Thailand is currently facing its worst water shortage in 20 years. There are now droughts in many parts of the country. Water is important in Thai culture. The water shortages has even affected the celebration of the Songkran Festival (Thai New Year) which is an important Thai cultural festival. Communities will celebrate the new year by splashing each other with water to symbolize the removal of the past and celebration of the new. The festival this year was nearly cancelled in some provinces. While this spells crisis for some, it also presents an opportunity.
Chiang Mai is a city in the northern part of Thailand with a vibrant maker scene. There are a few makerspaces in the city, one of them being the Chiang Mai Maker Club. Fondly known as CMMC, they organized the Chiang Mai Makerthon 2016 (also the first such event in Chiang Mai) which took place on the 26 and 27 of August 2016 and was centred around the topic of water. Makers are known for having an attitude of possibility. This event was no different! Co-organized with PINN Creative Space, the makerthon challenged makers to create ideas that can help consumers save water more efficiently.
Makerthons: Bringing Out the Entrepreneur in Everyone
While many in Thailand are aware of the need to save water, there are currently no practical solutions to help them do so easily available in the market. For two days at the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, architects, design engineering majors, and young entrepreneurs tried their hand at making physical products. The challenge was broad enough to encourage the creation for prototypes that could be used at the home or in various industrial sectors.
The SEA Makerthon 2016 in particular has a unique angle of encouraging makers to be at the forefront of potential business innovations. Together with the Sustainable Living Lab in Singapore, the social innovation partner of the SEA Makerthon 2016, local makerspace and Fab Lab partners were able to co-create a competition that encourages not only the joy of making, but also focuses on social issues. These maker organizations were introduced to the zero waste concept and circular economy principles in training sessions prior to the makerthon.
The Chiang Mai makerthon stretched the understanding of what making could do. Making could be more than a hobby and could be used to achieve positive social impact.
Saving Water Can Be Easy and Affordable
Team “My Mind” were very determined about their solution. The group consisted mainly of designers and students. They found that there were no affordable products in the market that could help reduce water usage. Currently available products also sometimes require modifications to water pipes.
According to Pubets Artnarong, a student at the university, “We wanted to invent a device that was so easy to use that housewives (or house husbands) can easily install it in their homes. Accessibility was important for us.”
They created a water trap which is a water saving ecosystem. It takes used water from the shower or bathing area in the bathroom and connects it to the toilet flush tank. The production cost is kept low as they created the product by using a 3D printing machine. The water trap pumps the water from the bathroom to a water reservoir designed as a beautiful flower vase. The water reservoir is designed to treat the water to reduce microorganism growth. The water is then directed to the flush tank.
Building Bridges and Sharing Ideas Through Making
As the makerthon series begins to get into full swing (there are 7 more in September to October), it is encouraging to see that the participants from the different cities have unanimously agreed that such platforms expand their horizons. The Chiang Mai Maker Club organizers also put together a team of experts that were helpful during each step of the team’s journey. We will be in Hanoi in the coming days to cover how the community tackles food waste. Watch this space!
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.
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).