A group made up of computer programmers, inventors, electronics wizards, artists and other curious-minded folks are having a coming out party in their newly rented space in downtown Olympia Saturday.
They call themselves OLYMEGA, which stands for Olympia Makers Engineers Geeks and Artists. Theyve kept a low profile in the community since forming in 2009, but thats all about to change.
Part of a global makers movement, they are, in large part, a bunch of people that like to make stuff, relying on everything from cutting edge computer technology, including three dimensional printers, to a centuries-old artistic expression known as paper marbling.
Some 130 strong, members of the non-profit group have one collective hand on the cutting edge technology of the 21st century and the other in the time-honored world of sharing, learning and creating.
Were a bunch of adults who havent lost that child-like sense of wonder in the world, said OLYMEGA co-founder and former Microsoft software architect Justin Burns, 33. Our common thread is fascination with knowledge.
I met Burns over the lunch hour Monday in a partitioned off, 1,500-square-foot section of the Procession of the Species Studio at 311 1/2 Capitol Way N. OLYMEGAs third home in the past three years.
You enter the maker space through a blue door in the alley way to a room sparsely adorned with work benches, stools, tools, something called a computer numerical controlled machinist tool, the afore-mentioned 3-D printer and artifacts stored from this years Procession of the Species.
We were joined by Michael Rohde, 55, a former Peace Corps volunteer and inventor who builds rail bikes to ride on railroad tracks.
Ive been making stuff my whole life, said Rohde, a talkative guy with a close-cropped hair. With this group Im learning a lot about electronics. And I love the dynamics between geeks and artists.
Rohde seems to live in both worlds. When hes not dreaming of building a mill run with computer controlled machines, hes teaching his fellow OLYMEGA members the art of paper marbling, which is a method of making intricate, colorful designs on an aqueous surface that are then transferred to paper.
Maker spaces have cropped up all over the world, a subculture of people who enjoy such pursuits as robotics, using CNC tools, 3-D printing, metalworking, woodworking and a variety of artistic pursuits. A maker space tends to take on the personality of its host community, Burns said.
Here in Olympia, a lot of us would like to use technology to have a sustainable, positive impact on the environment, he said. Think of a maker space as the new digital commons.
In the months ahead OLYMEGA hopes to expand its educational opportunities. Last summer the group hosted a 12-week robotics class that drew people ages 13 to 76. At 7 p.m., Thursday, there will be workshop on how to use a drill press, followed by a session 6 p.m., Friday, on designing circuit boards.
The coming out party gathers steam 11 a.m., Saturday, when the Pacific Northwest distributors of 80/20, Inc., roll into town in a van filled with aluminum extrusion components that can be used to build tables, work stations, platforms for CNC tools and other cool stuff.
The company, which refers to its products as parts to an industrial erector set, derives its name from Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto (1843-1923). He suggested that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.
The Saturday demonstration is also a chance to meet OLYMEGA members, see their new space and learn about what they have to offer, present and future.
We want to expand our repertoire of tools and create a full service workshop, Burns said.
OK, heres a true confession: Much of the technology and tools that Burns and Rohde showed me were hard for my technologically impaired brain to absorb and understand.
But I did come away convinced, OLYMEGA is excited about the role they do and can play in the community, teaching and sharing new skills with both blossoming entrepreneurs, inventors and artists and those of us who barely passed middle school woodshop and struggle to learn the intricacies of our smart phones.
For more information about OLYMEGA, visit their website at www.olymega.org.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 email@example.com