The OpenPiton project began at Princeton University in late 2013 as an effort to build a single manycore chip known as Piton. Incorporating several orthogonal research ideas, the Piton chip design featured well-defined interfaces and connections that made it ideal for research prototyping and led to its open-sourcing as OpenPiton. The OpenPiton project provides the RTL, tools, and scripts needed to prototype research ideas intended to be incorporated into manycore systems-on-chip. Thanks to a huge effort by a large team and (we think) some good design practices, OpenPiton has grown into a productive research platform downloaded by researchers in more than 70 countries and used in more than 50 published works.

The open-sourcing of OpenPiton and its ongoing development have been led by Jonathan Balkind, now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at UC Santa Barbara. Prof Balkind co-direct the ArchLab, with a research focus on the intersection of Computer Architecture, Programming Languages, and Operating Systems. Jonathan received his PhD and MA from Princeton University advised by Prof David Wentzlaff. He is now an OSHWA Open Hardware Trailblazer Fellow and serves as a Director of the FOSSi Foundation.

As OpenPiton became a mature project alongside the recent surge in open-source silicon, we came to realise that we had knowledge to share about building and sharing initially academic artifacts. We published a paper, “OpenPiton at 5: A Nexus for Open and Agile Hardware Design”, in IEEE Micro as a first step in disseminating the lessons learned. The paper has a particular focus on lessons learned in developing the platform and trying to establish it among the broader communities where it has been adopted, particularly computer architecture, electronic circuits, and electronic design automation.

The focus of this Open Hardware Trailblazer project over the coming year is in spreading more lessons from established open-source hardware projects, not just those from OpenPiton, but also from other open-source hardware experts across the University of California system. The UC system is a global centre of excellence for open hardware efforts where many established projects were developed or are actively maintained. Our focus will be in disseminating best practices and what-not-to-dos from such projects as gathered from two public events. The first will be a meta-tutorial – a tutorial on how to run tutorials – sharing lessons learned in running the many tutorials developed for OpenPiton and other peer projects. The second will be a workshop for newcomers to open-source hardware to learn from UC experts about how to start strong and develop lasting projects that can continue to benefit others. Recordings and other materials produced from both events will form a part of a library of resources produced by the trailblazer fellows.