Last month, I revisited a favorite makerspace of mine, SEGMaker in Shenzhen. My friend Yee Ping is involved in running the space, and the coolest part is that it is in the SEG electronics market building. Watch the video here:
I think it gets funded from the Shenzhen government, which has paid out millions to build up over a hundred “makerspaces” almost overnight. I use quotes because a lot of these spaces are much more like incubators, accelerators, or coworking spaces. Because of the requirements for getting the grant money from the government, like having a large commercial space and having an existing company that produces a certain high revenue a year, big companies and trading companies are the ones building the spaces at the moment. In contrast to a place like here in Seattle, where no one is getting any government funding for makerspaces and they are struggling to survive and expensive for makers to use, Shenzhen has a glut of unused spaces and equipment.
On the flip side, the US is doing a better job of makerspaces in schools and edtech. One funny example of this is Shenzhen Polytechnic (SZPT), where I used to teach in an international business program. A block away is Seeed Studio’s headquarters, but they aren’t connected at all. If that was the setup elsewhere, you’d have a formal internship program, Seeed employees doing adjunct teaching and advising at the college, but Chinese universities are heavily bureaucratic and stuck in traditional thinking. It’s sad and a little funny that a vocational school teaching engineering has no formal connections to the Shenzhen maker scene.
(The flip side is that most of the local teachers are really cool and are happy to have visitors or help out, so its more a case of a heavy formalized bureaucracy.)
What do you guys think? What’s been your experience in other countries?