they’re preparing for changes ahead between the two countries. And with the Greek economy nearly immobilized by its debt, and Puerto Rico close to default, does the U.S. have lessons to learn from these situations? Marketplace's senior economics correspondent Chris Farrell weighs in.

Elizabeth Holmes on democratizing medical testing

Thu, 2015-07-02 02:00

At 31, Elizabeth Holmes is the youngest female, self-made, multi-billionaire in America, according to Forbes. The company Holmes created, Theranos, developed a home blood testing kit that could challenge the business model of medical labs. 

This spring, she was invited by the White House to be a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, where she’ll focus on attracting women to science, tech, engineering and math fields, as well as improving global public health.

Click the media player above to hear Elizabeth Holmes in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

 

Pages