Maker culture growing in Southeast Asia

After many major tech manufacturers left the area in the early 2000s, many citizens throughout Singapore began adopting an ‘If it can be bought, buy it’ attitude when it came technology. Now, with the help of a strong Maker community, a DIY mentality is growing within the region. There is plenty of evidence that the Maker culture is taking hold within Singapore.

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In addition, the ongoing acquisition of tech startups throughout Southeast Asia has attracted the attention of investors who understand the need for continued innovation. According to Assistant Professor Denisa Kera of the National University of Singapore (NUS), the open source movement has been playing an integral role in encouraging new ideas across the region.

“Hackerspaces attract some of the most interesting people you can meet in a city; the pragmatic visionaries who are not afraid to take on any challenge, but jealously protect their autonomy and freedom. They actually preserve the original mission of the universities, which is academic freedom,” Kera told TechInAsia in the context of a wide-ranging interview with the publication.

Testament to the rise in DIY, the recent Maker community event MakersBlock was a massive success — having attracted over 100 Maker participants and hosted more than 50 free workshops in July.

Continuing on the growth of the Movement, individual Makers like the team at Chibitronics has jumped onboard the DIY wave. The Chibitronics team has a goal of offering electronics education to local youth through simplistic circuitry designs. They offer a series of simple, yet informative electronics tutorials on their website and sell kits for electronics projects aimed for the younger generation. The Chibitronics site offers an active community forum where young Makers can share their projects and find inspiration.

Following in these footsteps, groups like the Singapore Makers are growing rapidly in size and contributing valuable knowledge to the community. Singapore Makers have made a concerted effort to connect designers with MakerSpaces where they can develop their ideas in the ideal environment.

“Most people think it is about the freedom to do research, but it is more than that. We need a space or an institution which will enable citizens to develop skills necessary for taking an active part in the public life of their communities. Hackerspaces are the best place to gain such knowledge and skills on your own terms,” Kera expained.

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With the economy constantly in flux, it is positive to see the younger generations within Singapore are adopting a DIY attitude. “Innovation takes time. And this time, it seems Singapore is sinking the right roots for the long term,” writes Techgoondu‘s Alfred Siew.

Kera also referenced Shenzhen, China, where she is following the open hardware scene with the help of Bunnie Huang, David Li and Silvia Lindtner; furthermore, the professor described Shenzen as a diverse community of people from all over the world that innovates and works with local companies. She notes, “It’s a wild place for hardware innovation, officially they describe it as a special economic zone, but I think it is more like 1940′s Casablanca, where all connections are possible.”

In terms of Singapore, Kera says Hackerspace.sg and Sustainable Living Lab are her “second homes” in the country, as they were always supportive of her projects. “I like hanging out there, especially now when so much is starting to happen and there are so many fantastic makers you can meet on these Arduino meetups at Silicon Straits. I think now is the right time for people that are curious to join and start some projects in either of these places.”

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Looking towards the future, Kera says she would like to see Fablabs and Makerspaces established in universities and local neighborhoods throughout the region.

“It would be best if we can combine them both, so anyone can come and learn some skills but also have access to tools needed for some small startup project. Hackerspaces grant members more space to define concepts, but also to simply find and discuss important issues related to science and technology. It creates a community space that engages and empowers people rather than another rat race,” she added.

The good news is that there has been a rise in Singapore-based companies developing innovative projects in recent months. One example is the TouchPico, a pocketable Android PC cum projector that allows a user to easily interact with games and other programs on a wall, just about anywhere you go. In addition, there has been a budding interest of young attendees inspired to attend Maker Faires. “Any culture starts easier from young, and learning how to program your first robot or interactive postcard is a great start,” Siew explains.

Atmel continues its commitment to inspire the global Maker Movement, as the company’s microcontrollers (MCUs) have been powering nearly every Arduino board on the market today. Our easy-to-use 8- and 32-bit MCUs are powering the worldwide Maker communities, spanning from Silicon Valley to Singapore.

1 thought on “Maker culture growing in Southeast Asia

  1. Pingback: Sharing is caring with Umbrella Here | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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