The birth of eLab Hackerspace

Hi! Today I’ll let you know about a Hackerspace that I have founded together with my friends João Duarte, Goncalo Pereira, Fábio Martins and Hugo Santos in September of 2011 inside the University of the Algarve. The electronics engineering department had been providing a room for students to do their projects for a few years but it had never got much use.
It all started with the Electronics Club some years ago which was founded by my friend Zé Luis (currently doing some cool stuff at his company, Metalideia) and some of his friends. After some years it changed name twice and became NEEST, then NOISE, but unfortunately only the names were changing and not much was being done, except keeping it “alive”, which was also important. Otherwise the room would have been lost. We had been talking about how the space wasn’t being properly used for a while and then we finally decided to go ahead and turn it into a real Hackerspace, eLab. As far as we know it’s the first Hackerspace hosted inside a university in Portugal, having great benefits like free space, free internet and free electricity. Also, sometimes we get to borrow some tools from the electronics engineering department which is always handy.

We began by meeting once every week to clean everything, scavenge components from all the electronic devices that had been gathered throughout the years, put some shelves on the walls, organize all the components and tools and take out the trash.

scavenged components at eLab Hackerspace

Then we had to make the Hackerspace rules, so that everyone can use the space in harmony.

Basically now we have an approximately 4mx4m room with 6 individual workbenches and a larger workbench for the mechanical hard work (drilling, cutting, hammering, smashing :P). We also have a computer and basic tools such as pliers, side cutters, screwdrivers, saws, glue guns, craft knifes, soldering irons, etc. We still do not have many tools but have been adding more tools as we get funds to buy them.

eLab Hackerspace at night

After that, we finally had everything ready to begin developing other projects and activities to persuade other students and people from outside the university to join the Hackerspace to come learn with us, teach us stuff we don’t know and have fun building some really cool projects.
Since then we have been developing several projects, such as the eLab led illuminated logo, GSM entry control system, a plasma speaker, a Tesla coil, mobile robots, an electric vehicle, an automatic PCB agitator, a PIC development board, etc. and organizing several workshops: Transforming a ATX Power Supply into a Lab Power Supply, PCB manufacturing and, in a couple of days, Arduino Instrumentation for Beginners.

We hope to keep growing in the number of members, workshops, workshop attendees, tools, projects and make it a reference Hackerspaces in Portugal.

eLab Hackerspace led logo

Sure, we are still at the very beginnings and we still don’t have CNC machines, laser cutters and 3D printers but we’ll reach that in time . 😉 Probably we won’t be able to buy them… so we’ll have to buy them ourselves.

Here are some more pics of the hard work that has been done to get everything ready to work 🙂 :

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Hope to have inspired you to get together with your friends and create a Hackerspace in your city, university, school, etc. 🙂
If you wish and know how to read portuguese (or use Google Translator) visit eLab’s blog at:
Take care!

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