Published: 28th October 2019
How Maker's Asylum has grown from a garage innovation zone to India's DIY heaven
Located in Andheri’s industrial district in Mumbai, Maker’s Asylum was founded by Vaibhav Chhabra six years ago in 2013
While conventional learning methods are not really a talk of the past, futuristic and alternate spaces are still cropping up across the world so people can openly learn. One such is Maker's Asylum, a bright and happening 'maker space' in Mumbai. It is a community space focussed on fostering innovation through hands-on learning that also provides access to an ecosystem of stakeholders which includes governments, businesses, incubators/accelerators, investors and subject matter experts. To put it simply, if you want to learn something new or just wish to be creative, you should definitely head to Maker's Asylum.
A space for creative minds
Located in Mumbai's industrial district in Andheri, Maker’s Asylum was founded by Vaibhav Chhabra six years ago in 2013 as a hobby the 29-year-old mechanical engineer took to on comparatively boring Sundays. "Maker’s Asylum began when the ceiling of EyeNetra, my previous office in Mumbai fell down and broke all the furniture. I was always passionate about making things with my hands and carpentry. So I hit social media looking for like-minded people in the city to join me in rebuilding the tables for my office. On November 7, 2013, eight DIY enthusiasts turned up at EyeNetra’s office and they made three tables on the very first day. Eventually, they decided to meet every Sunday and continue to build other fun things as well," says Vaibhav.
Robotics for kids
The nascent community started to volunteer their tools and soon ran out of space in the back room — the Asylum. It became a space for people from different backgrounds to come and create and make new friends. As more people started joining in, they were running out of space at Vaibhav's old office. That's when Kirti, a former co-founder of the Asylum, offered her garage in Bandra to continue their activities. The garage is the Maker’s Asylum’s first official address and it is open seven days a week.
Their mission: to break and make!
"It was the first-ever open maker space in India. People can work on anything from robotics to 3D printing, laser cutting, woodworking, metalworking as all sorts of makers share their own knowledge and teach others their skills. Anyone can come with an idea or a thought, use the tools here, along with other people. Now, we have a big network of creative individuals, some of whom are experts in origami, Artificial Intelligence tech, Virtual Reality tech, 3D modeling and more. It's exciting for a newcomer to come and explore and work here," adds Vaibhav.
Scrap Metal art
One has to pay Rs 5,000 a month to access the space, however, there's a catch to this. You can access the space for free if you wish to barter your skills in exchange for using the space. For example, if you know how to knit carpets, then you can barter and use the space for free and teach your skill to other people who are keen on learning a new skill.
Vaibhav tells us that there were two main objectives with which he set up Maker's Asylum. "The aim was to do two things — people can share the tools and use it themselves to create new things, get easy access to all of it. And secondly, to create a learning playground where people can come and openly learn. To bring about the concept of alternative education spaces," says Vaibhav.
Learn from the best
Maker's Asylum also has been conducting workshops where people can sign up to learn new skills. There are precisely three levels of workshops: The first one is called Explore workshops, which last a day and one can learn a new skill like to make a drone, lamp, wood, or anything within a day. The second level of workshops is where one can schedule their plan such as from Monday to Friday and then they are put you in a batch, where they can learn a skill. There are four certification courses that take about 6-7 days to complete, and one can schedule it based on their own availability. The third level of workshops is called Experiential learning that takes place every year. People from different universities, all around the world come to Mumbai, along with other people from other states in India and they are 10 days to a month-long usually. It is called STEAM School and takes place from 5-14 December.
"People work on the UN sustainable development goals during this programme. This programme focuses on bringing together people in the age group of 16-44 years from different countries and they work on solving some of the challenges that the world is facing — they come up with company ideas, projects, solutions, and more. They are taught about the product creation process, design thinking, effective prototype ideas that are more adaptable and more," adds Vaibhav.
One can get a hundred per cent scholarship to get into STEAM School as they have sponsors from the French government, UNESCO, and other large-scale companies. "Free tickets are given for the programme to people who are motivated and want to create an impact- like in the areas of providing quality education, clean water and sanitation, and have other viable ideas to work with," he says.
The future is bright
As for future plans, Vaibhav says they already have a branch in Delhi and one in Kochi where they have partnered with Steag, a German company and Rajagiri Institute of Technology to set up a lab. "We consult and partner with other organisations such as in Kochi and Jaipur. We are also working on a report with UNESCO on how the future of learning can be provided through alternative education spaces like ours. We will be having conversations and discussions at Delhi in November at the UNESCO headquarters to discuss how alternate spaces can be a possible form of future education," concludes Vaibhav.