making a maker movement in nepal

What is a maker movement? Exactly what it says it is, actually. While the culture of making tech related contraptions gets more popular in the US and elsewhere, in Nepal its only just started but its growth is slow. How could it get better and bigger?

Maker Movement, Maker Culture and Hackerspace are words that are common to me. There are not common words for most of us here in Nepal. Unlike in the USA and in Germany, maker movement is in its infancy here. Yet, those who are involved or interested in this movement have made significant achievements that beg people to ponder what the future of this movement will be like in Nepal, say ten years from now.

For those who are scratching their heads after hearing about Maker Movement, Maker Culture and Hackerspace, let me explain. Maker culture is essentially a subculture of the DIY culture. But this culture deals with engineering oriented do-it-yourself projects. Maker Movement is the movement where an individual or a group of individuals create and market products made by themselves. These products are made by reusing unused or discarded materials that come from computer associated gadgets. Hackerspace is the space where people can come together and share their knowledge and resources to make things. Hackerspaces also have areas where people can actually construct products.

For those who don’t get what the movement is about, a quote attributed to the Co-founder of Chaos Computer Club, gives you a perfect idea. Someone involved in the maker movement “looks at a coffee machine and wonders how to make a toaster out of it”, he said. This quote, shared by Karkhana Co-founder Sakar Pudasaini, explains what the whole movement is about. It has people creating, building and designing things by modifying, tinkering, inventing or making something from scratch. If this it sounds familiar, it’s because it probably is.

Although it has been going on in Nepal for quite some time now, it hasn’t been labeled as a Maker Movement yet. In the US and in Germany, there are more than 100 Hackerspaces, making it easier for people to build and share ideas. These Hackerspaces are not just opened by likeminded people, but Universities have also started to open them, a great example being the lab that MIT has opened. Unlike in Nepal there are fairs like the Maker Faire and magazines like MAKE magazine that makes sharing ideas with like-minded people much easier. From building their own radio, to building their own computers from kits and now assembling and building their own 3D printers, also from a kit, and using the said printer to create things and to sell, the maker culture has come far in these countries. And in Nepal?

It’s not that we don’t have innovative and creative people. I would argue that in a country where nothing can be found at the tips of our fingers, innovation rules. But why hasn’t the Maker Movement flourished? In my opinion, its peoples’ resourcefulness that is the guiding force behind this movement. Then why are we so behind? The reason according to Sakar Pudasaini is that there is a disconnect between the practical side and the theoretical knowledge that we get from school. A Makers Movement needs the theoretical and the abstract training that we get in schools and institutions to be combined with the skills and the ability to use it in our everyday life. Karkhana- a hakerspace, is doing its bit to bridge this gap. They have programs with schools where they have a robotic workshop, allowing children to make sense of some of the theory they learn in school. For those with a more competitive bend, Karkhana also has a workshop-cum-competition called Yantra. Two members of the winning team of Yantra 2.0 Ganesh Bikram Singh Ale and Yagya Prasad Devkota are working on a flying robot. They’ve finished the research and are now planning to build a prototype.

The problem with the maker movement in Nepal might be that, although people are working on things that are cutting edge, it’s not something everyone would be interested in. Flying robots or robots in general have no use for many people, and thus lack the drawing power for the masses. With an economy heavily based on agriculture, research and tools to help this sector would certainly draw support from the public as well as other institutions in Nepal. Instead of focusing on contraptions that would not be able to connect to the public, maybe the focus should be on something more people could connect to. The Maker Movement would then have a different story to tell.

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