Tag Archives: DIY culture

Atmel heads to Shenzhen to talk Makers


Shenzhen has emerged on the Maker scene for its shortened development cycles, entrepreneurial spirit and DIY culture.


Sander Arts, Atmel VP of Corporate Marketing, continued his trip through China with a stop in Shenzhen on Wednesday, January 21, where he had the chance to explore the latest and greatest innovations coming out of the city, in particular those being created inside Seeed Studio — a hardware innovation platform designed to enable Makers to grow inspirations into differentiating products.

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There, Arts had the opportunity to sit down with the Seeed Studio team, including founder Eric Pan, to discuss the Maker Movement, open-souce hardware as well as Chinese DIY culture. Later on, the Atmel VP participated in a well-attended press event with a number of journalists, tinkerers and entrepreneurs to discuss Atmel’s place at the heart of the rapidly growing global movement, and of course, the Internet of Things.

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Recently, 35-year-old Shenzhen — which is located in the southern region of China — has emerged as quite the innovation hub, spurring Makers from all walks of life to delve deep into their imaginations and develop their ideas. Leveraging on its experience in manufacturing goods and access to parts, countless entrepreneurs, tinkerers and hobbyists have been drawn to the city.

“Shenzhen is a unique environment for passionate Makers with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Slate’s Silvia Lindtner explained.

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The city’s capabilities have aided manufacturers in greatly shortening the production timeline from ‘Maker to market,’ which greatly enhances experimentation and provides a reliable, cost-effective solution for startups. In fact, the last few years have experienced an uptick in new companies coming to Shenzhen to finalize their concepts with notable examples including Pebble and Oculus Rift, Slate reveals. Additionally, hackerspaces and accelerators (like HAXLR8R and Highway1) have had an integral influence on innovators, another surefire sign that the Maker Movement has, indeed, arrived.

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“Makerspaces will likely enable a new wave of tech startups in China as in the U.S. To be sure, Makers working with their peers are now able to more easily realize their goals, while bringing products to market with new platforms such as e-commerce sites and crowdfunding. 

Nevertheless, major companies in China are somewhat cautious about encouraging grass-root innovations, even though some of them are actively involved in a collaborative dialogue with Makers as part of a strategic open innovation strategy,” Eric Pan, founder of Seeed Studio, told in a recent interview.

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Developed in 2008, Seeed Studio is a convergence of manufacturing and a true embodiment of the so-called Maker culture. The company designs and produces its own open hardware kits, platforms and custom PCBs, while serving as a distributor for a large number of brands like the Atmel based Arduino. Moreover, it has even played a pivotal role in establishing the hardware incubation project HAXLR8R as well as the very first Maker Faire in Shenzhen.

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Just last year, MAKE: Magazine‘s Dale Dougherty announced the inaugural full-scale Maker Faire in China, which successfully recognized the significance of the city as a global capital for DIYers. An estimated 30,000 people walked the tree-lined streets to partake in the event, while 300 Makers manned 120 exhibits.

“Maker Faire Shenzhen shined a light on the externalities and ecosystems of making itself: the political regimes which regulate; the infrastructures which support it; the forms of work that drive it; and the culture and history that shape it,” an earlier Guardian article noted.

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“One thing is for certain. The inherent entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people will help the Maker culture grow – and vice versa. 

The biggest hurdle, from what I can tell, may very well come from established educational facilities, simply because Chinese students expect to be trained in traditional methods when specific professional skills are required. 

However, exposure to multiple academic disciplines will encourage people to people think out of the box and explore different ways of approaching problems and opportunities. In addition, being asked more open-ended practical questions instead of simply memorizing facts would go a long way in encouraging students to try out real-world solutions,” Pan says.

Hack the world: How the Maker Movement is impacting innovation

In March 2011, an earthquake and following tsunami rocked Japan, culminating in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. While the government focused on stabilizing the situation, the people of Japan were terrified of radiation, unaware whether it was safe for their families to stay in their homes.

(Source: Sean Bonner)

(Source: Sean Bonner)

A group of Makers out of Tokyo Hackerspace found a quick solution to lack of information by building a cheap and easy-to-use pocket radiation detector using an Arduino (a pint-size computer that’s relatively easy for anyone to program). They began making them, and most importantly, sharing the instructions online for anyone to reproduce. Through a partnership with Safecast, they were able to get the radiation data off of people’s phones and onto an online platform. Within a month, thousands of data points had been picked up, and people could determine whether they should evacuate. Even today, people all over the world are building these radiation detectors, iterating on the original design for new purposes. Fikra Space, a hacker group in Baghdad, has amended the design to track Depleted Uranium pollution in their region.

I use this anecdote as an example frequently as a glimpse into the power of the Maker Movement. A term that’s been widely popularized by technologists as of late, Makers are not necessarily persons with huge engineering prowess. Neither are they hackers with malicious intent. Instead, the term Maker defines a movement combining simple technology with the right culture of innovation and collaboration, to have impact at a scale that most startup founders, corporate innovators, and city legislatures only dream of.

What is a Maker?

Makers represent a subculture of tinkerers, artists, and engineers. It’s a culture that is akin to punks and Goths – it represents not just a style, but a lifestyle. It has crossed decades and countries effortlessly. It is an ethos: a fundamental belief that the world is made better by building, and taking things apart.

(Source: Kyle Cothern)

(Source: Kyle Cothern)

Makers thrive on several things:

1. Finding novel applications of existing technology

They are interested in breaking or hacking things to make them better, more efficient, or just more fun. ArcAttack is a band of musicians using massive Tesla Coils, alongside live and robotic musicians to create a spectacular show of musical prowess and technological innovation. Anouk Wipprecht, fashion designer and former Autodesk Artists in Residence created a Faraday Cage dress for this past Maker Faire in San Mateo, and people watched in awe as she performed alongside ArcAttack as bolts of lightning struck her on all sides without doing any harm.

2. Exploring the intersections between seemingly separate domains

Because the barrier-to-entry to be a Maker is so low (read: nonexistent), new domains of expertise and collaborations are the process on which they thrive. 3D printers, once an expensive technology allowed for the elite few companies that required them and those who knew how to operate them, is now at a price point and skill level that many can afford. Similarly, this technology is being used for everything from printing clothing to live organs and skin. The opportunities are endless.

3. Curiosity and voracious appetite for continued education and Do-It-Yourself

Why buy something when you can build it? Why not learn how to solder? (Think of the possibilities!) These are the fundamental questions that drive Makers. From craftsmanship to electronics, Makers build things that are inherently valuable to them at that moment, whether it’s building a smart coffee maker to building a table. The pride that you feel from learning a musical instrument or a new language is the high that drives Makers to learn more, and do more.

Community (Makerspaces, Hackerspaces, FabLabs, Oh My!)

(Source: Mitch Altman)

(Source: Mitch Altman)

Makers rarely work alone. Instead, they interact with an ever growing global community of hackerspaces, makerspaces, fablabs, and other collaborative spaces to share ideas and resources. Makerspaces have cropped up all over the world to give people access to tools, education and collaboration normally reserved for universities and corporate environments. These membership-based organizations range in size and structure, but share common tools such as 3D printers, CNC machines, electronics components, and more. These gyms for your brain have grown from several hundred to over 2,000 globally in a few short years.

(Source: MakerBot)

(Source: MakerBot)

Makers in collaboration can lead to some advantageous financial results. In 2008, Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer and Zach Smith schemed up a small, inexpensive and easy-to-use 3D printer within New York’s hackerspace, NYC Resistor. Later that year, they released their first version for consumers. 6 years later, MakerBot has sold over 44,000 printers, built a leading brand, and was recently acquired by Stratasys for $403M. A company born out of the Maker Movement, MakerBot has ushered in a new industrial revolution, characterized by collaboration and open-source culture. They’re not alone in this endeavor, companies like Adafruit IndustriesArduino, and countless others are blurring the line between play and profit.

The Art of Playfulness (or, How to Fail Often)

When communities are built on resource-sharing and experimentation, there is considerably less stigma around failing. You simply try again, plus some well-earned knowledge and battle (soldering) scars, along with the thousands of others within the community.

The Power Racing Series understands all too well the educational benefits of failure and have embraced it with a friendly competition. Power Racing Series was schemed up at Chicago Hackerspace Pumping Station: One by Maker and designer Jim Burke. The challenge: build a working electric vehicle, starting with a kids Power Wheels and $500. Race it against a dozen others at Maker Faires all over the country, and compete for both technical prowess and “moxie” points awarded by the crowd for the most creative and ridiculous teams. Chassis’ fly off, cars catch on fire, and general, hilarious mayhem ensues.

(Source: Anne Peterson)

(Source: Anne Peterson)

This race has gained tremendous traction as a friendly competition between makerspaces all over the globe , as a learning tool for engineering and imagination. Makers have competed from i3 DetroitNIMBY, and even MIT. While the teams are competing against one another, they also share knowledge, tools and tech between one another during the race. Currently the races are held at 7 Maker Faires in the US, and they are opening up a high school league to encourage use of the races as a STEM education platform for students.

Companies like Power Racing Series have grown organically from embracing the inherent silliness that is a result of constant, quick-fire iteration. They also understand that it offers a unique hands-on way to learn engineering sans classroom or textbooks. Similarly, littleBits has found a way to teach the basics of electrical engineering with magnetic Lego-like blocks that can produce anything from musical instruments to internet of things devices with a few snaps. Sugru has made an entire business out of fixing broken things with a fun new material with the texture of Play-Dough that fixes everything from soldering irons to motorcycle windshields.

Impact (Produce Locally, Share Globally)

Makers think big. They don’t think in terms of revenue or projected growth, they think in terms of impact. Unburdened by fear of failure or lack of resources, they make things because they are useful, or present a unique challenge. Because of this, and ingrained roots stemming from the open-source software movement, the technology created has the ability to be adapted and used all over the world, outside the bounds of traditional gatekeepers.

(Source: Eric Hersman)

(Source: Eric Hersman)

Makerspaces have permeated every corner of the globe, from Nairobi to Nicaragua, allowing access to shared resources not just within their individual spaces, but across borders. Just as Bre Pettis and team sought to solve the problem of expensive 3D printers, Makers are building things that are equally useful to them, and their communities.

BioCurious, a community of biohackers (yes, that’s a thing) in the Bay Area has found a way to make real vegan cheese by engineering yeast, raising over $37k on Indiegogo to fund the project. Two years prior, 4 girls in Lagos debuted a urine-powered generator at Maker Faire Africa, which provides 6 hours of electricity for every Liter of urine. While both projects are prototypes, both are reactions to clear, yet strikingly different needs of the individuals and communities involved.

Arduino, the pint-sized computer from Italy, is a tool for making an open-source micro-controller board and development environment that was inexpensive, cross-platform, and easy-to-use. Founder Massimo Banzi has succeeded in this endeavor, as Arduino boards have become the micro-controller of choice for Makers, and are used to power a variety of devices, from the previously mentioned bGeigie Nano to a variety of internet-of-things devices. The fact that Arduino is open-source allows anyone to iterate on the boards, whether creating smaller versions for wearables, or printing your own on paper.

DIY Drones, a website started by former Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson, sought a way to bring UAVS (Unmanned Arial Vehicles) from military to hobbyists. In a few years he’s been able to bring together an impressive community of Makers building drones and drone parts for a variety of purposes. Matternet has taken this movement and applied it to a very specific problem: the 1 billion people in the world that do not have access to all-season roads. This means, even though many of them have advanced telecommunications infrastructure, they cannot get food of medicine during an emergency. Founder Andreas Ratopolous saw the potential in UAVs far beyond what was being explored by hobbyist and has turned it into a viable business with massive impact.

What’s Next for the Maker Movement?

The Maker Movement has garnered a lot of attention over the last 5 years, but it’s not without it’s flaws. Hackerspaces and makerspaces, though great places to learn and innovate are difficult to scale, and can come with a host of organizational and cultural problems. Though there are a whole host of success stories of profitable business by Makers, most of the innovation is still culturally insulated and doesn’t ever make it to a business. Large brands have been attempting to leverage the Maker community to encourage internal innovation, but with little success. Why? By being exactly what the Maker moment loathes: large, secretive, and profit-driven.

The Maker Movement needs bridges, people who are passionate about everything that is at the core of the culture who are able to connect Makers to each other, and to the resources to translate ideas into tangible products.

As humans, we’re made to make stuff. It’s a fundamental part of our survival. The Maker Movement has built a culture on that core belief, and the creativity that it has unleashed has massive potential for the future of innovation across all domains, turning anyone from an engineer to a large organization into an entity capable of astronomical innovative potential.

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Written by Madelynn Martiniere, this article was previously published on October 27, 2014 on Medium. 

Hackerspaces: A prelude to the Maker Movement and today’s Maker culture

So, what exactly is the Maker Movement? Do you remember that ever so distant yet memorable quote by Michelangelo? “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” 

Now, to further set this, [white fuzz] the channel just switched, we are tuned. Things will change right? They have changed. We have the Internet; we will have one layer more, eventually the arrow of technology will continue. There is one congruent dataset, which manifests all things to a new exponent. It’s the pulses and signals resulting from the exterior world meshed with the existing datasets of infrastructure, enterprise, and the consumer. Let’s speak of this layer. It will be filled with sensors, microcontrollers, and code. Already, we learned this from the app revolution and we are not going to remain in just this stage right? The code will be leaner and smarter. Coupled by the signal readings from millions of device upon device, node to nodes, nodes to node, the true power of distribution and networks will again marry now with other application recorded data in a mosaic of diversified integrations resulting from the intersection of data easily bridged from the cloud apps. Yes, the ones we are already familiar today touching from screen to screen to anticipate the next arriving notification.

The arrival of this integration of data will help filter and augment the world before us. Let’s reset to the modern era, thread modern computing to this notion, [for technology’s sake] we have also seen the Gartner quote by Jim Tully stating, “By 2018, 50% of the Internet of Things solutions will be provided by startups which are less than 3 years old”.

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The Digital Renaissance and the Maker Movement

Together with the accessibility and progress of open source and availability of community and embedded development boards [specifically wider use of Arduino Maker class boards], the times have certainly changed. A great deal of the complexities of these development boards are relaxed with onboard abstraction layers to loosen the programmatic rigidness of “hardware,” combined with the collective tuning of the community toward its development software.

Arduino IDE is now quite anchored into well-received feedback/contribution loops supported by the open source model — crowdsource progress and joint development roadmaps. Let’s not forget all the risky and obviously passionate Makers out there doing and bringing ideas to the forefront. The timing is right — found in the appetite to feed the market, the maturing cloud, the developed community, parity in prototyping, and the global production.

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Globalization of Hackerspaces and the Maker Movement | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As a whole, and to its sum of its parts, all community members are participants in the evolution of the ecosystem and community effort of “Making” with ease. At all aspects of the innovation engine cycle, the open source community couples quite well with hackerspaces, where one can congregate to surface ideas and mature them to fruition.

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Open Source Community and Hackerspaces | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

This is especially true where it applies to the mere process of creating a product. In fact, it’s now true to building things that 10 years ago you needed to be in a big company to make innovating things, but now it truly possible from an individual. Made possible to said horizon, there are the hackerspaces. It’s a place that shows signs of innovation and development, infusing wider spread of technology and community across all economic classes or cultures. In these facilities, these are technical and creative social clubs facilitating activities that include tinkering, machine tooling, 3-D printing, coding, open source, collaboration, and sharing. Some hackerspaces market themselves under the more benign-sounding label of “maker space”. More bluntly, this is really drawing attention as private incubators such as hardware accelerators fueling entrepreneurship and startups [an emulation of an innovation success formula taken from the original hackerspaces.

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There is something about hackerspaces that brings people together that are made of some pretty awesome stuff. Call it “Voltron” if you will, why not? With drones rising and Maker Faires (or similar) blooming all around us, it all seems like the perfect unison of having people interlock together. As the notion of building robots continued to unwind, one fellow by the name of Chris Anderson saw that it would be much easier to have robots fly first than walk bipedal. More simply, it just felt and saw it to be much easier. Perhaps, something even more achievable and widespread adopted as the next step to bring about the age of drones.

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But still, wait, there’s even more to how this started. We also owe the spawning of drones to a unique origin where a group of people, hive together pursuing one ultimate quest.

Call it social science and synergy if you will. Something happens when a group gets “too large” and suddenly it all transforms from a conversation into a cacophony and a team into a mob then something incorporated too soon begins may wield the ugly cues of politics. Yet, going it alone is usually impossible if the task at hand is at all sometimes complicated [maybe the next best thing for technology]. Assembling IKEA furniture is probably best done as an individual, but things like raising a family, having a stand-up meeting, or shipping a meaningful product is definitely a team sport…

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For hackerspaces, one of these unique values is in having opportunities to meet different people from all sorts of backgrounds. Combined in a common pursuit of sharing and making, there is a common thread of being willing to be giving their time and talents to others. Note, it was in what’s said as “giving” as the common notion in hackerspaces are the more you give, the more you get back, helping to change the course of things to come [individual pairing of ideas to the intellectual hackerspace benefit of networking ingenuity]. It’s all about the community. This is the hallmark of the Internet. The Internet started as a community in its deeper past with ARPANET. We are all reaping those originally rooted benefits today [first operational packet switching networks implementing TCP/IP] creating layer upon layer new industries, service models, and ecosystems (ie Apps, Cloud, M2M, IoT, etc). Now what we are seeing today sprout from city to city are hackerspaces. In fact, we may begin to see every community in a city drawing upon good reason to incubate and nest new hackerspaces. Perhaps, it’s a progenitor to something more in the next trend of innovation.

The digital life now is a result of the collision of software and hardware. Technology is fashion. Fashion is Technology. Both are now intertwined together in the speed and making of culture. Have you ever tried leaving your home without the mobile touch screen device or everyone has out grown to wearing the old flip analog/cdma phones of the past. Digital influence upon culture and self move along prevalently—the desire for hackerspaces are becoming more acquainted in many metropolitans.

There’s a secret sauce to the structure of the hackerspaces. Unravel this structure. From within, it reveals a true community based packed with peer-to-peer involvements. People with skills converge in distinct trades upon others with other skills. Combined, they make this union, transforming their once ideate policy of making, broadening their abilities coupled by a giving and sharing of others to expand the design envelope of possibilities.

Surely, one may see it as a digital and hardware renaissance, comparatively from the distant spark of the past. The foundries of artistry in Florence and Rome once prevailed, urging communities of artist to congregate and make creative expression toward emulating realism via sculpture, oil and canvas. Well, now it’s about achieving a more meaningful product. The canvas has changed, coalescing digital and hardware. Giving rise to an idea where the ideas mature into a minimal valuable product that is mapped to some form of developed connectivity. This some form of developed connectivity is what we call the Internet of Things or many of the products sprouting from emergent crowdfunding rooted by makerspaces or hackerspaces.

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A common construct. Make Ideas, Make Genuis, and Make Things | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

Now, let us imagine a place where people get together without a common construct or preconceived established code, they then converse, and collaborate. It is filled to the brim with entrepreneurs and inventors of all types working on projects that they hope will change the world or at least convinced to usher an adoption to things making what we usually do more easier or enhanced.

Many of them are on laptops or standalone computers frantically typing business plans or hacking out code; others are making phone calls while trying to set up connections wherever they can.

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Hackerspaces have an environmental core that keep ideas flowing | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As all the chaos goes about, one can see that in this space is an environmental core that keeps the magic flowing around innovation. It is the center foundation of what the area will turn into. While the outer linings are being fine-tuned and polished, the inner workings remain relatively unchanged. The concrete has been laid; the electrical wires have been strung throughout the wooden frames and the insulation and drywall is mostly there, all while a wireless network is hangs throughout the air. Projects can begin even if the air conditioning isn’t hooked up yet.

As long as there is a good foundation, people can get stuff done. The rest of the work on the outer edges will always be changing. Paint will cover the walls in different shades and dust will always need to be cleaned up. However as time goes on and unless a major change happens, all the people running the space will need to do is adjust the dials of the environment (when needed) and continue progressing the community. Once the foundation is done first, the rest will fall into place.

Next up, read the 1:1 interview with Mitch Altman, co-founder of Noisebridge San Francisco as we dive deeper into hackerspaces, the Maker Movement and more

 

 

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.

Maker Movement making a mark

With the World Maker Faire just 42 days away, the Maker Movement continues to create headlines across the globe. The drive to customize, create and innovate is becoming a modern mindset adopted by everyone, ranging from students and startups to celebrities and Fortune 500 brands.

“The next industrial revolution is right around the corner, and it’s going to be bigger than the Internet — or so says a growing army of hackers, designers, artists and entrepreneurs.” Writing for USA TodayTyler Wells penned a piece detailing the rise of DIY culture, contributing its emergence to the low-cost, high-imagination level of makerspaces popping up across the country. “These massive fabrication facilities are like a cross between a business incubator and a manufacturing plant, with sprinklings of academia and community spirit thrown in for good measure.”

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The convergence of various forces — a growing community, enhanced visualization, new applications, greater access to tools and increased connectivity — is fueling Makers to create gizmos and gadgets never before conceived, many of which are appearing on display at Maker Faire events throughout the world and crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. This new mindset is enabling everyone to embrace their inner tinkerer. Today, the everyday Maker has the ability to turn any ordinary object into an Internet-connected device with platforms, such as littleBits’ recently-unveiled cloudBit kit.

“With the right motivation and time on your hands, you can now go through your own personal industrial revolution in 90 days, and can launch a company or product within those 90 days,” explained TechShop CEO Mark Hatch. Furthering the Techshop CEO’s belief, Gartner’s Jim Tully recently projected that by 2018, nearly 50% of the Internet of Things solutions would be provided by startups which are less than three years old.

The speed at which today’s Maker’s can go from idea to prototype is absolutely thrilling. “The skill level required to produce a usable prototype or usable object has dropped precipitously just in the last five years,” Hatch added. Even more so, the shared makerspace is enabling for innovation to occur at an incredibly low cost. Wells elaborates upon Hatch’s comments around the movement, writing that “most entrepreneurs are able to cut their development costs by 98% through use of a shared space platform.”

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Though, it must be said that the Maker Movement would not be garnering so much attention without the loyal and devoted DIY community. Hatch tells USA Today that the Maker Movement was a “community on steroids,” and the devotion to the ideal is something to behold. Of course, this bond between creator and craft will be on full display at next month’s World Maker Faire in New York City.

“The catalog of success stories is proof enough: The Square credit card reader, Pebble smartwatch, Coin all-in-one credit card and the MakerBot 3-D printer all came from makerspaces in different parts of the country.” The thing that makes the Maker Movement a real revolution, not just a passing fad, is the confluence of cheap manufacturing, cultural entrepreneurship and simple economics.

“Collectively, these forces are democratizing innovation,” the USA Today article notes. This convergence has paved the way for a number of Atmel-powered gizmos and gadgets to hit the market, several of which have even been successfully funded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. In addition, the market has seen the emergence of lesser-known projects, ranging from battery-powered skateboards and low-cost irrigation systems for impoverished farmers to DIY smartphones and 3D printing pens.

But it’s not just about startup costs. Innovation itself is undergoing a fundamental shift, as major corporations like Disney, GE, Ford and even Atmel are now sponsoring Maker Faire events, collaborating with existing makerspaces or building their own to cultivate new ideas. In addition, a number of universities and government agencies are also getting into the action, which was evident by this year’s White House Maker Faire.

To further attempt to ingrain the Maker Movement within society, Noha El-Ghobashy of Fast Company believes the Maker Movement is reenergizing our youth to enter into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The author writes that newfound “curiosity about how the world works and an appreciation of how determination and excitement can help solve real-world challenges.”

Lo’ and behold, the Maker Movement is clearly beginning to take hold within certain portions of our culture. With a creative and determined mindset, the possibilities for invention are boundless. Mark Hatch concludes that the Maker Movement community is making a serious impact and, “we’ve only just started.”

Atmel celebrates Makers with President Obama

As Tom Kalil and Jason Miller note on the White House blog, the United States has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors and entrepreneurs.

“In recent years, a growing number of Americans have gained access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, easy-to-use design software and desktop machine tools. These tools are enabling more Americans to design and build almost anything,” Kalil and Miller write.

“Across the country, vibrant grassroots communities of innovators, visionaries and manufacturers are organizing Maker Faires, creating local Makerspaces and mentoring the next generation of inventors.”

According to the White House, the rise of the Maker Movement represents a huge opportunity for the United States, with new tools for democratized production boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in manufacturing.

Indeed, Making is capable of inspiring and empowering more young people to excel in design and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), as well as helping them pursue careers in manufacturing.

That’s why President Obama is hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire today, with Makers, innovators and entrepreneurs of all ages showcasing their cutting-edge tools and projects.
 We at Atmel are proud to be at the very heart of the global Maker Movement, with Quin Etnyre and Super Awesome Sylvia (both sponsored by Atmel) attending the DC Faire.

Indeed, our microcontrollers (MCUs) power a wide range of open source platforms and devices, from 3D printers to wildly popular Arduino boards.

For us, every Maker Faire has always been the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly venue of invention, creativity, resourcefulness and a celebration of DIY culture. Simply put, it’s a place where people of all ages and backgrounds gather together to show what they are making and share what they are learning, whether in Washington DC, New York, San Mateo or Shanghai.

Working together, we can prove that in America, the future really is what we make of it.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Jason Miller is Special Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy at the National Economic Council.

Super Awesome Sylvia is at the White House!

Sylvia Todd – aka Super Awesome Sylvia – has been creating and making things since she was five. Sylvia, who learned how to solder when she was 7, also hosts her very own MAKE YouTube show.

Today, Bits & Pieces had the opportunity to interview the young Maker about DIY culture and Making at the very first White House Maker Faire – which Atmel is proudly attending.

Atmel: Who, or what inspired you to become a Maker?

Sylvia: I was inspired to be a Maker/make things when I went to the very first San Mateo Maker Faire in 2006 when I was 5. That event and the ones after it showed me that making is fun, interesting, and [helps] you learn lots of new skills. After that weekend, I wanted to solder and build and take apart things even more!

Atmel: How do you feel about being chosen to attend the very first Maker Faire at the White House?

Sylvia: I am so happy and honored that I was invited to attend the White House Maker Faire. It is pretty amazing that after being inspired by the Maker Movement to create my show back in 2009, I eventually became one of the people that helped others get into Making!

sylviaawesome



Atmel: How do you think the Maker Movement democratizes the tools and skills necessary to design and create just about anything?

Sylvia: I think the Maker Movement helps give us the knowledge resources to create lots of stuff, through sharing! The internet allows us to find and share projects, sell projects, and even show others how to make things. Sharing how to’s and project details really can inspire people to get out there and make something, even if it’s not exactly what they’re trying to make, it helps them learn by doing.

Atmel: What projects of yours are powered by Atmel-powered Arduino boards or stand-alone MCUs?

Sylvia: 

I have a book coming out next moth that shows three super simple Arduino projects for beginners, all using the Arduino Uno as the base. I am also going to use the Arduino in many other projects and might soon design a custom circuit board around the ATmega328 MCU for a kit. One of my older projects was an Arduino and GPS powered RC car that could navigate around my house, and one of my latest ideas is a sensor that senses when the mail truck comes and tells me by switching on a servo to ring a bell.

Atmel: How do you think the Maker Movement and DIY culture make the world a better place?

Sylvia: I think the Maker Movement will change the world because when you have lots of people thinking of new ideas or inventions and sharing their work and results, we could solve really big issues faster! Also when kids grow up in an environment of making, they’ll be more willing to fix or reuse things instead of just throwing them away, and they’ll be making themselves smarter about the world at the same time. Making stuff rocks!