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Nerds have superpowers

Every Thursday evening, about a dozen self-proclaimed nerds gather in Anthony Liekens’s garage to drink beer and work on crazy technological projects.

Hacker or ‘maker’ spaces like this are springing up all over the world, though the main aim of this Open Garage is to enjoy an evening out with like-minded people. Liekens, a biologist and ‘mad’ computer scientist who helps businesses develop innovation strategies, describes it as a way of “indulging their shared obsession with technology in a social way”.

Hundreds of people have been involved in the Open Garage over the last few years, from professors to students, from job-seekers to renowned techies. They have worked together on the most eye-opening projects, from an ingenious robot hand and a robot that goes to the bakery for you to an irrigation system for wetlands. Maarten Weyn, lecturer in UAntwerp’s Faculty of Applied Engineering, is a regular fixture at the garage. “The question we ask here every week is: is it possible? And if so: how? Once that question is answered, the fun goes out of it. We’re not trying to develop something that can be used professionally. We’re dabbling.”

Maarten Weyn en Anthony Liekens

“Nerds are hip now”, says Liekens. “I see it as a superpower.” He doesn’t mean to sound elitist: both Weyn and Liekens actually hope to use projects like this garage to democratise technological knowledge. “Not everyone needs to learn to program, but at some point everyone should be able to put something together that can open the garage door via remote control.”

Read the full article (Dutch) in the UAntwerp Magazine | March 2017