Sizing up the fun at Tech Saturday Upsized
A big shoutout and ‘Thank You!’ to our friends from IMDA for inviting GovTech to participate in Tech Saturday (Upsized!).
From hackathons and tinker spaces to remote-controlled tank races and virtual reality headsets, there was definitely something for everyone at the third edition of the annual tech event.
Part of the Smart Nation Innovations Week, IMDA’s popular event was held from 29-30 April 2017 at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. It brought together tech demos, booths and hands-on activities for the young – and the young-at-heart.
But offering more than just fun, Tech Saturday achieved its bigger goals: to get the public inspired by technology, and excited about the potential of technology to transform the way we live, work and play.
(And yes, the word ‘fun’ appears liberally in this story.)
Digital Government Showcase
In line with this, GovTech and other agencies hosted several booths at the event to help spread the word about various government digital services that benefit citizens.
Singapore’s Smart Nation platform, for example, will provide the infrastructure for integrating inputs from an island-wide network of Internet-of-Things devices. This will help government agencies provide better services for citizens in areas such as emergency response, urban planning and city management.
For the first time since GovTech’s official launch, visitors got to play with the smARt Nation exhibit, which works with an augmented reality (AR) app that visitors could install on their mobile phones.
By training the phone’s camera on a 3D model of a city, visitors could explore different scenarios related to transportation, security, and energy consumption, and see how smart mobility devices, security cameras and electricity meters could help increase efficiency and reduce costs.
“It was a fun way to learn more about how this important initiative can help Singapore run more smoothly,” said Mr Jason Tan, who enjoyed playing with the exhibit.
“I hope that we will soon be able to use this system in real life.”
Another booth featured Parents Gateway, a mobile app being jointly developed by GovTech and the Ministry of Education (MOE). The app functions as a convenient, one-stop location for parents to get up-to-date information about their children’s school activities, as well as handle administrative matters such as paying fees and signing consent forms.
Still in the pilot phase, the app has so far been tested at five schools in Singapore; by showcasing it at Tech Saturday, the developers hoped to gather feedback from parents and teachers that would be useful in improving the app.
Other government digital services on display included the new Wireless@SG app from IMDA, which lets users connect to the internet without the need for a username and password; the Cyber Security Agency’s and Personal Data Protection Commission’s cybersafety initiatives; as well as IMDA’s Digital TV.
Tech Tinkerers, Unite!
One of the most popular exhibits was IMDA’s Lab on Wheels, which comprised two buses that had been converted into classrooms. One classroom housed the Fabrication Lab, showcasing laser cutters, 3D printers and virtual reality setups that visitors could try. In the other classroom, children participated in fun workshops — building programmable robots or simple LED switches and circuits, for example — to learn basic coding and electronics skills.
The Worksheds area of the exhibit provided still more opportunities to learn about coding. There, children could experiment with the Ozobot, a mini-robot that moves only when sensors embedded in its bottom face detect different colours. Programmers control its movements by drawing coloured lines or dots as ‘code’ on a piece of paper.
At other Worksheds, young participants could build LED mood lamps using Arduino microcontrollers. They could also create video games with Bloxels—a system that lets users design game settings and characters out of physical coloured blocks, capture images of them, and then convert these images into digital games.
A giant techie playground
“Everyone’s excited about tech, so I wanted to come here to find out more about things like virtual reality and coding for kids,” said Ms Ada Low, a first-time visitor to the event.
Like her, many other visitors explored many sights of the cavernous exhibition hall – essentially transformed into a giant playground for both young and old alike.
For those who didn’t manage to get a spot at the workshops, there was still plenty to see and do. Hands-on activities beckoned at the Tinker Space section of the exhibit, where visitors could build circuits, experiment with 3D printing and even learn about coding basics through card games.
Other visitors in search of entertainment could cheer on their favorites in a strategic battle of remote-controlled tanks, compete in gaming challenges, experience virtual reality simulations and even pilot indoor drones.
In short, happy faces were the norm at Tech Saturday.
“The kids are really happy — there are so many interesting activities here for them,” said Ms Cheng Tee Tang, who was waiting with her two sons for their turn at the drone try-out zone.
A big thank you to everyone who attended Tech Saturday, and in particular, we hope you enjoyed GovTech’s exhibits at the event.
We look forward to meeting you all again at future events!