Shanel Wu, also known as S, is currently a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder in the ATLAS Institute, which is an interdisciplinary engineering program for “creative technology design”.

S is very passionate about: making things that are both useful and beautiful, and exploring technical complexities through handcraft. Their research focuses on designing e-textiles (or “smart” textiles) and wearables, technologies that combine fabric and other squishy, fluffy materials with electronics. They received their bachelors in physics from Harvey Mudd College, where S self-learned how to knit to pick up a relaxing hobby. Textiles and craft gradually took over their life as a secondary field of study, until they ended up in their current position – part self-taught fiber artist and knitwear designer, part design researcher, part engineer. In addition to owning many esoteric weaving tools, S is also a proud co-parent to a flock of chickens and ducks.

Their open hardware project is the Loom Pedals, an embedded interface to a computerized Jacquard loom, the TC2 by Tronrud Engineering. It started as a hack to make sampling and prototyping their woven designs faster. As a member of the Unstable Design Lab, S connected with a community of experimental weavers who also tinker with their tools and practice open-source sharing. The actual Loom Pedals are a system of modular foot pedals (expanding on the TC2’s existing single foot pedal) that give the weaver options for editing and improvising on a design, without having to step away from the loom and revise files in CAD. This project was always intended to be open-source, like many other projects from the lab. After all, the modern craft renaissance wouldn’t be possible without free resources like YouTube, and perhaps most importantly, textiles wouldn’t be one of humanity’s fundamental technologies without people sharing their techniques and knowledge with each other for millenia.

As an OSHWA fellow, S aspires to explore ways to do both open source hardware projects and PhD research. S firmly believes in sharing knowledge outside of traditional institutions as widely as possible, and that their work will be more impactful if it is openly available. They encourage fellow students to open source their research hardware. Much of the time and effort spent developing clear instructions and maintaining repositories will be well worth the community that is gained, when research is often a solitary activity.