For students who want to learn how to assemble a fully-working robot, find a place to restage their failed ninth-grade science projects, play a restored 1980s Asteroids game — or anything in between, Quelab is the place to be.
Formed in July 2010 by Albuquerque locals Walter Duran, UNM Anderson School of Business graduate Geoff Nicholson, Adric Menning and Gabe Ortiz, Quelab is Albuquerque’s first official ‘hackerspace’, where beginner and professional geeks can come together.
“Quelab is a community-organized space dedicated to learning by doing,” Nicholson said. “We’re all about breaking things and putting them back together for educational purposes.”
Located at 1112 Second St. NW, Quelab holds ‘hacknights’ several times per month. Hacknights are an opportunity for new participants and returning members to use the space for whatever they might need.
“We provide a space for communication, science, technology, art and math,” said Duran. “This is a community for shared learning. Members work with everything from 3-D printers and robots to knitting and Etch A Sketch.”
The term hackerspace, as the Quelab uses it, refers to a creative and innovative space in which people can make, break, learn and explore.
Though they call themselves a hackerspace, Quelab is in the process of relabeling the nonprofit as a ‘makerspace.’
“The term hacker has a malicious reputation,” Nicholson said. “Everything we do, we do for education and learning, not for malicious reasons.”
Throughout the building are several meeting rooms, workshops and even a kitchen for those extensive projects. Quelab provides shelves of books and even rents out tools to assist projects.
Among Quelab’s paid members, who have increased from the four founders to more than 30 individuals, are UNM employees and graduate students, Duran said.
“We encourage students to come use the space,” he said. “We share UNM’s interest in creating an innovative space. We want students to know that there is a hands-on learning and working space available. We even had a student who came and worked on her Ph.D. here.”
Students who don’t have a project to work on but are still interested in what Quelab has to offer are welcome to attend classes and workshops held by Quelab upon request. According to Quelab.net, past events include Judobots, where participants learned to make functioning robots which then competed head-to-head with others, and PacketParty!, a security and network interactive workshop.
Currently, the space holds three communal meeting nights per week, two hacknights and a Coworking Tuesday, at which members and non-members are welcome. Once a month Quelab holds a general meeting, also open to the public, during which the board discusses upcoming projects and events. Paid members receive keys to the space so they can access it any time, said Duran.
“Members are constantly learning from and teaching each other in an amplification of skills and creativity,” Nicholson said. “That is what we need places like this for.”