|Peasant robot maker Wu Yulu says young people need more hands-on experience. Photo: Courtesy of Wu Yulu|
With a punkish hairstyle, glasses and a Taoist tattoo running down the sleeve of his right arm, 28-year-old Beijinger Meng Qi doesn't quite match up to how you might imagine a young Chinese inventor should look. But Meng is a full-fledged inventor of musical instruments - proof that at least some Chinese youth have a healthy appetite to make things. Or at least design them.
"Like I said, I didn't invent it," Meng says of the unique looking synthesizer directly in front of him. "I designed it. I redesigned in fact, it to be more musical not only for me but for a lot of users as well."
Two weeks ago, Meng - a self-taught electronic engineer with a high school education - demonstrated his homemade synthesizers in a seminar held by Beijing Makerspace, an organization that provides young Chinese a place to gather and build projects at a laboratory in Beijing's tech zone, Haidian district's Zhongguancun.
"We basically attract people who are interested in making things," says Melva Lai, 23, who works at the lab. "You can call them inventors."
Lai tells Metropolitan that Beijing Makerspace is the first organization of its kind in the capital, and is attempting to build a strong community where inventors can share what they are doing with audiences or students. "We want to encourage more people to join this maker movement," she says.
Normally, young people do not get a chance to build new things in the education system.
"There's hardly any opportunity to learn things like this in primary and secondary schools, even university," says Beijing Makerspace CEO Wang Shenglin.
But nonetheless, creative people, once isolated, are creating spaces for themselves.
Founded in 2011 by a group of tech enthusiasts, Beijing Makerspace has united the once scattered inventor community. The organization now has more than 200 members, says Lai.
Aspiring inventors can apply for grants, and Lai says that one day some of these makers might even be able to develop marketable versions of their inventions.