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Bringing coding to the community

last updated 25 July 2017

With the launch of Singapore’s first Digital Garage at Tanjong Pagar Community Club, everyone can build and programme their own devices with the micro:bit.

20170725 digital garage 2

The Digital Garage serves as a place for people to come together to learn, experiment and create as a community. 

By Jeffrey Kong

You’re never too old to be part of the digital revolution. Just ask Mdm Henrietta, 76 and Ms Quek, 57.

The mother-and-daughter duo were participants at a workshop at Tanjong Pagar Community Club (CC), where they built a cute greeting card with a difference – one with flashing LED lights and a message that they programmed with some simple coding.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, but this is quite easy to pick up, as we did the programming with drag-and-drop blocks instead of writing code,” said Ms Quek, who was at the workshop held by the Digital Maker Interest Group of Tanjong Pagar CC.

As for retiree Mdm Henrietta, although the coding took some getting used to, she found it fun and was pleasantly surprised that the process was easier than she imagined.

Playing with technology

This digital greeting card is just one of many creations that participants can build at Singapore’s first Digital Garage, which opened at Tanjong Pagar Community Club on 8 July.

As a dedicated space for anyone to tinker with technology, the Digital Garage – a collaboration between Tanjong Pagar CC and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and supported by Home-Fix D.I.Y., Microsoft, NCS Pte Ltd and Singapore Polytechnic – offers maker-related tools such as power drills, glue guns and 3D printers.

More importantly, it serves as a meeting point for people to come together to learn, experiment and share ideas on possible projects to build with technology.

The Digital Garage was launched by Ms Indranee Rajah, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Law.

“This is a platform for everyone to acquire digital making skills, irrespective of age and background. It’s great for family bonding too – parents and children have a wonderful time working on their inventive projects,” said MP Indranee at the launch.

20170725 digital garageTo make digital creation as accessible as possible, the Digital Garage will make use of the micro:bit – an entry-level device designed to make coding and digital creation easy and fun for all ages. This Bluetooth-enabled pocket-sized codeable computer has a motion sensor, LED lights and a built-in compass.

Instead of writing lines of code, users can drag and drop commands on an easy-to-use interface on their computer, and then download the programme to the micro:bit via Bluetooth or a USB cable. The micro:bit was developed through a collaboration between 29 partners brought together by the BBC under their Make it Digital initiative to inspire digital creativity, where they gave micro:bits to 1 million students in year 7 or equivalent across the UK in 2016. Almost 80 schools in Singapore have also signed up for the Digital Maker programme where they are provided the micro:bits to incorporate into their school programmes.

Mr David Crellin from ScienceScope, one of the 11 product partners involved in the design, development and delivery of the micro:bit, flew from the UK to Singapore to attend the launch of Digital Garage.

“In the UK, we gave one micro:bit to every 11-year-old student, and the focus is really only on education. Here in Singapore, you have a more structured approach, with infrastructure and full support provided by IMDA to engage the entire community, not just students,” he said. “The local community centres are a powerful tool to achieve this… no other country is doing anything like what Singapore is doing.”

Digital participation

The Digital Garage is part of IMDA’s Digital Maker programme, which aims to introduce basic coding and making to 100,000 people over the next two years. Through the Digital Garage, the Tanjong Pagar Digital Maker Interest Group also targets to grow a community of 1,000 digital makers.

Also at the same digital making workshop was Mdm Tuyen, who is in her thirties, and her eight-year-old daughter Bao Tam.

“I want my children to be exposed to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and here we get to do it in a fun way,” said the lawyer, who was learning how to code together with her family.

At upcoming workshops, participants can look forward to building useful gadgets, such as an automated tea brewing set and a plant watering system.

Participants will get to keep their micro:bit, which they can reuse and re-programme for future projects.

“We hope to see extraordinary makers of all ages and from different walks of life learning, collaborating and sharing to hone their craft… and find simple joy in dreaming the impossible,” said Mr Low Cheong Kee, Managing Director of Home-Fix D.I.Y.

With both the hardware and heartware in place to empower the community to create with code, perhaps it will not be long before we uncover the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates in our midst.

Learn about IMDA’s Digital Maker Programme at www.digitalmaker.sg and www.facebook.com/DigitalMakerSG. To find out more about Digital Makers Interest Group and sign up for workshops, visit www.facebook.com/TanjongPagarCC. For more information on micro:bit and how to code for free, visit www.microbit.org.


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