May 9, 2012

Forming a hackerspace, finding a home

Freshman Cody Sehl had a dream. He wanted to create a community for the Knox programmers and this dream might become a reality in Knox’s new hackerspace.
A hackerspace is a place where people who share a common interest can go to work on interesting projects or programs. These spaces have been popping up all around the world, and one of the newest hackerspaces is on the second floor of the Sharvey G. Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center.
“What I would like to do, is create a community at Knox that is interested in computers and technology,” Hackerspace President Sehl said. “I think the way we should do that is making cool things, whatever that means to you.”
Sehl’s hackerspace project is based on Conway’s game of life, a zero player game where the user sets up an in initial pattern of cells and which die and regenerate based on certain rules of movement. The game looks simple, but many complex patterns arise during the course of the game.
“Think of the coolest screensaver,” Sehl said. “It’s like that, times ten.”
Sehl was inspired by an art installation by Stefan Sagmeister where the viewer’s movement could disrupt the projected spider web. He wants to combine this viewer interaction with the Game of Life with cells placed by motion capturing cameras.
The group is still new, so, unlike Sehl, most of the members have not taken on any major projects yet. Every week, freshman and Hackerspace Vice President Marc Spehlmann brings a programming problem for the group’s members to solve.
Spehlmann said these exercises have helped him while he is not taking a computer science class. He compared programming to Spanish, because if you are not speaking the language, you begin to forget it.
The hackerspace has “kept me thinking in Java,” Spehlmann said.
Hackerspace member and freshman Matthew Lichty has been involved with the hackerspace since programming in middle school and working with robotics. Although he is looking forward to using the Computer Science Department’s Lego Robotics kits, he hopes the group can work with a more complex system like Lego MXT. According to Lichty, this system is “a little more mechanical” and “a little more complicated.”
Hackerspace meetings are Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in SMC A- 215
Cody Sehl is an online editor for TKS.

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