Hacking Morocco: Sahara Labs brings the very first hackerspace to Morocco
Enter the doors of the airmail museum in Tarfaya, Morocco on a certain Friday this past February, and you would have seen something far from airmail — Moroccans of all ages working together on DIY engineering projects — or, as it was also known as — the first meeting of Sahara Labs: Tarfaya’s first hackerspace.
Still in its infancy, Sahara Labs has already been named one of the 8 hackerspaces changing the Arab world by Wamda.
“Sahara Labs — Tarfaya Hackerspace — is for everyone,” they say on their Facebook page, “and everyone is invited to all of our events and meetings.
[We provide] hacking tools such as 3D printer[s], Arduino, electronics, and other awesome things…
Anyone can become a member of Sahara Labs - Tarfaya Hackerspace and start making their own workshops, use our tools or do whatever they want to do. The sky is the limit.”
Sahara Labs was founded by TEDxTarfaya organizer El Wali El Alaoui Mohamed El Mostapha. “In Tarfaya,” he said, “there is only one school, one high school, and no other place to get knowledge. People here are creative — especially kids, youth and women — so this is why we built our space.” Sahara Labs is like TEDx, he said, because “TEDxTarfaya shares the ideas worth spreading and Sahara Labs makes and builds ideas worth spreading.”
What did the folks at Sahara Lab build for their inaugural meeting, you may ask? littleBits! And what are littleBits? The design of TED Fellow Ayah Bdeir, littleBits are tiny circuit boards that snap together with magnets to allow even the smallest kid to create projects complete with motors, lights, sounds, buttons, and sensors.
A littleBits racecar (Photo: littleBits)
At TED2012, Ayah explained the educational potential behind littleBits:
“Instead of having to program, to wire, to solder, littleBits allow you to program using very simple intuitive gestures,” she said in her talk. “The nicest thing is how [kids] start to understand the electronics around them from everyday that they don’t learn at schools,” For example, how a nightlight works, or why an elevator door stays open, or how an iPod responds to touch.”
At Sahara Labs’s first meeting, El Wali and his partner, Bilal Ghalib, invited kids from ages 6-16 to experiment with littleBits and make their own projects. Adults worked to help kids on their way. Ayah’s talk was projected onto the wall and kids and adults fiddled with their circuits.
“Everyone got the opportunity to understand the fundamentals of electronics and create their personalized circuits,” El Wali said, “…achieving their goals by themselves.”
“By the end of the event, he said, “happiness was present on each face of participants, both in trainees and trainers. Kids and teenagers asked to take LittleBits kits back home. [We] distributed half of kits among them and kept another half for future events.
“It was just great. No better way to start a project based on shared values.”