The SEA Makerthon is a summer-long regional hackathon taking place in 10 cities across Southeast Asia. It was organized by the Southeast Asian Makerspace Network (SEAMNET) to address issues concerning sustainability. The theme “Designing a World with Zero Waste” will be addressed by makers in different ways based on local needs and interests.

You can see other articles on the SEA Makerthon here.


Ask anyone in Malaysia where the Silicon Valley of Malaysia is located, and they would point you to Penang, an island state north of Malaysia close to the Thai border. The people of Penang who proudly call themselves “Penang-nites” have much to offer: From the food, to the wonderful heritage buildings, and also in more recent years a tight knit community of makers. Many global technology firms have a presence in Penang and their engineers have contributed to the growing talent pool of makers.

Penang Science Cluster is a hub for maker activities. Led by ex-engineers, the Penang Science Cluster promotes science education through making to mainly students from primary and secondary schools. Their makerspace is located in a 100 year old warehouse by the port which now houses a co-working space, an exhibition area, a cafe, and a makerspace.

penang

Located in a 100 year old heritage building, the Penang Science Cluster used to be a warehouse that received and stored goods from the port nearby. The book shelf is actually made from the old beams in the building. Great way to repurpose!

penang2

In their exhibition space, they have a plane(!) and many science experiments on display.

penang3

Dato Yoon, one of the founders of Penang Science Cluster is showing us the latest trends in making. Drones are a popular feature in any makerspace nowadays.

penang4

The cafe owner in the Penang Science Cluster is also a maker himself. Even the signboards are laser cut using “Harry Potter” style fonts in the makerspace.

SEA Makerthon 2016:Penang

The Penang Science Cluster has always been strong in organizing educational workshops and hosting open community meet ups. This year, together with the Southeast Asia Makerspace Network, they organized the first ever open innovation competition in the city. Sustainable Living Lab as the social innovation partner of the regional makerthon co-designed the competition’s theme which was sustainability in consumer electronic appliances. Taking into account that Penang is a electronics manufacturing hub, e-waste was an interesting problem to tackle. How might we redesign our regular irons, kettles, and rice cookers to be less damaging to the environment?

On the September 10-11, groups of students and professionals gathered at the Penang Science Cluster to come up with innovative solutions to this problem. The makerthon was led by Peter Ong and Vivien Ooi, the main managers at the makerspace. As makers themselves, they saw an opportunity in bridging the gap between makers and industry to create everyday electrical products that could be recycled more easily and designed with minimal wastage. This makerthon was slightly different from the rest of the ones conducted previously in other cities as participants had to do a product breakdown!

img_1897

Do you know what is inside of your simple electrical fan?

img_1898

How are our printers built? Can we design it in a way that makes it easier to repair?

img_1902

How many electronic items can you identify in a phone? There are many precious metals in a simple item like this one!

img_1916

A microwave is quite dangerous so please do exercise great care when opening one!

img_1919

Observing how the inner plate rotates and mapping out the electrical circuits.

img_1920

What is this..? Good question. Do you know ALL the parts of a printer? Why aren’t these things labelled?!

Knowledge + Insight + Tools = Amazing Prototypes!

Consumer electronic appliances are the easiest to buy and dispose of. Very often we don’t think very much of how the materials are sourced or how the electronics work. A huge part of being a maker involves learning how to take things apart. The Penang makerthon was designed to make participants curious and to ask why certain parts are designed in that way. One question that came up was why was there was no system designed around these appliances to tackle disposal. Take back systems and recycling centers are common in developed countries in Europe. In Southeast Asia, we are only beginning to have these conversations about building systems for better consumption.

The next important part of being a maker is putting back what we took apart! This may or may not happen in the first few tries (or not at all) but the entire process was definitely enriching. During the makerthon, the participants needed to come up with a prototype that could not only reduce waste but create durable prototypes. They were given printers, rice cookers, fans, and microwaves to tinker with. After which they needed to redesign that particular appliance.

img_1918

After going through the “Empathy” part of the Design Thinking process by taking apart the items, teams then had to go through the ideation phase.

img_1915

Learning ESP8266! Thank you Cytron Technologies for giving a masterclass on on ESP8266 to all the participants.

img_1903

Hacking together a lamp using materials they found from the appliances.

img_1914

Hmmmm…. how can we use this data into our prototype?

img_1917

The cardboard prototypes! Some of them were really very nicely constructed.

img_1906

Up close and personal with the microwave of a sustainable future.

img_1911

Checkout those work stations! The Penang Science Cluster is definitely very well equipped. One of the participants is testing the current of the rice cooker to see if it still works.

img_1908

The rice cooker is an indispensable item in any Southeast Asian household especially in Malaysia. Sadly, a lot of them are only designed to last 2-3 years.

SEA Makerthon: A Social Gathering for Makers and Makers-To-Be

There are not many events such the SEA Makerthon 2016 that brings strangers and friends together to hack open items! It was the first time for many of the participants where they not only had to build a prototype but do market research as well. This is the first makerthon focused on sustainability in the region. At the end of the two day makerthon, the participants reimagined how electrical appliances of the future could look.

Team Skywaze with their winning project, the Infinity Cycle aims to help consumers recycle e-waste more easily. The prototype created by the team was also equipped with an Espresso lite 2.0 as the controller board and IOT infrastructure, providing power to weighing module (with a power bank) and driver circuits (amplifiers) for the weighing module. It also has an LCD and a set of switches for the waste selection.

We would also like to do a shout out to all the amazing teams who came that weekend for the makerthon! This was one of the harder topics to tackle because of the electronics aspect. But all the teams came through and in a short span of time, they were able to make working prototypes as well. Catch you at the next makerthon in future!

penang5

The Infinity Cycle Project aims to reduce many types of waste that we produce daily. It is able to collect all kinds of waste, including e-waste, a type of waste which is very sophisticated to be collected by the current automatic collection vending machines.

img_1909

A rice cooker that comes with a monitoring system.

img_1901

If it ain’t broken, repurpose it! Sometimes not everything needs to be redesigned or remade. It just needs an upgrade.

penang6

A rice cooker with multiple uses. It can be recycled into a quirky fountain for decoration at home.


The SEA Makerthon 2016 will see 10 cities across the region organizing makerthons. Not only will this see 1000-1500 makers tackle challenges related to sustainability, all winning teams will be incubated under a regional Maker Apprenticeship Programme to refine their prototypes into working products. Sustainable Living Lab is proud to be the social innovation partner for the SEA Makerthon 2016.

The 10 winning teams will compete against each other at the Grand Finale in Singapore during the Asian Makers’ Summit (InnovASEAN) on the 15-16 of October.

The SEA Makerthon and InnovASEAN 2016 is organized by the Southeast Asian Makerspace Network (SEAMNET).