New student club combines science fiction, volunteering

Club members (left to right) Alexzandra Myers, Veronika Spry, and Richard Haar discuss fundraising opportunities at a regular club meeting. Photo by Heather Hamilton/TNL

Sci-fi fans and scientifically inclined individuals take note; there is a club on campus that wants to incorporate both of these passions and blend them with a general desire to have fun and do good: the Blue Box Bandits.

The club, whose name is inspired by one of the longest running television shows of all time, the BBC’s “Doctor Who,” was formed in the Fall 2011 semester first as a sort of fan club, but is taking strides to be more inclusive of other science fiction fan-bases and scientific disciplines. Club president and creator Matthew Wiederholt, a mechanical engineering sophomore, envisioned the club as a place where individuals with ideas could go for help completing those goals, whether they be science related or not. He also wanted it to be a place where people could just hang out and have fun.

“We’re all about doing everything that comes our way, but that means when someone comes to us for help or we see a situation where we can help, we do,” said Wiederholt, referring to helping members catch up in their classes and shoveling driveways. “We’re not actually setting out to help people, we’re set up to have a good time, but the idea is that you can have a good time by getting yourself involved in these sorts of things.”

Member Alexzandria Myers, a biochemistry sophomore, described the club’s goals more simply. “Adventuring and having fun, I think, are the two big ones,” she said.

Possibly one of the most unique thing about the club is that it doesn’t typically vote on matters, it holds discussion-based sessions where proposed ideas are questioned, altered, and compromised on until the entire club is satisfied with the outcome, even if it is drastically different than the initial proposition.

“When majority rules, you raise your hands and it’ll be one against 20, and you [the minority] will feel like crap; you’re not going to speak up ever again. But if you argue it out and see everyone’s reasoning, you don’t feel as bad,” said club member Veronika Spry, an early childhood education sophomore.

The group’s first major activity was hosting a booth at the annual Haunted Halloween Fun Night held in the Student Union (which serves as a fundraising opportunity for clubs) last October. According to the Student Clubs and Greek Life Administrative Assistant, Ashley Durst, their involvement filled a last minute gap in the event’s booth line-up when another club canceled at the last minute. The Blue Box Bandits took their place and assigned game one day before the actual event.

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Richard Haar, the club’s vice president and an electrical engineering junior, said that they had to scramble to get their booth, a fishing game, ready in time for HHFN, but that the club’s gain surpassed their expenses.

“With only $22.83 of materials, that’s all that we put into that, we made over $200,” said Haar.

Since then, the club has done smaller events, such as geo cashing and a “Doctor Who” photo contest (where participants submitted images of individuals who randomly resembled one of the 11 incarnations of the show’s main character, with the best find earning a monetary reward). This semester, they are looking to do more open events to attract new members and advertise the club, as well as fundraise.

Some ideas currently in the works are a scavenger hunt and an interactive children’s science workshop. One of the other goals for the near future is for the club to build its own model of the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), the time machine/space ship featured in “Doctor Who.” The TARDIS, which serves as the club’s namesake and mascot, would theoretically appear in random approved locations on campus, as well as serve as an icon for club events both on campus and in the community, drawing in attention and hopefully interest. Keys to this TARDIS are prizes in the club’s current geo-cashing event, which is open to the entire community.

“The first person to find each geo-cash gets a key, and at the end of this whole event, around the end of the school year when its nice and warm out, we’re going to unveil our blue box [TARDIS],” said Wiederholt. “That’s going to be the final geo-cash, and people can exchange the keys they’ve earned along the way for prizes.”

The Blue Box Bandits meet in Rasmuson Hall room 117 on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. For more information on the group, check out their Facebook page, or their official page on Collegiate Link at http://uaa.collegiatelink.net/organization/bluebox