Interview with Jimmy Choy, director/founder of Brainchild, Hong Kong’s DIY maker-space where kids can design, build and hack toys.
Tell us about Brainchild
We are a DIY Maker space for kids (and adults!). Kids come to us to design, build, and hack into toys and robots. They learn to use computing and electronics to animate the robots that they make. In our workshop, kids get to use all the latest innovations in technology such as 3D printing, Arduino, littleBits, and Makey Makey. Our workshop is unique in that our courses are tailor-made for each child’s abilities and interest. This gives children a sense of great accomplishment! Plus, they have a lot of fun.
What’s your personal background?
I have an Honours degree and a chartership in engineering. I am also a solicitor admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I have over 25 years teaching experience in tertiary education here in Hong Kong and Australia.
I started Brainchild about 10 years ago, initially as a way to teach my son, who has ADHD. His school could not accommodate his needs and he was rapidly losing faith in his own abilities. I wanted to give him more self confidence in the areas that he excelled in, science and computing. The workshop started to grow through word of mouth and I discovered that there were a lot of children who were interested in science and robotics. Brainchild DIY Workshop was born.
Who attends your classes/workshops?
We have many kinds of students. Some have a special interest in robotics and when they come here, they are able to indulge in the area of their interest and excel in it. Some have chosen Design and Technology as their elective in school or have a school project that they need to complete during the school year. These students come here for assistance with completing their project. Others come because they are gifted in science and computing. They come here to find courses in which to challenge themselves because their own school is not able to provide this challenge for them.
What kinds of workshops do kids enjoy the most?
We offer many different kinds of classes that range from building toys, robots, soldering electronic parts and devices to their gadgets. We also teach the kids coding, apps jamming, Arduino. The kids especially enjoy building their own robots and using computing and electronics to animate the robots that they make. They also like to make 3D parts to personalize their robot or find ways (hack) to make their robot better. They also enjoy having competitions between robots after they have finished building them.
What do you think of the maker-ecosystem in HK, particularly for kids?
HK parents have the tendency to be more academically inclined and to heavily schedule their children with after school tutoring sessions. But slowly parents here are realizing that it is important for kids to have a balanced childhood with many experiences and to have a safe place to create, make, test, experiment, and explore things. Kids need to go back to what kids do. They need to have the opportunity to be creative and just make things.
DIY has only become more popular in the last few years with the “Make” and “Makers” idea. Parents in HK are always searching for alternative things for their children to do so that their children are not sitting at home on the computer or on their mobile devices. There isn’t the luxury of space for kids in Hong Kong make and build things as kids who live in other countries do. Brainchild Ltd. is filling that gap by providing the workshop space for kids in Hong Kong.
What’s next for Brainchild?
We are now the official Hong Kong chapter for littleBits! We will be holding many littleBits workshops and sessions during this year. We also plan on having some Makers Sundays each month where it will be a day for the family to come to our workshop and make/learn something together. Each Makers Sundays will have a different project or theme. Our first Makers Sunday will be on October 4, 2015!
Brainchild is located in Aberdeen:
Tel : 2528-6862 | Rm 2312-2314, Hing Wai Centre, 7 Tin Wan Praya Road, Aberdeen