Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 at Bloominglabs Part I

A lot happened at Bloominglabs over the past year. It was a better year for us than 2010, which in turn was better than 2009. Hopefully this trend continues. I'll try to sum it up for you here. This is not meant to be like a holiday 'Danny Jr. got a job at Wal-Mart in the summer' family update letter, but one of those magazine 'a look back at 2011' issues, so here we go.

The Big Move
In 2010 we moved out of the basement and into a shared space with The Collaboration Room. We continued to meet and work there for the first half of the year, moving to our grand new much bigger (1000 sq ft) space in early July. We had an Open House late in July that was pretty well attended, and aside from the location being less ideal than the Collaboration Room's (we got spoiled being downtown in walking or biking distance of many members' homes) it has been really great to have a good HQ with room for workshops and our ever-growing collection of tools. Sadly the Collaboration Room is no longer in existence and currently the space is one of many commercial spaces around town that's empty. I know the owners have to make money, but in our search we did find that a lot of commercial spaces are pretty pricey even with a lot of them vacant, and they aren't exactly making money w/ nobody in them.

Fortunately there are plenty of people in Bloomington determined enough to make cool things happen not to be discouraged by that, and I'm not just saying, 'yay for us' here, I'm thinking of other Bloomington institutions for creative types like The Bloomington Print Collective and The Paper Crane Gallery, too.

Our workshops started out with a Contact Microphone Workshop conducted by the rock/circuit bending band CMKT4 at Russian Recording (yet another cool Bloomington organization) in February. This brought out some new people and worked out really well - much fun was had with soldering irons and hot glue, and the band gave a performance while we waited for the plasti-dip coating the mics to dry. Joe S. was the main organizer/coordinator/flyer maker for this one, and a fine job he did.

Jay S., who does training on Kuali Software professionally, put together and conducted a super-slick and professional Intro to Arduino Workshop that went beyond the standard blinky lights to temperature sensors and other applications. We're hoping to get Jay to host this one again in 2012.

Jenett T. conducted a two-part workshop on AVR programming for those who wanted to go deeper into the AVR toolchain. This is one of the classic Bloominglabs workshops, in fact it's one of the first things we did when we started meeting. It was a fun workshop - as with the Arduino workshop, once people got things up and running, they really got into changing the code to try out their ideas.

We had a visit from Catarina Mota that I mentioned in my previous blog post at the end of November. She talked about materials like conductive threads, fabric, and paint, quantum tunneling composites, all kinds of cool stuff, with of course several projects she'd made that demonstrated their use. One of the fun things I learned in this workshop was that there's a site that caters to people who want more fashionable versions of the fabled tinfoil hats that's a great source of conductive material. It's:

In mid-December we held our second 'Holiday Mini-Workshops'. Mid December is not really a great time to schedule things in Bloomington, but we had a good turnout, and people brought along their kids. The most popular activity, as at last year, was making molds of pretty much anything people could think of with the vacuum former, and using the molds to make soap. Two new molds added to the collection were a Blackberry phone mold and a Buddha figurine (the mold was only good for one use due to the Buddha figurines' lack of convexity).

In Part II:

Cool events and projects of 2011

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