The race towards technologically-driven development that boomed during the new millenium introduced the world to the concept of The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or the Internet of Things (IoT). This was further illustrated by how rampant information technology became a part of our daily lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The past two years have taught us that digitisation and Big Data is beyond necessary - enabling the advancement of otherwise manual processes. Therefore, it is only right that the multifaceted world of IR 4.0 is celebrated, and efforts towards uplifting the society to be more creative and innovative should be embraced. Two academicians from our very own varsity have heeded the importance of the transformative mind and spirit, subsequently initiating Project Makerspace.
In efforts to cultivate the ‘maker’ culture, Prof Dr Sharifuddin Mat Zain and Dr Tay Kheng Soo established Makerspace@UM in the year 2020. Makerspace@UM was intended to achieve the following objectives, among others:
To inculcate the maker culture or maker mentality amongst staff and students of UM and members of the public.
To stimulate innovation amongst students and staff to solve problems based on the IR 4.0 concept.
To provide the space and facilities to train students and staff in the various aspects of IR 4.0.
To facilitate students and staff in building various prototypes and equipment motivated by the IR 4.0 concept.
To put it simply, Makerspace@UM was set up as a place in which people can come together and create. However, its patrons are not exclusively students within the university, but can also include staff members, students from neighbouring schools, as well as the public in general. As a working space for the community, Makerspace@UM strives to enhance innovation and inculcate the maker culture amongst its visitors. To elaborate, the maker culture is essentially a culture to reignite the artisan spirit and pull communities into creating something with their very own hands. No background knowledge is required to be able to ‘create’, anyone from different skill levels or careers are welcomed to Makerspace and come up with creations whether it is a form of technology, piece of furniture, or even calligraphy! Makerspace@UM as shown in Figure 1.
Connecting people with different ideas and backgrounds is celebrated in Makerspace as collaboration is an integral part of the project. Moving away from isolating research or lab work, Makerspace was established to encourage more group-friendly spaces that will enhance cooperation and support in order to make a more substantial and simultaneously hands-on shared learning experience. Branded as a place where DIY meets education, Makerspace@UM aims to be a collaborative workplace where people with similar interests, particularly in computing, programming, and technology, are able to gather and work on projects with one another.
Not only that, it also serves as a platform in which individuals can assemble and share ideas, equipment, and knowledge with each other. Technology advancements are not that separate from the daily lives of individuals these days, as almost everyone has constant interactions and even rely on technology. However, this project is intended to encourage the UM community to move beyond mere technology consumption, but rather, take on more challenging perspectives - such as creation and innovation. Although having a university community familiar with technological advancements is a benefit that comes with being in an urban environment, cultivating a culture that leads and drives innovation will steer both the university and the country into a more futuristic direction.
Prior to the official establishment of Makerspace@UM, Prof Dr Sharifuddin Mat Zain and Dr Tay Kheng Soo had initially built a prototype or a smaller version of Makerspace at the university’s Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science, which at that time was referred to as the UM Chemistry Innovation Space (UMCIS). The UMCIS acted as a centre in which various trainings were provided for students from the faculty (particularly the Chemistry department) were enabled to build their own practical low cost equipment (for instance, a spin coater) to be used for the purpose of their respective researches.
Photo by Jakub Zerdzicki: https://www.pexels.com/photo/3d-print-project-19149826/
UMCIS’s lab assistants were fully trained to use 3D printing technology to print plasticware (such as test tube racks, keck clip, etc.) for use by the chemistry laboratory. On top of that, one of the lab assistants managed to build an online room booking system for the department by using the Google platform. This opportunity had imparted significant knowledge for lab assistants to use 3D printing technologies to ease their routine work. On top of that, it becomes a cost-efficient incentive as the laboratory operating cost can be reduced. At the end of the day, this has developed an innovative mindset to the point that they do not have to totally rely on suppliers in procuring certain plasticware.
These past activities manifested how people can leverage technological solutions and innovation in order to solve daily problems and at the same time cut the workload or costs incurred. This precisely illustrates the concept of the maker culture, where ideas that come
from a simple problem can translate into a simple solution. Using this experience as a fundamental guide, Prof Dr Sharifuddin Mat Zain and Dr Tay Kheng Soo saw a critical need to establish a makerspace at the central level so that the university can apply the same concepts that were initiated by the Department of Chemistry, and the maker culture can be fostered within the UM community. With the challenges presented by the Industrial Revolution 4.0 dawning upon university students and global citizens, Makerspace@UM believes that the activities and courses offered will inherently benefit and transform the UM community to be more future-ready. 1st Code Club Malaysia shown in Figure 2.
At the moment, Makerspace@UM is temporarily located at FD-L2-9, Bangunan Makmal Kimia, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science and is open to just about anyone - whether it’s the UM community or the general public. It is equipped with various tools and equipment that will help makers realise their creative ideas with no added fee, something that is not readily obtainable anywhere else.
Some apparatus offered by Makerspace includes (but is not limited to) 3D printers, laser engraver, desktop computers, tools for woodworks, electronics, sensors, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi learning kits.
The list does not stop there - the people behind Makerspace are hoping to be able to procure more equipment that would eventually cover the various aspects of the maker culture. Having such facilities provided for users within the university and the public is such a great initiative as normally, people who do not have technological academic backgrounds will not have the opportunity to access such equipment in their lifetime. Arduino and Python class, as shown in Figure 3.
In order to attract more makers from different backgrounds and academic communities to join Makerspace@UM, they also offer various courses free of charge. These courses will revolve around the usage of the Makerspace facilities.
Not only will this encourage the full utilisation of Makerspace and the services they offer, it will also act as an introduction to Makerspace for the entire university community, as well as the general public who are interested. No one will be left behind in Makerspace, as efforts are made to include even those who come from various academic backgrounds, including non-science fields.
Amongst the courses that have been planned are the innovative use of EXCEL and Google sheet, computer programming, data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoTs), the use of Arduino and other microcontroller boards as well as 3D printing and design. Activity on 3D printing and design workshop for students as shown in Figure 4.
Previously, Makerspace@UM had collaborated with Autobotic Sdn Bhd and UM UMCIS on the First Code Club Malaysia. This association in December of 2020 involved participants of all ages to come together in a club that taught the basics of programming and coding. The youngest participant to join the First Code Club was a seven-year-old. Age and gender does not stop anyone from performing in Makerspace@UM as after attending the programme, she had managed to build a simple computer game from scratch. With the world becoming increasingly digital, the programme was a great opportunity and provided an interesting exposure for children in Malaysia into the world of programming and technology. On top of that, Makerspace also worked with Plasma Technology Research Centre and enabled its members to create a 3D printed part for a plasma device. At the moment, Makerspace@UM is still collaborating with Autobotic Sdn Bhd, but also working closely with Yayasan Science to Action as well as Innosens Sdn Bhd for education and prototyping programmes. In April 2021, the staff of Innosens Sdn Bhd attended a 3D Printing Training at Makerspace. 3D printing and design workshop for UM staff, as shown in Figure 5.
Despite the challenges that were brought forth by the Covid-19 pandemic, Makerspace@UM has run pretty smoothly and remained a functional and active facility. If anything, it is a manifestation of the importance of going digital and to quickly adopt technologically-advanced solutions in order to reduce the need for manual or physical processes. A minor challenge that Makerspace@UM is facing would be staffing issues. At present, Makerspace@UM is fully managed and operated by its founders, Dr. Tay Kheng Soo and Prof Sharifuddin Md Zain. However, they constantly welcome all UM staff to contribute to Makerspace in any way they can - whether it is in the form of ideas, courses, or even potential collaborations. Activity during covid 19 pandemic, as shown in Figure 6.
Makerspace@UM has come a long way since it was set up back in the year 2020. Since then, the project has been funded initially by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) through the Makers@University program and was approved by Universiti Malaya Management Committee (JKPU) on 17 August 2021. Although Makerspace@UM is still considered to be in the beginning stages, the efforts to develop the maker mentality among UM staff and students are underway. Seeing the importance of the innovative culture and mindset to be inculcated in the university and communities around UM, Makerspace hopes to gain traction and encourage visitors to take part in the process of widening its reach. Makerspace@UM hopes to be able to gather talents from within the university itself in order to help further develop the facility and propel Makerspace to be the core establishment in flourishing maker culture within and outside of UM. This remains the inspiration behind Makerspace, and acts as an aspiration for the future of Makerspace.
Gearing students in schools for IR4.0 is definitely not an easy feat, but does not stop the people behind Makerspace. As education is bound to be transformative moving forwards and
creativity and innovation become the basis of the current and future framework for education, Makerspace can play its role in preparing students towards that. In addition to inculcating the maker mentality within the UM community, another very important function of Makerspace@UM is to serve the community around the university. With the new focus on innovation and creativity in the practice of education, Makerspace@UM can play a very important role in training the trainers who will consequently become the core group of educators responsible for flourishing and expanding the maker culture in schools and communities neighbouring the university. Furthermore, future developments of Makerspace@UM will allow more extensive involvement of UM in preparing school students for IR4.0, specifically schools neighbouring the university. One of the activities in a Chemistry Day – Introduction of 3D printing to the students from schools shown in Figure 7.
In efforts to awaken the maker spirit, please feel free to contact Makerspace@UM to either contribute to the project or fulfil your interests in using the facilities. Dr. Tay Kheng Soo and Prof Sharifuddin Md Zain can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Lastly, Makerspace@UM is open to all staff and students in UM - so do come and explore their equipment and encourage your students to visit and utilise the facilities at Makerspace@UM
1st Code Club Malaysia
Arduino and Python class
3D printing and design workshop for students
3D printing and design workshop for UM staff
Activity during covid 19 pandemic Chemistry
Chemistry Day – Introduction of 3D printing to the students from schools