Hello Shenzhen, Hello Makeblock
Recently, with the economy and consumption upgrade, the manufacturing industry is facing new challenges. Shenzhen has rich manufacturing resources. How to transform the huge capacity into better economic benefits becomes an urgent problem. Many people believe that “manufacturing” should upgrade to intellectual” to meet industry’s and consumer’s demands. Under the background, many companies and organizations have begun to seek the “intellectual” core.
To explore the era of Maker, the second term of “Hello Shenzhen” international exchange activity was held. It focuses on the city’s sustainable development, STEAM education and the challenges of starting up business. Under the planning and support of the Shenzhen Foundation for International Exchange and Cooperation and British Council, the activity encourages the Shenzhen makers go abroad to experience the developing British maker culture. Also, it welcomes the British local guest to come to Shenzhen for deeply experience of Chinese maker culture. “Hello Shenzhen” aimed at establishing and strengthening the cooperative relations between the Chinese and British makers. Besides, it reinforce the cultural exchange between the world’s makers.
Scottish maker – Martin Goodfellow
Makeblock, the reason for Martin to start the journey to the east.
Martin Goodfellow, a maker from Scotland, is a senior expert in computer education. He has been engaged in the development of education software and consultancy of maker seminars for years. He has also made the coding game Hackstage Pass, for the Big Weekend show of station 1 of BBC Radio.
Months ago, Martin’s friend sent him a link of the crowdfunding of mBot robot (programmable robot) from Kickstarter. After that, he was immediately attracted to this tiny and adorable mBot robot. “I was obsessed with this tiny robot, the one that I’ve been looking for.” It turns out at that time, Martin was worrying about whether he could find suitable robots for teaching at his/their programming club. “Although the robot is very suitable for children to learn programming, building one is not easy. mBot happens to be the robot that is easy to build and can be quickly assembled, so it’s a fantastic teaching aid.”
Makeblock’s star product, the mBot.
Martin’s travel to China
Later, Martin learned about the recruitment of the “Hello Shenzhen” maker exchange program on Twitter, and Makeblock was on the list. Martin submitted the application form without hesitation.
In this way, the Scottish maker decided to travel east to China.
In Martin’s view, Makeblock is like a metal version of Lego. It’s a platform that can carry a personal imagination where people can use modularization to turn ideas into reality. There’s no doubt that Lego is the most famous brand in the creative toy industry, since it brings the children into the world of creativity.
Compared to Lego, Makeblock is more professional. Lego’s game is splicing the plastic parts, while Makeblock uses metal parts to ensure the firmness of finished products. Moreover, Makeblock’s industrial electromechanical, sensors and other technologies with electronic modules gave the product intelligent features and achieve advanced control, which is quite cool and professional.
Martin and the Makeblock team members at Hello Shenzhen
Experience “Shenzhen Speed”
Although Martin has never been to China before, it seems that he is familiar with Shenzhen. “Shenzhen is a magical city. It seems that all the impossible will root here and bear fruit. Don’t you Chinese have a saying called “Shenzhen speed”?” During the interview, Martin began to gradually relaxed and had a joke.
However, Martin’s right. Shenzhen is indeed a city that has created too many miracles. Its avant-garde and innovation features are always regarded as the city’s most precious spiritual trait. Shenzhen has thus become an ideal place for global makers.
Comprehend the similarities and differences of Chinese and British maker culture
Unlike the UK’s maker community, Shenzhen Maker enjoy exceptional advantages, the supports from policy and industrial chain companies have helped Shenzhen to form a complete hardware industry chain, providing a good environment for the development of the makers and gradually forming the “maker ecology”.
In contrast, British local makers are still in the primary stage which is based on their interest. Most of the maker organization are built by adults who spontaneously gather because of interest, and they exist in the form of non-profit clubs and shared spaces. “Maybe the UK’s makers are focusing too much about the interest factor, so the development rate is slow and the scale is not very mature. This time when I came to Makeblock, one of the chinese maker exchange station, their passions and efficiency of innovation surprised me mostly.
As soon as the voices fell, Martin could not wait to show his completed project in the Makerathon: Hallelujah Motorcycle Robot. “At the beginning of Makeblock’s Makerathon, my goal was very clear. I wanted to design a robot suitable for the British education market. After negotiating with our team, we chose to complete this together, a motorcycle robot called Hallelujah.” The motorbike was programmed for 2 different modes. The first mode allowed it to be controlled by a play station controller. The motorbike had 4 RGB LED modules which were used as headlights and for signaling. Users could also change the headlights to come on automatically when the light levels dropped below a certain level. The alternative mode was to make the motorbike respond to sound levels using a sound sensor. Through the sound sensor the robot could monitor the surrounding sound, higher the sound decibel, faster the motorcycle would run. I think this robot is very interesting. It can improve student’s practical ability and let them learn comprehensive knowledge of many subjects during the construction process.”
Work from Martin and his team —— Hallelujah Motorcycle Robot
Martin and his partner Peter are showing the Hallelujah Motorcycle Robot
During the Makerathon, Martin and his team in the middle ofconstruction and testing
Martin and his team won the Makeblock Makerathon
As a computer science educator and maker, Martin’s inspiration for participating in the Makerathon came from a very simple concept. “Everyone can be a Maker.” Based on this inspiration, Martin and team members gave them their work an easy-to-remember name: Hallelujah, namely “Harry” and “Luya.” It implies that Maker is not synonymous with cold black technology, but rather a new concept that is playful and easy.
The originals and procedures for the production of “Harry” and “Luya” are not difficult because Martin hopes to promote this easy-to-operate, cool-looking robot to local children after returning to the UK and prompt young people to fall in love with creation.
Inspire imagination, everyone can be a maker
As time flies, Martin’s journey in China came to the end.
Before leaving, Makeblock’s colleagues gave Martin a mBot as a gift. “This programmable robot is quite meaningful. It is an important messenger for me to know Makeblock and the Chinese makers, and also a key of the inspiration for my future STEAM education career.
STEAM is the initials of 5 words: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.At first,the “STEM” education strategy is proposed by the United States in the 1980s to enhance national competitiveness, labor force, and innovation. It aims to break the boundaries of the subject areas and cultivate students’ scientific literacy. In 2011, Yakman, a scholar of the Virginia Tech University in the United States, put forward the concept of “A”
(art) for the first time when he was studying comprehensive education. This “A” broadly includes arts, music, society, language, and other humanities and arts. “STEAM” has gradually developed into an inclusive and interdisciplinary comprehensive education for all-around development.
In Martin’s view, everyone has an imagination treasure. But unfortunately, very few people can really find it, and make good use of it. How to let students learn in fun and inspire their imagination has always been a hard nut to crack for Martin until he met mBot.
Martin can’t conceal his love of this programmable robot.
Martin’s opinion of mBot
“mBot is a great entry-level teaching tool for beginners to enter the STEAM education field. Firstly, students can feel the charm of mechanics, electronics, control systems and computer science through the assembly and construction of robots .Moreover, they can program easily through Arduino, even if they have no programming basis. Although they don’t know the register partition, they can build burning program, control the digital IO port, and make interesting products.
“Not only has mBot performed well, but through this exchange, I have found that Makeblock is a treasure trove for the makers. Makeblock provides a robotic platform that can be modular assembled and programmed. The combination of the mechanical parts, electronic modules and programming software provides a one-stop solution for creation and greatly reduces the threshold of creation. Everyone can use the components of Makeblock to build their own robots and use graphical programming software to control it. Whether for whom is a few years old or several tens of years old, Makeblock can support their continuous learning, and continue to meet their needs for the unknown.” Martin said, he is considering the introduction of Makeblock series products, such as mBot into the British STEAM education sector to stimulate children’s creativity and imagination.
Martin at Makeblock
The interview came to an end but Martin is still immersed in those days at Makeblock. He said that this precious experience will not only benefit his future STEAM education career, but also inspire British makers. ” I will record that period of time with Makeblock and share it to more British makers to spread the global culture of Maker.”
Martin has participated in the BUILT IT BRITISH project and used 3D technology to draw Scottish landmarks.
Maker culture continues to grow in the UK and overseas. Maker groups are bringing renovations to the innovation process. For example, the development of innovative products and build new models of educational practices. The emerging industry focuses on the international environment and digital interconnection. But so far, there are just very few opportunities for cross-cultural communication between the makers.
Shenzhen, as a representative of China at the forefront of open innovation, has the speed of innovation praised by the Prime Minister, appreciated by Chinese and foreign media, and seen by everyone in this city.
There’s no doubt that Shenzhen’s grassroots innovation is in great need by the world. Besides, it is also required by the maker culture and spirit. Hello Shenzhen, as a valuable bridge, expands the new ecology of Shenzhen’s opening up, innovation, and cooperation. It will bring in the overseas makers for deep exchanges and discussions, and common progress in the future.
In the near future, the maker spirit of Shenzhen will certainly become an indispensable part for the global maker culture. Let’s wait and see.