Maker Faire

Shenzhen Hardware Hacker Scene – Key People & Places

Guest Post: Martin Pasquier

If you were waiting for a sign that China has changed and is an amazing huge thing adapting to the new industrial revolution, Shenzhen hosting a Maker Faire is probably a good sign.


Take what was a fishing village 30 years ago, with 200-300 000 inhabitants.

Shenzhen in the 70s

Shenzhen in the 70s

Credit: Chris CC

Create a special economic zone to attract migrants from all over the country.

Make it the biggest factory-city in the world. Wait a few years.

When you feel the internet wave hitting the hardware and manufacturing industry, turn it into a capital city for prototypers and makers of all sorts.

Add new innovative stuff, from open-innovation into life sciences to think tanks.

Shenzhen, from the fishing village to the 20 million Population Manufacturing Juggernaut in 30 years.


Shenzhen Airport -Credit Forgemind ArchiMedia CC

Shenzhen Airport -Credit Forgemind ArchiMedia CC

Well, that’s quite a series of shortcuts but you get the bigger picture: Shenzhen, China, is increasingly recognized as the city in the world where creating hardware and real stuff is not only possible, but cheaper and better than anywhere else.

SEG Plaza Shenzhen - Credit Wikipedia

SEG Plaza Shenzhen – Credit Wikipedia


SEG Plaza

SEG Plaza

Here are the key facts and people in the Shenzhen Maker Movement

[slideshare id=35251499&doc=innovationiseverywhere-shenzhenchinastartuptechinnovationecosystem-140529033304-phpapp02]

Original story and Slide Deck by Martin Pasquier from Innovation is Everywhere, a world tour of tech and startup ecosystems in the emerging markets. Mike Nicholls edited, adapted and contributed to this story.

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Meet CREATE – The UNSW Club for Making Things – Sydney Maker Faire 2014

Meet the team from CREATE – The UNSW Club for Making Things.

These guys are the most entrepreneurial group of students I have met in my years of working with or attending Universities. As a group they are only about 18 months old but are growing rapidly.

Typically University students learn a particular skill set focused on their major, however the products of our new world are increasingly merging where new classes of devices require sophisticated combinations of Electrical, Electronics, Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design and then fabrication. Its a team game, no one discipline can hope to master all of the skills needed.

CREATE UNSW Hexacopter

CREATE UNSW Hexacopter


CREATE started off as Student Club to give practical experience for Engineering students, running courses to learn how to program Microcontrollers and Ardunio, as well fabrication skills such as 3d Printing, CNC tools, CAD and other engineering subjects which are well covered in most Universities from a theory perspective but rarely well covered with practical workshops.

Hexacopter at Maker Faire

Hexacopter at Maker Faire

When I first did my apprenticeship 30 years ago (yes before most of you were born) you had to do a trade to learn how to make things. Fitters and turners, machinists, boilermakers, pattern makers, they were the makers of yesteryear, and while there were a lot of people who loved their mechanical engineering jobs, no one loved going to the factory everyday as it was in many cases a production line where your job was turning out parts someone else created, rarely being involved in the creation yourself.

Today many of these jobs are being done by machines programmed and operated by extremely smart University graduates or enthusiasts discovering new age ways to do past age work and to create new devices and services (Draftsmen are probably the only ones which are still in demand, but no velum, clutch pens or pen plotters in sight, only Solidworks or Autocad gurus need apply).

This trend will continue to accelerate, if you doubt that your job can be done by a machine run by computer check out this list of old English occupations and see whats left.

Which is why its great that the CREATE team are running these courses and now officially opening their courses to non University students. You can join their Facebook Group here

Once of the things that impressed me was their parts and quadcopter sales. Because a lot of the components needed for their soldering and electronics businesses were not available readily from local suppliers, they put together a float and started buying components in from China, they now run weekly trade stalls for all of the students to purchase the parts they need for their projects.

From this came a project to build a Quadcopter which I wrote about early this year and now after prototyping a few versions they have now sold over $20,000 worth of Quadcopters this year, not bad for a University Club, this will keep them in Beer and Pizza for the rest of the year.

If you think these things are toys you are dead wrong, they have very advanced features including;

  • GPS
  • 6 Axis Accelerometer
  • Compass
  • Altimeter
  • Long Distance Radio control with a range of 10 miles
  • Fully programable autopilot with mission planning
  • Self tuning flight trimming to save the potentially damaging process of launching a new aircraft
  • Sophisticated dampened Gimbal for mounting a camera and streaming real time video of the flight back to the user
  • Just in case something goes wrong they also have an auto return home function to return the aircraft back to base if they lose radio control.

Watch these guys, they are going to do something special.


MetalTree’s HUGE 3D Printer demos at Sydney Maker Faire

Meet the Metaltree 3D Printer maker Jason Crowe.

Metaltree-Jason Crowe

Metaltree-Jason Crowe

At 1.2m high this is the biggest 3D printer I have seen (and none of it is support cabinet), earlier in the year we researched over 50 printers in our 3d printers comparison and this is significantly larger build volume than anything I have seen on the market short of the industrial versions.

It uses a Delta configuration which means that the extruder head moves around on 6 arms and the build plate doesn’t move at all.

This simplifies construction and allows for a larger build space for a given size and weight than a traditional 3d Printer where the extruders move X Y but the build plate moves up and down as the item is printed.

Metaltree Extruder Head

Metaltree Extruder Head

This is still a prototype so its not ready for production yet, Jason is working towards getting it production ready and plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign to sell them next year.





OpenROV at Sydney Maker Faire 2014

The guys from OpenROV had their underwater explorer on display along with some videos of how it operates.

The project is based in Silicon Valley and a year ago ran a Kickstarter campaign which was oversubscribed with 484 backers and $111,000 of a $20,000 goal raised.

You can order parts and assemble yourself, order a fully assembled unit or download the design files and laser cut and 3d print the parts yourself. I know some yacht owners who would love one of these.

OpenROV Parts Breakdown

OpenROV Parts Breakdown



Weaver Robots a Big Hit at Sydney Maker Faire

Full disclosure: I have had the pleasure of working with the maker Fernando Vega for a year, after seeing the first Weaver prototypes at I recruited him to help me with our hardware project.

Weaver Robots Swarm

Weaver Robots Swarm

This past weekend I took my sons to the Maker Faire in Sydney to play with robots. In particular the Weaver Robot. For the life of me I don’t know why its taken me so long to write this story but I have been working with Fernando for a year now on a hardware project and given he is so quietly spoken and not at all self promoting, he doesn’t talk much about the 10 or so amazing Weaver Robots he has created.

Weaver Social Robot

Weaver Social Robot

So now I have had some time to play with them it’s time for me to talk about them.


Fernando Vega, Mechatronics Engineer from Colombia currently residing in Sydney.

What is it?

A three wheeled educational robot for kids to control using any IOS or Android device with a touch screen. Includes a

  • Distance Sensor
  • Light Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Rotation Sensor
  • Microphone and speaker
  • Compass
  • LED Matrix 8×8
  • Lamp
  • Wi-Fi
  • Omni wheels – motion in any direction

Where can you get one?

You can’t yet, Fernando is still fine tuning the fabrication and operation and making them production ready before launching a Kickstarter Campaign. Weekends like the maker faire where you have hundreds of kids playing with them all weekend are part of this process (as we can attest having seen at least one dead robot after being trampled by a rampant 10 yr old) as well as numerous schools workshops he has run over the past year . My sons loved playing with them and the Weaver workshop was constantly full of kids and adults driving them every time I walked past, one of the more popular exhibits of the show. While you can’t order one yet you can signup at to be notified when he is ready to begin the first production run.

What can you do with them?

First of all it’s a lot of fun to get a bunch of kids playing Robot Soccer with them, however the real benefit is when the kids start to use the programming capability that Fernando has built into the app. Kids can program the Robots to carry out tasks on the app using simple visual commands and by doing so get some idea of how to get the Robots to operate. Its a great way to introduce young people to what it takes to make things and get them interested in what promises to be one of the highest growth careers in the next decade. It’s ideal for schools that have an active IT and technical program and want to bring introductory robotics into the classroom.