FabLab Saigon’s Makerthon: Designing a World with Zero Waste
Last month, Fablab Saigon co-hosted the first South East Asia (SEA) Makerthon 2016 in partnership with the South East Asian Makerspace Network (SEAMNET) in Ho Chi Minh City. The theme of the event, Designing a World with Zero Waste, invited participants to develop concepts for longer-lasting products which minimise the consumption of resources such as water, electricity or other raw materials.
Makerthons are usually hosted by fabrication labs and maker spaces, also known as co-working spaces for designers and engineers. Participants are generally equipped with tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, and/or construction equipment. These tools are leveraged to turn ideas into prototypes, and devise a business plan for future sales. At the end of a typical makerthon, participants pitch their products in front of a panel of judges. As making a physical product can often prove expensive, makerthons allow aspiring entrepreneurs the freedom to experiment with otherwise unaffordable materials and tools. They are also great opportunities for budding entreprises to showcase their products to potential angel investors.
The SEA Makerthon 2016 is a three-month makerthon and apprenticeship programme consecutively running in 10 cities across the South East Asia region. As each of the 10 host cities faces different waste challenges, each makerthon aims to devise solutions for a specific local issue.
The programme kicked off with a focus on reducing packaging waste in Ho Chi Minh City. The management of packaging waste is a pressing issue in Vietnam. An average person produces 84 kg plastic waste per year; and it is estimated that at least 18,000 plastic bags are used and thrashed everyday by the food and beverage industry.
Subsequent makerthons will address the issues of food waste in Hanoi (Vietnam), sustainable agriculture in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), water scarcity in Bangkok and Chiang Mai (Thailand), and consumer electronics and appliance wastes in Penang & Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). A final competition will host the winners from each city in Singapore later on this year.
During the 36 hours-long ‘maker marathon’, participants were asked to form groups of up to four individuals craft a concept that can address Vietnam’s largest city’s love affair with plastic waste.
Nga Nguyen, from our Vietnam office, participated in and reported from the programme. The group she worked with developed an eco-friendly lampshade. Using lignin (the world’s second most abundant natural polymer) as a glue substitute, the team assembled the lampshade from a plastic bottle, dried sedge (a grass traditionally used for weaving in Vietnam), and straws.
The prototype reuses beverage packaging and employed traditional Vietnamese weaving techniques, which if the prototype was produced on a mass scale, would provide underemployed artisans with an additional source of income.
‘I can say that makerthons are definitely a combination of ‘maker’ and ‘marathon’. It was a race against time where other creatives like me along with activists, and entrepreneurs came together to turn their ideas into viable products. For someone who aims to start their business in the future, I believe that attending a makerthon can be a rewarding experience, especially to better understand the product development cycle and process.’