Singapore must teach its citizens to build things, rather than simply buying technology, Minister-of-State for Smart Nation Dr Janil Puthucheary yesterday said.

Students must be taught “how to build things with their own hands, not just go and buy something off the shelf and throw it away when it stops working”, he said at the Tech Saturday event by IDA. Dr Puthucheary is also Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information.

A culture of making and experimenting is important because “we want to build a Smart Nation. It’s certainly not about buying a Smart Nation”, he said. “People need to appreciate that tech, and the tools that tech provides, is something for them to use to build, not something to just be provided for them,” he added.

Student building a robot at Tech Saturday 2016

Tech Saturday, a carnival hosted by the government on 21 May, saw 17,000 people visiting. It had hackathons, and workshops on building robots, and learning to programme arduinos for students and their parents alike.

Also on display were prototypes built by government agencies, startups and universities. A group from Nanyang Technological University, for instance, had hacked everyday products into lab equipment – building a centrifuge out of a food grinder.

Medical students at NTU built their own lab robot. Seen at #techsat

A video posted by GovInsider (@govinsider) on

The students had also built a “lab assistant robot” to transfer chemical samples into testing dishes – helping students automate a repetitive task, while they focus on more complex problems in the lab. The tools were built by medical students, who had taught themselves how to code and hack these devices.

Image by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.