2013-01-06 - The Beginning
It started out with me, Bunnie, and some other members of Tokyo Hackerspace on one of his trips to Tokyo about six months ago. We were talking about possibly doing a summer hacker train trip across Northern Siberia using the TransSiberian Railway or the Baikal Amur Mainline which runs parallel to it to tour the back country of Russia. This actually turned into an active project and one of the (crazier) girls in Tokyo Hackerspace is organizing the trip for this summer. Here's more info.
Of course we were also getting buzzed off of beers at the izakaya we were at when Bunnie casually mentioned that he might do a month long workshop in Shenzhen for MIT Media Lab. The purpose was to teach the grad student designers about how to take their designs to manufacturing. My immediate reflex when I heard "month, shenzhen, manufacturing, bunnie" was to force myself into the project.
So here I am, prepping to leave for Hong Kong today, then take a bus up into Shenzhen to meet up with Bunnie. He's arranged living apartments for all the participants including myself and Sean Cross (formerly of Chumby) as mentors. The MIT Media Lab students are grad student designers and this is technically an (independent activities period (IAP)) study project.
The rough schedule is that the first week, we'll be touring different factories in Shenzhen. The confirmed tours are two plastics injection molding shops, a sporting goods factory, an electronics contract manufacturer, and an electronics telecom manufacturer. The second week, we'll be doing an in-depth tour of the shenzhen marketplaces and discussing components, component selection, and possibly a tour of the South China Fabric City (which I'm really looking forward to). One of my personal goals is to try and map out the Shenzhen marketplace in detail, although I'm not sure how possible this is since the workload is still undefined.
The third week will be more independent where the students can do whatever they need to further their design/manufacturing projects. Bunnie, Sean, David, and I will be around to offer advice and help on the design/manufacturability aspects. On the final day of the third week, we'll be having a mini conference with HAXLR8R, SeeedStudio, and Dangerous Prototypes, along with others in the OSHW community out in Shenzhen.
So this post is mainly to kick off the journal of my experiences as a mentor for the MIT Media Lab IAP2013 in Shenzhen, China. It'll definitely be interesting, and hopefully shed more light on how things work in Shenzhen :)
I arrived into Hong Kong last night and there were multiple delays that caused me to get in after midnight. This was a problem because the normal way to cross the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen is to take a bus to the border, go through immigration on foot, and then take a taxi to your final destination. The problem is that buses stop at midnight so that plan was out the window. I ended up taking a taxi from the airport to the border and it turned out to be about 300 HKD or approximatlely $35. In Tokyo, this is known as "normal taxi fare".
I finally arrived at the living area around 1 am and called Bunnie. This was an especially difficult task in Shenzhen because there are no public telephones. Its just assumed that you have a cellular phone. I actually borrowed the phone from the cashier at 7-11 to call him. It was a little bit embarrassing. In any case, that was my arrival story.
Today, the MIT students will be arriving in three large groups. Bunnie is going to the Hong Kong airport to pick them up and bring them to Shenzhen so I need to help prep the living area. Luckily, he gave me a quick tour of the area so I was able to find things. I picked up combo hot air rework tool and soldering iron for ~$40 and a bunch of hand tools for about another $15. I also picked up two wireless access points, towels, soap, and toilet paper. The place we were living at didn't have any toiletries. Interestingly enough, the wireless access points (~$10/each) cost less than the towels (~$25/each).
Tomorrow, we're starting on the factory tours from the early morning. The first factory will be a plastic injection molding company and they'll be letting us tour the factory as well as giving a talk on the injection molding process and preparation.