The maker movement is slowly but surely growing in Malaysia with more DIY communities coming together.
EGG cartons and ice-cream sticks were just some of the stuff three students from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) needed to make a working drone.
The DIY drone, powered by a motherboard and motor from an unused drone, lifted off the ground to cheers from the crowd.
The students’ nifty creation bagged them the first prize at the Yes@NuSentral Mini Makerthon in Kuala Lumpur.
“The theme of the event was ‘upcycling and reuse’ and we’re encouraged to create new things from materials that otherwise would go to waste. My teammates and I have always been interested in making drones and took on the challenge to create one using recyclable materials,” says oil & gas student Amirul Aizad.
Organised by KakiDIY with the support of National Entrepreneurship Development Office (Nedo) under the Finance Ministry, the mini makerthon is one of the many examples of the flourishing maker movement in Malaysia.
Amirul, like the other participants, is a maker who actively creates and innovates, if not for business then simply for pleasure.
According to KakiDIY founder Johnson Lam, 2016 was a great year for the maker movement on the local front. KakiDIY is a place for do-it-yourself enthusiasts, makers and entrepreneurs to share, collaborate and provide services to others. It organised over 60 makers-related events, exhibitions and talks last year.
“There was a great boost in 2016. Mainly because several makerspaces were opened last year and we had more exposure compared to 2015. More universities and even several big tech industry players became part of the movement. In terms of growth, I would say that it is slow but steady. We are far behind countries like the United States or even Singapore, as our maker movement is still at the infancy stage,” he says.
A growing cause
Based on the support and crowd participation at KakiDIY events, Lam says that there is an increasing number of thinkers and tinkerers in the local scene. Some claim that the maker movement bloomed since the 2006 Maker Faire in San Francisco, United States. It was an event targeted at creating and innovating, bringing forward ideas and making the impossible possible.
Lam says what started as a hobby for most tinkerers and designers has now turned into a legitimate source of income, as more makers are turning their projects into viable businesses.
There is good news for technopreneurs who have yet to get funding. During the tabling of Budget 2017 in Parliament last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government had allocated RM162mil to implement programmes such as an e- commerce ecosystem and the Digital Maker Movement – a private academia initiative to train Malaysian youth in digital economy.
According to Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak, the digital economy is expected to contribute 20% to the country’s GDP (gross domestic product) by 2020.
The Prime Minister had also introduced the Malaysia Digital Hub to help nurture talents and provide a platform for startups, innovators and technopreneurs to collaborate with digital organisations that share the same interests.
“KakiDIY set up two makerspaces in Cyberjaya last year. One is called the MakerLAB@MaGIC at Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), and another one called myMaker IoT LAB for Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and Pertubuhan myMaker,” shares Lam.
Arthur Raymond, a co-founder of Kinabalu Coders from Sabah, believes that the maker movement is a way to express creativity.
Kinabalu Coders is an umbrella group for several local maker communities, including Kota Kinabalu Raspberry Jam, Roboneo, Borneo 3Ders, Google Business Group KK, Gamersk Sabahan Tribe, Game Development Club KK, and Software Testing and Information Security Group KK.
“Makers are artisans and are proud of their own work. Making encourages experimentation, which is a much-needed skill in a culture where failure is still frowned upon. Without experimentation, we cannot improve upon previous designs and solutions,” says Raymond.
The do-it-yourself culture uses general skills such as problem solving and, more importantly, he says, it makes a person self-reliant.
“This is the total opposite of consumerism. Instead of buying stuff, why not make it? Given the right approach, it would be faster and cheaper, more reliable and you would learn something in the process. Makers are by definition jacks-of-all-trades and even when you lack a specific skill, makers are in a community where learning-by-sharing is the DNA. So by being a maker, you help and learn from others too,” he adds.
In addition to the existing groups and communities, Kinabalu Coders also continuously supports the establishment of new open technology communities and interest groups. This year, it sees the inclusion of Robotics Initiative (Robin) to promote general and industrial robotics and automation; Kinabalu Remote Operated Vehicles (Kirov) to raise awareness about land, sea and air drones; and Internet of Things (IoT) community.
“The availability and relatively low cost of Raspberry Pi and Arduino has allowed the creation of all sorts of portable Internet-connected devices for the purpose of automation and data collection,” says Raymond.
Besides the addition of new groups, Kinabalu Coders will also target the education system in Sabah. It collaborates with the state government and education institutions to increase the demand for makers and the services they both promote and provide.
“We recently attended the launch of a Raspberry Pi lab at a local primary school here. The headmistress had approached Kinabalu Coders to learn more about Raspberry Pi. We will continue to support the school by training the teachers to use Pi, as well as working together with them on student projects,” he says.
Kinabalu Coders is also introducing its theme for the year 2017 – #KitaBikin (#WeMake) – as a call for all makers (not just in technology and ICT but in the creative arts as well) to get together and create, invent and innovate.
One of Kinabalu Coders’ top events is Roboneo, a three-day robotics competition that has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2013.
“The highlight of Roboneo is the sumo robot fight. Custom-built robots battle to push each other out of the designated ring. The one that remains at the end of the round is the winner. We also have line- tracking, maze-solving robot categories and, last year, we introduced the autonomous sumo category where each sumobot is programmed to fight without any operator intervention. The event attracts participation from all across Sabah,” he adds.
The team at My Conceptual Robotics (MyCRO), is working towards a 3D printer that prints 3D printers.
“That is the end goal actually and it isn’t impossible,” says MyCRO co-founder Darween Reza. The company, founded in mid-2016 and based in Puchong, Selangor, makes customised 3D printers as well as robotic machineries.
“We started this company because we want to improve people’s lives through meaningful innovation in the areas of education and learning, surveillance and security, manufacturing and automation. We had a dream of making Malaysia into a technology creator rather than technology user,” says Darween.
The company sources for raw materials such as steel casing locally while the motor and circuit boards are imported from China, Taiwan or United States. Some parts for the 3D printers are printed using MyCRO’s own 3D printers.
MyCRO debuted its second version of 3D printer, RP Maker 1, early this year. “The new design is more space saving compared to the old one and comes with PEI built surface. Users no longer require additional adhesives such as glue or tape to secure the printed part on the build bed,” explains Darween.
The RP Maker 1 is priced at RM4,300, and Darween says that they have already received a pre-order for 60 units this year.
“Our client base is made up mostly of hobbyists, but when we have talks at schools, we see that parents are also interested in purchasing the 3D printer for their children,” he adds.
“The hype is building up and if parents are investing in technology for their children, that is surely a sign that the maker movement is growing in the right direction.”