High-tech tinkerers on the rise
From building robots to creating software apps, a DIY movement is taking root in Singapore
By Grace Chua
The Straits Times, May 05, 2011
REUSE. Repair. Repurpose.
This is the rallying cry of a growing number of DIY enthusiasts here who put hands and mind together to make robots, phone chargers or 3-D printers from scratch.
Others plug into the challenge of solving problems by writing software applications in 24-hour group hackathons.
Here, hacking refers not to cybercrime but white-hat hacking – tapping into programming smarts to create legal applications.
Engineer Limor Fried, founder of DIY electronics kit company Adafruit, explained to Wired magazine recently that the DIY movement has taken off because of easy access to cheap technology and clear instructions online.
She noted too that society is at a ‘sweet spot’ where people want to make things for themselves and their friends.
And in this pursuit of forming and transforming, throwing things away is out but repairing and reconfiguring them is in.
‘I end up hogging stuff and my wife gets fed up,’ said engineer Benjamin Khoo, 34, whose tiny storeroom in his flat is filled with spare parts.
Tinkering with spare parts may be a spare-time activity but it could also yield new commercially valuable technologies.
‘Yes, it is a hobby, but in the same way that ham radio was a hobby – people were just experimenting with packet radio. But that led to Wi-Fi and cellphones,’ said Ms Fried in an interview with the magazine last month.
Locally, tech consultant Adrianna Tan, 25, believes Singapore has a critical mass of people dabbling in tech projects – at least software ones.
‘Although we’ve had grants and start-ups for some time now, I think South-east Asia has finally started to emerge from the tech backwaters to where it is now – increasingly prominent.’