Friday 13/10 (1/2)
Today we leave to Hong Kong. Our ferry is at 1:30pm.
Before that, we go and visit Lytchee Lab, a Makerspace with an emphasis on education. Litchee Lab is a place where locals and foreigners alike can work on developing projects and skills. Adults pay a monthly fee for 24/7 access to their facility and all its equipment. Students enroll in classes to study maker skills or work on their own projects. The slogan of Lytchee Lab is ‘Unlock Creativity’.
Why did we go there, how did we find them, what do they do exactly, how does it work, how was the visit, what did we learn? All the answers to these questions are given below in the comprehensive summary written by Isabelle:
“Lytchee Lab or the future of education”:
I found Lytchee Lab while watching a movie about ‘Future Cities’ on Shenzhen. (Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGJ5cZnoodY). They presented Lytchee Lab as a place where children learn how to build and code electronic devices.
I was very interested so I got in touch with the team. Lit, a wonderful woman who started this venture 6 years ago, immediately answered my message. I got so thrilled! We exchanged a few mails and finally managed to meet while we were in Shenzhen.
One of her colleagues, Yoosang, welcomed us at their new premises. She gave us a tour of the lab and explained to us what they call their “commune”. It is actually a community where a lot of makers have their lab or office, and a lot of people come there to create their device or put their ideas into reality, make their dream come true. Some act as incubators, some provide the machines and office space where the people can work, like X factory. Litchee lab is actually different because they give a space for adults where they can work on their project, but they mainly target children. They give kind of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) lessons in Chinese public schools – these lessons are subsidized by the government – and they provide extra scholar activities for children at weekends from 9am to 5pm (1h30 for 5 children at a time). By the way, in Shenzhen, STEM has been changed to STEAM, where the A stands for Art!
They have developed a program where children develop different skills and win ‘badges’ (see their very interesting handbook here: https://github.com/litcheelab/litcheelab_badges). In those lessons, they teach arts and design, explain ‘old’ technologies like carpentry, but also “new” technologies like coding, building electronics, building 3D printers, developing a web site or even an app, and, what is really interesting, they also teach the ‘maker’s culture’. For instance, they explain that working as a team is actually faster (the goal here in China is always to go faster) and more efficient than working secretly on its own without sharing information, i.e. the ‘old way we were doing business’… This ‘maker’s culture’ implies to document our work in a specific way so others could use our work.
The goal of Lytchee Lab is to make the learning more engaging, more meaningful for the local community. They always ask themselves ‘how could we make more impact?’.
We (Cédric and I) did a tour of the facilities with Yoosang. We went outside. The environment of this “campus” is so nice. The facilities are very new. Litchee Lab just moved there in September. The Commune is still under construction, but it is already very nice. It includes garden, a walking bridge, places where children can play or where you can walk your dog, canteens, and also some features coming straight from the future, like a parking where you leave your car at the entrance area, register your fingerprint and then the machines will automatically park your car with an elevator. To retrieve your car in the evening, you just have to show your fingerprint and your car comes back automatically in a place where you can easily leave the parking. This is actually quite fun! Another feature is the machine from which you can borrow an umbrella if it rains, against a digital deposit, paid by Alipay of course. We also came across a machine that delivers hot meals.
We went into X Factory (http://www.chaihuo.org/xfactory/) premises, we saw the machines (including laser cutting machine, woodcutting, the printing machines, 3D printing machines, etc…). We saw the space where the people can work (and even sleep if they have been working all night!). There were not too many people, but we can feel that it is an environment that is very creative. Someone was working on foldable bicycle project, weighting less than 6kg to be able to take it in the metro.
When we went back to Litchee Lab, we found Ludivine and Jules (Florence stayed at the hotel because she was still feeling sick) working on a creative wood project involving wood, saw, hot glue guns, etc. Simple stuff, but we can see that it is an environment that put people in a creative state of mind. Very nice!
We met Lit, the founder, who explained how and why she decided to create this place. She gave us some background about how she felt while she was a student, not understanding how the academic program would help her in the actual business world. She wanted a more hand-on approach. After working for Seed, she decided to create Litchee Lab focusing on makers and children, bringing some hands-on activities into the learning process. She does it very well!
She told us about Fab academy from MIT (http://fabacademy.org/) and d-school from Stanford (design thinking https://dschool.stanford.edu/). She got the certificates from those schools, which helped her to develop her own program for Litchee lab. She is a teacher, on top of managing her company.
We also understood from her that the Chinese government is investing some money into projects that allows children to get familiar with making, coding, building, creating, etc…
It was very good to meet her and her team and to see the premises.
Litchee lab is a company that combines the DIY, creativity, art, new technologies, electronic, future, in a ‘hands-on’ learning environment. We wish we could have that kind of lab for our kids in Belgium too!
We came back from the visit of Litchee lab full of ideas!
Visiting Litchee Lab was one of the main reasons we came to Shenzhen, so I was really happy we could make it happen (it was not so easy to organize…). I definitively learned a lot from that experience! Very inspiring!
We take a taxi back to the apartment, where we pack our bags.
We take the hotel shuttle to the ferry terminal, which is brand new and even more impressive with day light.
It takes one hour to do the crossing to Hong Kong.