China’s First Maker Faire This Sunday in Shenzhen

China’s First Maker Faire This Sunday in Shenzhen
Eric Pan at his SEEED Technology studios in Shenzhen.

Eric Pan, the founder and CEO of Seeed Technology and co-founder of Chaihuo makerspace, describes himself an Open Source Hardware Facilitator.  Not surprising, then, that he’s the person behind the first Maker Faire in China, this Sunday’s Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire.

Pan says he has about 40 local and another 30 foreign makers signed up to exhibit at the festival, with a good customary Maker Faire range from tech through craft.  Local makers include an RF engineer who makes cool toys out of wood and piano parts in his off-time, as well as a security guard who makes 3D printers.  There will be robots and scrap metal sculptures and workshops, and even a sous vide cooking demo.  Mitch Altman will be one of the foreign makers, with others coming from Japan and Beijing.  And the publishers of the Chinese edition of MAKE, RADIO, will also be on hand.

A former engineer for Intel, Pan has traveled to the U.S. for three Maker Faires, and met with the Maker Faire team last September at World Maker Faire New York about bringing one to Shenzhen.  Pan wanted to share Maker Faire with the product development capital of the world because it’s about “thinking out of the box, and using humor when turning ideas into reality.  It’s also about being more open and more collaborative.”

Shenzhen was China’s first Special Economic Zone, and has become the world’s most well-known center of hardware and consumer electronics production. Lead Apple manufacturer Foxconn alone employs somewhere around 300,000 people here, and it’s likely if you’re in hardware development, you or someone you work with has made a trip to Shenzhen.

Shenzhen is also known in the US as the geographic center of consumer guilt for questionable labor practices tied up in making all our beloved electronic devices.  (Listen to these two very recent This America Life stories Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory and then Retraction to get caught up.)

Chinese MAKE Magazine publisher RADIO co-hosted promotional hands-on workshops this week at Nanshan Book Mall for Shenzhen Mini Make Faire.

This is another of the reasons why Eric Pan wanted to make a Maker Faire in Shenzhen:  “To go against this stereotype.  Shenzhen is the most advanced city for technology and science in China, the best place for startups in China. There are two universities here, and just about every university including Beijing University has branches here. ”

According to Wikipedia, in 2007, Shenzhen was the home of over 20% of China’s PhDs.  That’s a lot of well educated people in the middle of the world’s hardware supply chain—-a perfect breeding ground for innovation. The kind of community not only prime for a Maker Faire, but also for a hackerspace!

Shenzhen’s first hackerspace opened in August. It is called Chaihuo, which means fireplace or bonfire or hearth—”a Chinese metaphor that everyone brings some wood and the fire will burn higher,” explains Pan.

Pan describes Chaihuo’s organizing premise a bit different from the US or European makerspace models.  It’s a bit more of a startup incubator.  “It’s not really for hacking as a hobby.  In Shenzhen, people are more straightforward and trying to create something first to make a living.”

A recent Arduino workshop at Shenzhen's Chaihuo hackerspace.

Chaihuo has 3 physical areas:  meeting rooms for Ideas, a workshop for Hack, and desks for Startup.  There are 30-40 part-time members, and 8 startup members who are there focused full-time on their projects. “These are people who want to not just work day  and night, but have their own dream of making things and turning it into reality.”

Pan says some Chaihuo members will represent this weekend at the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire.

If you or anyone you know is nearby in China or Hong Kong, by all means take the opportunity to witness this moment in history and get to the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire this weekend.  Pan is committed to a location in the center of town for next year’s Faire, so it’s guaranteed to never again to be as intimate as it will be this weekend.

And of course, if you just can’t make it to China, check back to for coverage.

The calm before the storm: a scout shot of the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire venue.
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Sabrina is the Maker Faire Program Director. She works on stage content for the flagship fairs (Bay Area & New York), and also runs Maker Faire's global licensing program for locally and independently produced Maker Faires. She also co-creates the East Bay Mini Maker Faire in her town, Oakland, CA.

View more articles by Sabrina Merlo