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Fun and coding at Singapore Maker Faire 2018 with Microbit

The thing which defines every Maker Faire is the open sharing by the exhibitors. Following my previous post on my walkthrough of the 2018 Maker Faire grounds, this second part wraps up the Fun and coding at Singapore Maker Faire 2018 with Microbit. The participants enthusiasm are contagious! Also, I shall also cover on how you can obtain a free Microbit micro-controller to build your own projects too.

Creating a conductive environment for inventor ship

As a professional engineer and a STEM ambassador myself, I enjoy engaging students to share more of their inventions. Also, more at times, by visual analysis, I can roughly make up the workings of the inventions on display at the back of my head. Hence, this allowed me to build up a list of relevant and useful questions on their inventions which I can query to bring out the best in the kids. It is almost like “trying to play along“.

Me doing so really brings out the knowledge the kids have their subjects, and out into their comfort zones in public speaking. After all, the best way you can learn is to explain your invention to others. Moreover, I found that approaching the kids smiling and enthusiastically going like “wow is this a remote control car?” helps to break the ice better.

DIY Dog Interaction and enrichment toys from SUTD
DIY Dog Interaction and enrichment device toys from SUTD.

Maker enthusiasm is contagious!

Furthermore, I found the enthusiasm displayed by the kids addictive. I was impressed of the student knowledge. Some can go to the extent of elaborating even the tiniest of details such as code and servo settings. Also, I had the chance to learn from students who applied sensors and methods in rather unconventional, yet effective ways.

Enthusiastic kids on their inventions
Enthusiastic kids on their inventions.

After all, they are the ones who built it. The children have a level of respectable competency and ownership of their inventions even beyond that of their coordinating school teachers. Though occasionally, you can see the teachers nudging the students out of their shyness when public speaking.

A play battlefield

Throughout the fair, be sure to watch out for random remote hover craft or remote cars which might zip under your feet! At times I see kids helping each other troubleshooting their toys in the field. You often see kids engrossed on their creations, oblivious to their surroundings with a sense of pure commendable dedication you seldom see.

Interactive play garden
Interactive play garden.

For instance, there was a kid on my visit who was so fixated on his newly created Microbit remote controlled car invention, he stopped in the middle of a walking path troubleshooting the battery pack without knowing. Passer-bys simply adore the motion. Moreover, he got the help of several other kids who eventually aided him to fix the problem.

Various Maker Works open for all to build and play
Various Maker Works open for all to build and play.

I found the enthusiasm displayed by the kids addictive. I was impressed that some can go to the extent of elaborating even the tiniest of details such as code and servo settings.

Moreover, at times, you see students exploring other makers. Humorously, often getting carried away playing at other booths, and being summoned back by their peers and teachers back to man their booths. Commendably, you can genuinely see the enthusiasm of the children. This is despite the kids looking all pretty much tried by the end of the fair day.

Students constructing structures at the Cardboard Octomaker
Students constructing structures at the Cardboard Octomaker.

Learn a bout of programming with the Microbit

Throughout the fair, you make have heard much mention about the Microbit microcontroller. In a nutshell, the Microbit is an open source hardware ARM-based embedded system designed by the BBC for use in computer education in the UK. You may know it as referred to as BBC Micro Bit and may recognize it stylized as micro:bit.

Microbit coding sessions organised by the Singapore IMDA
Microbit coding sessions organised by the Singapore IMDA.

The Microbit in the Singapore content, like in the UK, they are means to create awareness to involve school children and build early interest and awareness the field of Engineering through inventorship. Moreover, this is also to address workforce shortages of professionals in the science and engineering sectors. Notably, the Maker Faire is an excellent way of doing so.

Fancy a free Micro controller?

In promoting the initiative, Government Ministries such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in collaboration with the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) were also present. Also, to sweeten the deal, they were distributing free Microbit controller kits to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who signed up on the spot to take a short intro programming course to create simple projects.

Microcontroller course using the Microbit
Microbit training areas, setting up your first program in the Maker Faire.

Here, you be given the Microcontroller upon registration on their website. Thereafter, students volunteers are present to provide one to one coaching using their laptop terminals. Moreover, they will introduce you to the Makecode GUI, implementing a feature of your choice.

Moreover, programming can be done using makecode.microbit.org. It offers a graphical user interface through a user-friendly drag and drop interface. No prior programming experience required. Alternatively, MicroPython is a software implementation of the Python 3 programming language, written in C.

After the Maker Faire, you can still participate in IMDA’s Digital Maker programme. It is known as the The Digital Garage. They hold introductory workshops and events at community locations. This is delivered through organisations such as the Tanjong Pagar Digital Maker Interest Group, People’s Association, Science Centre Singapore and the Centre for Fathering.

Wrapping it Up

All in all, I found the quality of the this Maker Faire exhibits much better than last year. Though there are fewer hands-on areas such as the interactive Disassembly areas which I particularly adore in the last Maker Faire. This year, the plus point in this new setting is more engaging and pleasant to attendees. There were more closely knitted interactions without much commercial baggage.

The Tinker board, part of what makes a Maker, a maker
The Tinker board, part of what makes a Maker, a maker!

It goes to show that bigger is not really better. In comparison, the last Maker Faire held at the Science center last year was much bigger by the numbers. It had at least 450 stands instead of the sub-300 booth here this year in Tampines. However, the one last year had much of a stale commercial for-profit feel. With mostly novelty stores selling expensive pre-made crafts. I felt this year’s show does go better in-hand with the maker mentally.

Be definitely looking forward to the Maker Faire next year.


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