There is a hacker space in Bloomington called Bloominglabs, but you won’t find members of this group breaking into high-tech computer systems or stealing identities. “Hacker spaces” today are all about taking things apart to see how they work, learning new skills, and creating projects for fun.

“Hacker spaces are a growing movement worldwide,” says Steve Charlesworth, one of the nine founders of Bloominglabs. The idea came to fruition after the IU Robotics Club folded two years ago and a handful of its non-student members were in need of a place to complete projects and keep up the friendships they had made. After spending the last year in The Collaboration Room on North Rogers Street, Bloominglabs made a recent move to West Roll Avenue.

Bloominglabs currently has 14 paying members (monthly dues pay for the workspace and material for projects) and a handful of nonpaying regulars. The group meets every Wednesday for a weekly public meeting, when anyone is welcome.

Having a physical space is crucial to completing their projects, says Charlesworth, which have included homemade electric guitars; beetle-shaped mini-robots that use sensory-powered antennae to push away from objects; and a Twinkie launcher, one of the group’s favorite devices, that uses compressed air to launch the snack into flight.

Bloominglabs also has room for artistic inventions like the Strandbeest, a creature that looks like a giant skeletal caterpillar. Originally created by Dutch artist/kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen, the Strandbeest walks on its own with the help of natural wind. The Bloominglabs version is made from wood pieces, washers, and screws.

“That’s what it’s all about, turning ideas into realities,” says Bloominglabs regular Nathan McDaniel.

As much fun as the group has on such projects, they also spend time educating people in the community through workshops. One of those was making “beetlebots”—battery-powered, soap-sized robots—at WonderLab, the children’s science museum.

When Bloominglabs members are not using their imaginations, playing with toys, or learning new skills, they are working to support their mission: “To make the world more awesome!”

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