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Tour group gets behind the scenes look at Pumping Station One 'hackerspace'

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Around 7pm, on February 27, members of Pumping Station One, a 'hackerspace' for tinkers, inventors, and machinists, opened their doors to a group from the downtown Harold Washington Library and took them on a tour of their space and of the various tools and creative projects contained within.

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Many of the members of the tour group were employees and volunteers for the Harold Washington's “Innovation Lab”, a space containing 3D printers, milling machines, and laser cutters that library members can learn to use in weekly workshop events. Since they were strangers to personal manufacturing and the 'Do it yourself' aesthetic, the member of Pumping Station One welcomed them as kindred spirits, and eagerly guided them through their complex.

“When you get right down to it, Pumping Station One is a 'Do-ocracy'.” board member and unofficial spokesperson Adam Dezack explained as he walked people through the rooms of the hackerspace. “If there's something you want to do, do it!” As he went on to clarify, full members of Pumping Station One (for a minimum $40 dollar a month fee) can pursue practically any project that interests them, regardless of experience, and are only limited by a majority vote to approve purchases of materials and tools. “I've never seen this backfire on us.” Adam clarified.

As the tour group wound their way through the electronics lab, the kitchen/micro-brewery, and the wood/machinery shop and smithy, there were volunteers stationed along the way that talked about some of the projects they were working on.

Elizabeth and Bart, 'Computer Numerical Control' experts, demonstrated the Taz and Lulzbot 3D printers, based on open-sourced designs and hardware, before drawing attention to their 'Quantum Delta', a small, tripod-like 3D printer that they'd designed and built entirely from scratch. They later ran a 3D printing workshop for some of the children in the tour group, guiding them through the process of making bird/letter pendants.

Andy, an aficionado of laser etching and robotics, showed off the Pumping Station's personal laser cutting machine (“La-zers!” He pronounced, with a sinister cackle), and helped interested parties make custom name tags. A volunteer named Ryan, sitting next to a large jug of liquid nitrogen, used a large scanning electron microscope donated by a local hospital to get magnified images of near-microscopic etchings on a circuit board. “We're the only hackerspace in the country that has a functioning scanning electron microscope.” He explained.

Finally, right in the back of the forge area, a group of volunteers distilled some cinnamon with vodka using chemistry equipment an an open flame, and produced a sinus-blasting vintage of schnapps for the older member of the tour group to sample.

Everyone in the tour group seemed to enjoy looking behind the scenes of Pumping Station One and seeing what it's members got up to regularly. The young kids on the tour particularly enjoyed themselves: one of them declared that she wanted to be an inventor when she grew up.

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