When people talk about co-working space, what usually comes to mind is employees locked onto a computer with tables and chairs arranged in a strict uniform formation. But that mindset may be set to change, thanks to these two two enterprising engineers.
An innovative new space, Hackerscape, was founded just a few months ago in October 2014 and has since been getting the attention of creative Malaysians eager to learn a new skill. Hackerscape provides a space and platform for a community of like-minded individuals, from tech enthusiasts to regular curious Malaysians, to learn more about hacking.
Hackerscape has offered two courses so far, Rasberry Pi in November and 3D Printing and Design in December, and both were very well received by both technology enthusiasts and everyday-citizens. Keen to take a peek into the minds of the hackers behind Hackerscape, Vulcan Post spoke to Hackerscape co-founders Tan Jia Shern and Clarence Chew about the inspiration behind it all.
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Another Co-Working Space?
Clarence explained, “For a long time, I felt that we’ve lacked initiatives for hardware enthusiasts in this region.” While there may be many co-working spaces available, there weren’t any that focused on creating intangible products like apps and software. This was what prompted the creation of Hackerscape. “In order to power that platform for makers and creators, we also needed to provide training to drive interest and ability,” he said.
This is where Jia Shern came in. He developed Hackerscape classes and workshops to enable the community to build and tinker on their own. Jia Shern continued, “These workshops provide the technical abilities and skillsets people need to tinker and make. Beyond that Hackerscape also provides the physical space to build things, while creating an online and offline community of hackers and enthusiasts.”
So far only two courses have been offered in Hackerscape, Rasberry Pi programming and 3D Printing Design. Both courses were reasonably priced at between RM100 to RM240, considering the less common gadgets and materials required for these courses. According to Clarence, while Hackerscape is for profit, they believe in giving back to the community as much as possible. “With that aim in mind, we’re offering workshops and classes to children and teens in partnership with organizations like My Harapan and Teach for Malaysia.”
Hackerscape is one of the various community initiatives and events supported by VLT and its subsidiary VLT Labs, a Malaysian-based startup studio that partners with founders to build and develop new products and businesses. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hackerscape workshops and events will be tying back to other VLT initiatives around the country.
Jia Shern shared that Hackerscape is planning to offer classes on other aspects of hardware hacking such as robotics and drone building as well as basics like soldering and electronics. “We’re also planning to roll out business support classes on topics like marketing and business development. In terms of partnerships, we’re planning to conduct another Raspberry Pi class with Nuyuy, an educational Pi kit assembled and created by a Malaysian company, as well as a series of 3D printing and design classes with iMakerZone and Lego Mindstorm classes with Littlebotz Academy.”
Strong Community of Makers
“Our main goal for Hackerscape is to create a strong community of makers in Malaysia. With all the trends in software and app development, we felt there was a huge gap for building physical products, which is how Hackerscape was born. Hackerscape’s goal is to create a supportive community run by hackers for hackers. This “family-like” environment aims to nurture unbreakable bonds amongst participants, fostering strong relationships for the future,” said Clarence.
Hackerscape holds the belief that in order to create a hardware community, they had to first serve it by offering accessible and affordable classes on a variety of useful topics that people can apply to their businesses or products. “One example is our Raspberry Pi class which taught participants how to create home automation systems. Our dream is for someone to come to Hackerscape, take a class, network with other enthusiasts and build a business around a piece of hardware,” continued Jia Shern.
Maker-mindset in Malaysia
Most people nowadays tend to purchase what they need without considering that they may be able to make it themselves. We have become a community of consumers rather than makers. However, Clarence does not agree with this assumption, “I think Malaysians already have a huge innovative mindset – we have been doing it for years. We’ve just never called it the “Maker-mindset”. Malaysians have always been very technically inclined. We have been building computers from parts bought at Plaza Lowyat for years! This is just the natural evolution of that cultural behavior.”
Hackerscape goes a step beyond just purchasing and putting parts together to actually making the parts.
Jia Shern admitted that since he works on the mechanical side of things, he has been privileged to be surrounded by many great designers and engineers here in Malaysia. “I think the challenge here isn’t the mindset, but the opportunities available. With Hackerscape, we are hoping to create more opportunities for people in Malaysia to go out and create something tangible, starting businesses around their products.”
An Outlet For Creativity
Clarence sees Hackerscape as a great vehicle for bringing that mindset to more Malaysians via workshops, classes and competitions. “There’s a huge potential,” Clarence continued, “but people just need more outlets for their creativity and innovative ideas.” This was proven from the positive response for the two courses offered by Hackerscape.
“We’ve seen so many people from different walks of life at the few workships we’ve hosted so far; couples have attended together, parents and their children, college students, retirees as well as business professionals and startup founders. We’ve even had groups of colleagues from multinational companies attend classes to learn programming together. So far, they’ve all enjoyed learning new skills at the workshops.”
So Are We Consumers, or Inventors?
“I think we’re both,” answered Clarence. He continued, “We take in products, ideas and brands, then innovate to turn them into something new.”
Jia Shern agreed, “We’re consumers that are part of the demands of a marketplace. However, in order to become a good inventor you have to consume and absorb everything you can around you, then find new ways to develop business ideas from that. Hackerscape is a great place to incubate and nurture those ideas.”
Hackerscape is not just a space that teaches individuals these new skills, it brings like-minded people together. This creates a network for people with similar passions and interests to get to know each other.
Hackerscape is located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Keep updated with their site and Facebook page to see if you’ll be interested in the coming courses they will be offering. Who knows, you could discover a new passion or unlock an entirely new skillset that you excel in, for a career change to do something you love.