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2011 HOLIDAY GUIDE THREE: Dorks unite

A Dorkbot Christmas wish

Laura MacCary wants to resurrect Dorkbot this holiday season. Photo credit: Paul Schrag

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Laura MacCary and husband Joe Benner have a special wish for Christmas - they want to be able to make robots and talk about technology with their fellow dorks in Tacoma. Dork is a term of respect and endearment in Laura and Joe's world, by the way. Especially if said dork is willing to help them resurrect Dorkbot Tacoma, a now-defunct local chapter of a loose, national collection of artists started by Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad Douglas Irving Repetto.

Like Repetto, and like most artists, MacCary and Benner were at some point moved to find like-minded fellows. When they lived in Seattle, they found Dorkbot Seattle, and helped organize meetings with one of the most active Dorkbot squads in the world. When they moved to Tacoma in 2006, no such luck. Lots of dorks. No Dorkbot. So they started Dorkbot Tacoma, which if it were a Masonic Lodge, would be No. 60 worldwide.

"We had been helping organize dorkbot Seattle meetings, so we asked contacts there to come and speak, to help us get things off the ground," says MacCary. "After a few months, our own situation changed, and sadly we weren't able to devote the time it had been taking to organize meetings. We put dorkbot Tacoma on temporary hiatus until we could find a new location for meetings, and some speakers, and unfortunately, there it has sat, ever since."

Strange thing, too. Tacoma is full of robot and tech enthusiasts, with the University of Washington Tacoma's Institute of Technology, Tacoma School of the Arts, Bellarmine Preparatory School and Mt. Tahoma High School all sporting their own robotics and tech clubs of various sorts. Dorkbot, were it to be resurrected, would invite them all to meet monthly, discuss projects and the art of technical wizardry, and maybe enjoy a guest speaker, presenter or project.

MacCary notes she would like Dorkbot Tacoma to be less beer focused and more family focused. She also emphasizes that dorkbotters don't need to be like the Seattle Dorkbot presenter who recently showed off his robotic sidewinder snake. Anyone with an interest is welcome. And there are no dues, says MacCary, adding that having no dues makes it hard to pay for a meeting venue.  If they could find some donated space - a simple coffee shop with meeting space, for example - dorkbot Tacoma would be fairly easy to revive and sustain.

 "I would love to see dorkbot Tacoma reborn," says MacCary. "I would like to see it supporting artists and creatives who want to add electronic aspects to their work, regardless of prior experience. I have seen dorkbot help artists find technical people to help them incorporate electronics into their work, and I have seen it help technical people to realize that they are in fact artists. I see electronics as a medium for art and play, as well as a pure technology. It needn't be complicated."

Dork Fact: The root word for "technology," "techne," translates as "art." So there.

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