Maker Villa Penang workshop

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Maker Villa Penang started out with a breakfast of local street food at the historic Ren I Tang hotel, we grabbed a bag of Indian pastries and curry dips on the corner and met the group.

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Hackers with style. Maker Villa Penang rented this entire building in a UNESCO world heritage site for our accomidations. It’s a far cry from City Inn in Shenzhen, where we put most visiting hackers.

After breakfast we headed to the industrial area where most big brand flash storage and chip manufacturers have a factory. Penang has been a chip making power house since the 1970s.

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Most talks focused on developing the Penang and Malaysia industry away from manufacturing into an innovation sector. We heard about Science Cafes that provide space and resources for students to do science and engineering, they’ll also open perhaps the most beautiful hackerspace ever proposed, in a UNESCO world heritage site to boot.

Curry Khoo is a startup facilitator who talked up Penang with the enthusiasm of an underground rave promotor. After trying to build a few startups himself, he’s found a career in helping others get going in Malaysia.

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“Maker Yoda” showed his vision for Penang that pushed makers away from just play into higher innovation projects. I didn’t really agree with his talk. I see making as play that sparks or sustains interest and provides a substrate for innovation. Later you have the opportunity to do more complicated engineering projects. Its not just about startups and being bought out, simply having a population with increased science awareness has political and social consequences that I think are positive. Also, working your butt of punctuated by corporate retreats doesn’t supplant the excitement of working on something you love…

A politician maker talked about governance as city making. For example letting groups of cyclists ride routes in Kuala Lumpur to crowd source the bike lane system. Cool perspective, but as an urban planner I’m biased.

The day ended with a group dinner at the historic hotel where most makers stayed. Afterwards we went to checkout the nightlife before stumbling home for our 4am trip back to Shenzhen.

A huge thanks to William, Abigail, and everyone else who made Maker Villa Penang a huge success. We met amazing makers and hackers, and already have plans to meet up with them in Shenzhen and beyond. If you want to check it out, there’s a Maker Faire in Penang mid November.

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