Featured image above: David Liew, founder of the Sleeping Iron Foundry, gives plastic bottles a new lease of life.
A “butler” robot that fetches you drinks– While Transformers 4 hero Cade Yeager failed terribly in constructing one, a maker in Singapore has realised this idea right at home.
Meet John O’Brien, an engineering enthusiast and his creation, the BeerBot, a robot he first developed in 2012 (way before Yeager!) during his spare time.
The BeerBot was just one of numerous DIY-ed innovations featured at the Singapore Mini Maker Faire (SMMF) 2014, a massive fair celebrating all things Made in SG, whether through cutting edge technologies like 3D printing or traditionally handcrafted like tatting.
Organised as part of the Singpore Science Festival and in its third year running, the event drew around 4000 visitors to Cashew-Senja Community Centre on 26 and 27 July.
Maker culture taking root
Makers manning the booths reported a significant rise in visitors this year, pointing to how the crowd was building up just two hours into the event.
Joel Leong, founder of Haystakt, commented: “In the first year of the Faire, we had a doubt that we would keep seeing the same people (in subsequent years). But this year there are a lot of new people,”
Noting the correlation to the growth of the maker industry, he added: “When Haystakt first started (in late 2012) we saw makers come in maybe once every month, but now we hear about a new maker coming in once a week.”
Many visitors similarly expressed optimism, such as Jasmine Tan, who described the maker scene as “not very big, but up and coming”.
Encouraged by this trend, Conway Goh, Senior Manager of ASEAN Education at Autodesk Asia, hopes that the company can help inspire the next generation of makers.
“From 123Make to a more professional level like Maya or AutoCAD, what we have done is to make our software free for all schools and students in Singapore,” he explained.
Never too young or old
Visiting each booth, one could not help but notice the huge age range of the makers, from teenagers to retirees.
For Muhammad Hassanul Ihsan, a young maker of electronics, the journey began in early secondary school years when he discovered the Makezine site. The second-year Engineering Systems student from Singapore Polytechnic believes that more young Singaporeans will get involved in making, with recent changes in the education system.
“Now in secondary schools they teach basic programming, even the Education Minister Heng Swee Keat mentioned they are getting schools to teach more creatively than the old curriculum,” he noted.
Davy Young, founder of decorative ceramics label Leaves with Memories, reckons that making opens new doors not just for the young, but even for retirees like himself.
“For me, it’s this or sitting at home catching mosquitoes,” quipped the ceramic artist in his late 60s. “It started as a hobby and as I got better some friends told me, why not start selling?”
More than just a hobby
While the outlook is promising, many Singaporeans are still afraid to venture into making as a serious profession, and restrict it to a hobby. Financial constraints are a top concern.
“It’s hard to source for manufacturers, credibility-wise they ask why they should trust your products; you’re just a random dude,” explained Tan Yi Hao, of the challenge he faces as an independent maker of portable solar power kits.
Nevertheless, Tan feels that such concerns should not hinder Singaporeans from taking a leap of faith into the industry. Lauding such innovators, Teo Shin Jen, a lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, agreed that Singaporeans need to more daring to “make new stuff”.
“Machines that were created five years ago- why are we still using them? We need to build and share new ones,” he urged.
With such creativity, passion and knowledge, Singapore’s future is looking pretty bright.
The Singapore Mini Maker Faire will be back in 2015, stay tuned to their Facebook page for updates!