One of the things that attracted me to Finland is DIY culture (Do-It-Yourself). Quite a few people I know built their own houses (with help of some contractors for electricity etc) or at least played a major role in designing and building their homes. My family here is definitely a fine example for that. From building log cabins to full remodeling of homes, my in-laws have done it all. According to my husband he was 7yrs old when my in-laws built their current home and he was on the roof working. He worked with power tools at that age and even managed to get a deep cut that still shows on his thumb:) . I am all for DIY and try to do as much as possible including cooking different cuisines that we can’t find here.
As part of that over the years, we tried to live by example, which our son promptly took to heart. All his birthday parties, he insisted us making everything at home including goody bag gifts while he chose elaborate themes like LEGO Starwars and hands-on science etc. Well, now it’s our turn so I try to get him interested in building/making things here. Schools here reinforce that concept with classes on woodworking etc. I have been encouraging him to do more mixed media type of projects. Work with electronics and mix it with other media. He recently chose to do a project with LEGOs and Arduino for an upcoming Makerfaire style event here. In addition to the parts we have at home (which I happen to order before moving here last year), he needed another board, a few motors and LEGO compatible axles etc.
Not that it came as a big surprise but we cannot find any source in Finland to procure the products. In fact, I couldn’t find anywhere in Europe!! In US, I could order, pay slightly more for express shipping and have them delivered to home in less than a week. Here, even if we have 2 months time, we cannot get them. For the Adafruit board he needed, the only supplier in Finland (I think they are for entire Europe but do have a Finnish website) carries them. But they were out of stock and lead time is 8-9 weeks! Even UK, they were out of stock except one remote online site that had one in stock. And the price gets twice as high when it’s out of US. eg: in US, the board would cost $29.99. From UK, it was 38 pounds (~$49) plus shipping. Still waiting for its arrival and hoping it will actually make it in time.
For the 4 motors he needed, it was even worse. The above mentioned electronics online store that would deliver to Finland of course had it as “out of stock” with again 8-9 week lead time. Again had to order from UK (couldn’t find any European source for it either ) and the price was 3 times to that of its US counterpart. As much as I like to encourage more kids and adults to DIY Makerfaire style, I am beginning to think twice especially when it comes to electronics projects.
And it’s not just electronics either. For my glass studio, I wanted to purchase a wet tile saw. Granted it was a very particular type of wet tile saw but still, I expected to find something similar locally. After all, construction is a big thing here isn’t it? But no, I couldn’t. And couldn’t get it delivered from Germany (Amazon.de) to Finland. Only place I found that was willing to ship to Finland is a small company on Amazon.co.uk. Took some time and effort but finally got it with reasonable shipping cost. Then came the problem of finding the right diamond blade for the saw…. Can’t find one that’s highly recommended for glass anywhere here….Luckily a fellow glass artist and friend, Fyodor Zubanov in US helped with lot of information and options to look for. Couldn’t find one even outside Finland who is willing to ship here. So finally ordered one from US and paying for shipping and customs! It takes away a bit of joy when you have to go through so many hoops for every small thing. I am now quite sure I got spoiled in California with so many resources and reasonable pricing.
It’s hard to plan more than a couple of months ahead of time to do a project especially when it involves kids. Its hard enough to keep their attention and interest for short periods of time but now if it needs planning months ahead of any event, it becomes tedious. I am hoping there will be more people building/buying electronics (boards, sensors, etc etc etc) so they are available more reasonably (cost and availability). More than even that, I am hoping the Maker movement (Electronics does become a big part of Maker movement over time) will take deeper roots here.
We, as a family, attended and participated in Maker Faire for 6 years in Bay area. My son was the first (or one of the first two) kid to participate in Maker Faire as KFOL member of BayLUG (Bay area LEGO Users Group). Last time we lived in Finland, I did actually try to bring Mini Maker Faire to Tampere. I exchanged emails with Maker Faire committee folks back in San Mateo (this was 8 years ago). They were very supportive and willing to help but I couldn’t quite get the support of local city folks and had to drop the plans:). Things did change in the last 8 years though. I know there are plans being worked on/started to bring Maker movement to schools. But unless more adults get interested and become Makers, I worry the movement might not take hold, especially in Tampere. Either way, till my son grows up, its quite possible I will be struggling to find the right resources at reasonable price:)
PS: if you haven’t guessed what the top picture is about, it is a picture of tiny LED (lit) taken by my son…