China's first Maker Faire !

April 6th was a long night that would be followed by an even longer day. Hours stretched like taffy as the Airplane pulled me across time zones. I was on my way to the Shenzhen Maker Faire which was being put on by Eric Pan, the founder of one of the largest open sourced businesses I know. Eric is a visionary, and his vision to inspire more makers in China connecting them with a global maker movement through the concepts of openness, sharing, and innovation inspires me and hundreds others to come to Shenzhen to share in the first Maker Faire in China! Hours ago I was at Instructables cooking my Last Breakfast for the office and gaving my Last Hugs. Qarly, my new friend, had helped my stay up all night organizing my tickets and suitcase. She went with me to the Payless shoe store on her bike as I walked barefoot.

Yes, I started my journey shoeless. I had traded in my Vibrams at REI for a large backpack so I could cram as many arduinos and 3D printers into it as possible before leaving to go spread the good words. Here are the good words as I see them right now: "It Can Be Done." Yes, with a solid mission, a relentless attitude and accepting being shoeless (or jobless, or hungry, or ...) it's possible to accomplish the things you dream.

Boom, back in that tin can flying over the Pacific. My schedule starts with a trip to Hong Kong to meet up with instructable's member Prank. Alex Hornstein and I had recently completed an adventure in 3D printing called the Pocket Factory in which we traveled across America seeking the business models behind low cost 3D manufacturing. He is now back in east Asia being the revolutionary philosopher engineer he is. I land at 8pm and head out into the city of the future. Hong Kong is a city of millions, beautifully lit tall buildings, zippy public transportation, and the largest pay inequality in the world. Looking out the window I keep wondering if this is the rich part, or the poor. Then I was there. I made it to IFC - a gigantic mall in the heart of Hong Kong. The metro stop inside it is called "Hong Kong Station". Yep, shopping is big here.

We hung out on the roof of IFC talking projects. Without giving too much away too soon let's just say Alex is on his way to revolutionize the micro solar industry. We took the familiar ferry route home and I spent the night organizing and updating the social world since I knew in a few hours I'd be in China... and in China, no one can hear you tweet.

Before I knew it I had to be off! It was 6:20am (HK time) and the ferry leaves at 6:40, I had a long day ahead of me and I haven't slept yet. Holy crap! I ran and got right back on that ferry from Lama to the mainland. Passing all the tall buildings once again and rushed onto the MTR. As we sped along the Hong Kong landscape of tall towers slowly turned into green rolling hills and the people on the train spoke less and less english. I crossed the border into Shenzhen and it was there I met Ani, the Monk. What a beautiful lady! We had a great conversation involving LOTS of smiling, drawing and almost no words. She was from Hong Kong and we were now friends. We traded bracelets and now I have one more reason to learn Mandarin!

I finally made it all the way to Xi Xiang, the metro stop which was walking distance to the Maker Faire! I was getting pretty excited, I had lugged all this stuff across the world, and finally I was going to meet the makers of China! After a long and potholed walk I finally made it to the gate where a nice young Chinese lady helped me carry my stuff, we walked down a long outdoor hallways at F518 the "First Experiential Sharing Space in China" which was filled with sculptures and art. Billboards around me advertised hip hop dance classes and robots peeped from the windows. I knew I was in the right place. Right near the entrence of the Maker Faire was a strange robot. It was the size of a small house and it served books. They have robot libraries in Shenzhen. Wow! The more I learn about this place the cooler it seems!

The faire is a large three story space with a media space on the first floor where people can buy "chinese make" a magazine called Radio that has been teaching people how to make stuff since 1955. The publishers of this magazine are also the ones who do the translation for Makezine! The second floor is filled with long tables of makers, a huge hall filled with running robots, dancing droids, DIY laser 3D scanners, touchless IR interfaces, octocopter (no, not tacocopter) and all the awesome stuff you'd expect to see in San Francisco, except this is Shenzhen. There are makers everywhere!

Upstairs there are people making clay figurines, another instructables user - Star - runs a workshop around Canidu (yes, you can do!), her company which makes an electronics learning tool. This movement is obviously global and the Shenzhen Maker Faire has pulled makers not only from all over China, but all over the world. Eric Pan, the founder of Seeed Studio employs 70 people through an open source project and through this faire has inspired hundreds. At the after party, you can really tell how proud Eric was to have brought amazing makers like Mitch Altman and David Li from the Shanghai hackerspace together.

Eric has a new project in the works right now. He's soon to be a father! I can only imagine how proud he will be when baby Eric Pan picks up his first blinky LED kit. Now that's some serious making!

+Bilal Ghalib
PS. Eric in the last picture is not dead, only extremely exhausted!

Kalifa1235 years ago
I enjoy so much reading about your travels, so as really like the style of your writing and how when reading your stories, I get the feeling, as if I am on the go or go with you through your experiences..I can almost imagine you shoesless rushing to catch the "tin can" to fly you over the Pacific. I am still laughing at that:) Thanks for giving to us.such vivid images of the amazing things that you have seen in China and HK!
UK Moving
caitlinsdad5 years ago
Interesting, it seems you also picked up the style of writing that the Spammers from the region use when they post here, a rambling text dotted with links. I would be interested to hear about you shlepping a bag of high technology back and forth across the border through customs. Did you get a nice handmade suit and some knockoff apple products?
zomfibame5 years ago
I'm diggin' your story of your travel, and I'm diggin' the pictures just as much. The one of the monk on the train conversing with you through simple images on paper reminds me of a long time ago (when India was still much more 3rd world than it is today, and most of it had no electricity.) My mom went there, was making art, met a kid who spoke no english. She now has a basic drawing of an ox and some simple images from a very similar style encounter with a small kid who was herding animals. .... The longer I live, and the more I see, the more I realize, governments can be very different, but all of your pictures remind of something that time keeps teaching me. People are all the same all over the world. and creativity and communication are almost as wonderful as the people themselves.
angelabchua5 years ago
I love that when I read about your travels, I can hear your voice and enthusiasm! Hope you are enjoying this adventure!