WATERLOO REGION — They call themselves hackers.
But they’re not the hackers you might be thinking of. Instead, this group of techies and artsy folk create things. They share a work space, tools and ideas.
Eric Gerlach, president of Kitchener-Waterloo’s first hacker club — kwartzlab — says the local hacker club, like many that exist in North American cities such as San Francisco, New York, Montreal and Toronto, is made up of hackers who often come with a techie background and strength in electronics, and most importantly, create in a clever way.
“It’s an incredible geeky thing to do but it’s fun,’’ said Gerlach, an administrator for the Federation of Students at the University of Waterloo by day and a creator of things electronic and robotic with a software focus by night.
The group has rented 1,600-square-feet of space at the former Boehmer Box factory on Duke Street in Kitchener, and will hold an open house on Thursday.
Kwartzlab, which stands for K-W arts lab and incorporates the idea of quartz batteries often found in electronics, has 25 members. About one-third of them work at RIM.
“We are self-motived, self-starters,’’ said Gerlach.
Take Darin White. He’s a director on the board of kwartzlab and works as a security product manager at RIM. His project began when a friend gave him two old laptops.
“Once you start doing this, people tend to give you stuff,’’ said White.
He salvaged a few parts from a dumpster such as a steel frame and then created a set of eyes hooked up to sensors which blink when someone walks in front of it.
White worked on the project for about four weeks, at night and on weekends, mostly in his garage.
The group also includes members who are creative in yet another way. Stephanie Smith creates jewelry and another member makes costumes.
Members say the group atmosphere and having people of like minds in one room spurs energy.
“You can get tripped up on a small part of your project,’’ said White, who often looks to other members for new ideas on tackling obstacles.
“Sadly, most of us aren’t Leonardo da Vincis,’’ said member Cedric Puddy. “To get things done, it’s important to be part of a team.’’
The local club started when Gerlach posted a message on a blog last March. About 40 people showed up at a local coffee shop and started meeting in an empty classroom at the math and computer science building at UW.
Since then, the not-for-profit group has created a logo, found a permanent space, and held soldering classes in White’s garage and a metal casting workshop in his backyard.
Members pay a $100 introductory fee and a $50 a month to access the space and tools.
White and Gerlach say they’re proud of what they have accomplished in the past few months.
“It’s about the projects and the community we have formed,’’ Gerlach said. “It’s also a great catalyst for ideas.’’
The public is welcome to attend the open house on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to the group’s website at kwartzlab.ca