Kicking Off 2019 with Shenzhen Meets Berlin Meetup

Since I moved to Berlin in November to represent Seeed in Europe, I’ve been looking for a good timing to host a meetup to connect with the local hardware community and to let everyone know that we are here to create more synergy with what’s going on in Shenzhen. The perfect opportunity came up when a group of Shenzhen friends, including those who live there and some have visited or worked extensively there, came to Germany at the end of 2018 for the 35C3 (Chaos Communication Congress) in Leipzig. The gang came to Berlin for a week after the event, and I knew we had maximize on their presence here.

Shenzhen Meets Berlin at MotionLab, Photo by Mitch Altman

On January 3, Seeed hosted the “Shenzhen Meets Berlin Meetup” at MotionLab Berlin, a guided prototyping lab in the heart of Berlin with a focus on hardware mobility projects. The team at MotionLab Berlin was very supportive when they heard the idea, as a big part of their community is interested in going to market and therefore is always looking for manufacturing resources. They helped set up the venue, prepare drinks and ordered pizza, and promoted the event to their members and community. Since the meetup took place just after the New Year’s, many people were on holiday but the registration hit 100 with many more asking to attend; the interest in Shenzhen was overwhelming!

Aravinth from MotionLab Berlin gave a tour of their awesome facilities, Photo by Rainer Voigt

The meetup mainly featured short talks from seven speakers, who came from all over the world with experience in Shenzhen that range from getting things manufactured, teaching in maker education, to working for a cool company (me). James Simpson of Steamhead, a makerspace in Shekou Shenzhen focusing on education, kicked off the session with a comprehensive look at the Shenzhen maker ecosystem, and even a helpful chart listing the living costs and income ranges for people thinking about moving to Shenzhen.

Jame’s sharing about Shenzhen maker ecosystem, Photo by Drew Fustini

Then Carrie Leung (Steamhead, Shenzhen American International School, Make FashionEdu) gave an example of how a wearable project came together in 3 days in Shenzhen, with the help of community and easy access to electronic components, demonstrating the magic of “Shenzhen Speed.”

Carrie’s sharing about Shenzhen Speed, Photo by James Simpson

I talked about Seeed, which many in the community are already familiar with, and our new mission of being the IoT hardware enabler. I also talked about our x.factory, now with locations in Shenzhen, Dongguan (open manufacturing) and Hebei province in the north (environmental solutions). Some people came up to me afterwards to inquire about small batch manufacturing and showed me projects they’re working on.

Monica shared about Seeed and x.factory, Photo by Drew Fustini

Next speaker was Mitch Altman, who I believe many in the audience came to meet. As the inventor of TV-B-Gone, Mitch went to China very early on to manufacture the wonderful little device that turns off TVs, and over the years has given lectures and soldering workshops at the invitation of organizations ranging from government to universities to events like Maker Faire Shenzhen. Mitch shared his observations of how the hacker/maker movement has evolved in China, and invited the audience to join him on his annual Hacker Trip to China.

Mitch Altman talked about maker movement in China, Photo by Drew Fustini

Then Luke Henderson of M5 Stack in Shenzhen talked about how he moved to Shenzhen to teach English but ended up giving maker workshops and working at a hardware startup, and has recently learned to design PCBs. Hans Stam, who lived in Shenzhen for years before moving to Berlin, gave a short but informative talk about the processes involved in DFM (Design for Manufacturing).

Luke Henderson his life in Shenzhen, Photo by Mitch Altman
Hans Stam talked about Design for Manufacturing, Photo by Mitch Altman

Last but not least, the only German speaker Michel Haese (Mr. Black because “Haese” sounds like how you say the color black in Chinese), shared his experience making his project Lapscreen in Shenzhen.

Mr. Black shared his experience making his project Lapscreen in Shenzhen, Photo by Mitch Altman

While this was going on on the main stage, the little ones were busy at a table specially set up for them with paper circuits, color papers and markers to make their own blinking crafts. After the talks were finished, the crowd moved up to the mezzanine where they mingled and played with electronics brought from Shenzhen (including some Grove sensors and Grove Zeros).

Workshop for kids, Photo by James Simpson
Electronics from Shenzhen, Photo by Monica Shen

It was a great event to kick off the new year with, and I hope everyone learned something new about Shenzhen as a city and as an amazing place for hardware, and met some people that may be able to help them in the future if they decide to go to Shenzhen to visit, prototype, or manufacture. It was apparent that most people in the audience are interested in manufacturing, which is a process too complicated to explain in one meet-up. We do hope to organize more sessions in the future on more specific interests so people can learn something more in-depth. I was also happy to get many started on the Wechat messaging app.

Thanks to everyone who came to the event and helped making it a wonderful success! Frohes neues Jahr aus Berlin!!

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January 2019