Name: Lit Liao
Hackerspace/Makerspace: Litchee Lab.
Day job: I run Litchee Lab as an makerEd education team and also as makerspace.
How did you get started making?
Six years ago, I joined Seeed Studio, an open source hardware company in Shenzhen, which brought Maker Faire into China. I was a product manager and responsible for education products, so I was involved in a lot of workshops designed and run in Chaihuo makerspace (the first makerspace in SZ), and lots of online communications with makers all over the world to understand user experience when using Seeed’s products. Some things in maker culture really touch me, such as openly encouraging everyone to step out and try something new. Surprisingly, the Internet provides quite a lot of support to anyone who would like to try a new thing. I was touched and found myself growing more and more self confident and skilled at making. And then three years ago, I quit my product design job and started Litchee Lab to both explore sustainable way for a makerspace to survive and learn how makerEd can grow in a Chinese community.
What type of maker would you classify yourself as?
I would say I am a makerEd educator. I make because I am interested and curious about how everything is made, but I also think about what making can bring to education and how that can influence our next generation in the future.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve made?
An Arduino I milled during the Fab Academy program. PCB design and fabrication is one of the most important part in the whole Fab Academy program. Though I milled some simple PCB boards with Attiny series AVR chips, when I got my first full function Arduino with atmega328P done, I still felt like I had made a masterpiece and that the world of Arduino board projects was suddenly open to me. This project was a milestone in building my creative confidence. Since then, I’ve started to feel I can really do lots of real world, functioning projects, not just toy inventions with self designed PCB boards.
What is something you’d like to make next?
I want to explore mobile applications as my next area to explore. So far my experience is mostly about hardware and fabrication, but I think just coding is a pretty cool job. Members from Litchee recommended some pretty good software for beginners to learn about mobile app development. I want to try SWIFT for iOS as a start point. If it goes well, I will introduce it to my students.
Do you have advice to give to other makers?
I would say that making can help you discover your potential. Just try, rather than think, when making new. You will discover you can do much more than you imagined.
Please share your passions with the next generation via education if you can. The maker culture can change yo, so let’s pass that on and help teenagers know about that earlier than we did.
What is Litchee Lab?
Litchee Lab is a grassroots fablab in Shenzhen that supports itself with only membership fees and education services, no big company or government funding. We provide a free platform for adult makers and teenagers to explore their own ideas.
The education part: The operation team of Litchee is devoted to education. We are the first team in Shenzhen listed makerEd curriculum development into our mission. And so far, we are cooperating with 20 schools in Shenzhen to build their own makerEd curriculum. The mission of the education team is help local kids develop their creativity by providing them a platform that offers them both international resources and local insights.
The space: For three years, Litchee Lab accepted members from 8 countries all over the world. Although we are a grassroots makerspace, we are the most recommended makerspaces in Shenzhen for the foreign maker community due to openness and freedom (7×24 door access, super convenient location, good community atmosphere). Litchee Lab is involved in the China-UK maker exchange program organized by the British Council in 2015. We are registered as an official makerspace platform in SZSTI library so that members can apply for Shenzhen government funding through us.
What are the main objectives of the lab?
The mission of Litchee Lab changes as we develop. At the beginning, we were looking for a sustainable way for a makerspace to support itself without funding. During these three years, we are changing that goal to help makerEd as an education tool to change the current education system. The reason is simple: we are a small team, and we feel education is more important to help grow the local community at this moment.
What is the most difficult aspect of running a lab?
As a space, I would say that finding a balance between being open and having private management is the most difficult. We hope our members can feel at home and change things in the space, but on the other hand managing that freedom is tricky.
The biggest challenge for Litchee is how to prove makerEd improves students academic performance, so that the system should pay more space in the formal schedule for it, not just in after school club.