Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship Concludes, Delivers Impressive Results

To celebrate the success of this fellowship, we are excited to announce the official launch of the Open Source Creators in Academia website:

October 24th, 2023 — The Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship, an initiative run by the Open Source Hardware Organization (OSHWA), fostering collaboration and innovation in academia, has successfully concluded its program, marking a significant milestone in the world of open source. This fellowship, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, brought together some of the brightest minds from universities and research institutions producing open source hardware. We are proud to announce the availability of the fellowship website showcasing the remarkable deliverables from the program.

Over the past two years the Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship has gathered a diverse group of passionate individuals who are deeply committed to advancing the field of open source creation within academia. These visionaries have diligently worked to develop and share their innovations, contributing to the growth and democratization of technology.

The fellowship program, which was initiated with the goal of advancing open source research in academia, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing, has achieved remarkable outcomes, including but not limited to:

  • Innovative Designs: Participants have designed cutting-edge open source solutions in fields ranging from robotics and electronics to museum studies and environmental monitoring.
  • Open Source Resources: A wealth of educational materials, guides, and documentation has been created, making open source more accessible to the broader academic community and beyond.
  • Community Building: The program has fostered a global network of open source enthusiasts, encouraging collaborative research, idea exchange, and support.
  • Increased Visibility: The fellowship has increased the visibility of open source research in academia, contributing to the global conversation about open science and technology in academia.

To celebrate the success of this fellowship, we are excited to announce the official launch of the Open Source Creators in Academia website: This platform will serve as a hub for the resources generated by the program, including hardware designs, research papers, and guides on utilizing open source in academia.

The website features a rich repository enabling researchers, students, and technology enthusiasts to access, use, and build upon the work of the fellowship participants. It will be a valuable resource for those looking to embrace open source solutions for their academic, research or industry projects and partnerships.

OSHWA is incredibly proud of the work accomplished by our fellows and the community that has grown through the fellowship. This program has served to push boundaries of what it means to create within an academic setting and how we can move forward for a more collaborative and open future. 

For more information and to explore the deliverables from the Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship, please visit

The Open Hardware Creators in Academia program was made possible with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation:

Contact Information: Alicia Gibb Seidle, founder and executive director, OSHWA. Email us at

About Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship: The Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship is an international initiative that brings together talented researchers and academics to collaborate on open source projects. With a mission to promote open science, innovation, and knowledge-sharing, the program empowers participants to create, document, and share their open designs and research findings. Through collaboration and community building, the fellowship aims to make open source accessible to academics.




2023-2025 OSHWA Board Nominees

Become an OSHWA member today to vote on nominees!

This year, we have 4 open seats on the OSHWA board. Board members will hold a 2-year position. Once board members have been chosen by the OSHWA member community, the board will appoint a President, VP, and Secretary. As every nominee answered “Yes” to having 5-10 hours a month to give to the board, we did not include that question in each nominee’s data. Board responsibilities include fundraising, advising on goals and direction, and carrying out compliance of the organization’s purposes and bylaws. Please find details of our election process here.

The vote will be open on Oct. 17th-23rd. Members will be emailed a link to vote. Here are the nominees in no particular order:

Nadya Peek

Why do you want to be on the board?

I strongly believe in creating and maintaining technology that supports personal agency. To this end, I support the development and maintenance of tailorable, reusable, modular, extensible, and accessible technologies. I support the use of this technology for any (unintended) purpose; I believe that robust technological infrastructure is critical for supporting a diversity of ideas and applications. Open Source Hardware plays a crucial supporting role in working towards these goals by establishing and advocating for best practices around sharing, documentation, and collaboration. I would like to serve on the board of the Open Source Hardware Association, as I believe it to be an organization uniquely suited to advancing open standards for technology design, manufacturing, use, and dissemination.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I am running for re-election to the OSHWA board, where I have served several terms. I have been an active open source hardware developer for almost two decades! I develop open-source hardware machines, controllers, and software in my group Machine Agency at the University of Washington. I’m an engineering prof and teach digital fabrication and physical computing. My group shares their research widely—besides academic publications and conferences we also can generally be found at things like Hackaday Supercon, Crowdsupply Teardown, RRFs, and CCC. I got my PhD at MIT in the Center for Bits and Atoms, where I helped set up many fab labs and makerspaces. I have helped organize the OSH summit many times and love the community we bring together there. I think I am qualified to be on the board because of my technical expertise and my experience with community organizing, fundraising, and promoting OSHW.

What is your personal DEI+J (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) statement?

A major goal of mine is broadening the participation of women, racially underrepresented people, and people from disadvantaged socioeconomic statuses in engineering and particularly Open Source Hardware. As a woman engineering professor of mixed race and ethnicity, this matter is of both professional and personal importance to me. To achieve this, I dedicate time to organizing events to address structural racism at my workplace, to mentoring groups who have historically been excluded from engineering, and to policy making efforts that can further goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In these actions, I bring my experience in hardware communities outside of the global north and leverage my position of privilege and power as a professor at a public US university to bring about change. I value and support the past inclusion efforts of OSHWA such as the Ada Lovelace fellowship, and would work to further them were I to be elected to the board.

Wendy Ju

Why do you want to be on the board?

I have found it very fulfilling to be an OSHWA board member from 2021-2023. I specifically enjoyed working to help get the Trailblazers program started and helping OSHWA apply for NSF funding from the Platforms for Open Source Ecosystems call. For the coming term, I want to continue to grow the role that OSHWA plays in creative entrepreneurship and to work on initiatives to help open-source solutions that encourage the reuse of e-waste.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I am an Associate Professor of Information Science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech in New York City. I teach a graduate course in Developing and Designing Interactive Devices. My research focuses on designing interaction with automated systems; I frequently use interactive technologies to prototype the future. I have developed and shared curriculum to teach Arduino and Raspberry Pi in the context of making interactive musical instruments, far-out Mp3 players, and robots of many flavors.

What is your personal DEI+J (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) statement?

The fields of engineering, computer science, and STEM greatly benefit when they draw people from different racial, geographical, and socio-economic backgrounds. Increased access to the tools of production can be transformational to people from underprivileged backgrounds, and so I am committed to break down barriers and address inequity.

Andrew Quitmeyer

Why do you want to be on the board?

I deeply love open culture and find the thought of locking up information from other human beings to be viscerally disgusting. I love building things and documenting them and sharing them back with the world, and have been trying the best I can to help build silly or useful things I can contribute to our collective understanding. I would like to be on the board because I see it as another layer of service I can provide to the Open Source community. My other goal is to continue trying to make connections between the various open source communities I have worked with, and being on the board would help me to better serve as a bridge of information and opportunities between groups.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I served as an inaugural member of the GOSH community council (which seems to be a somewhat analogous position to this like-minded group), and I have been working as a member of GOSH to help host big events like their conference in Panama. I have also been a member for many years now and participated in the voting and discussions when I can. My personal work of creating and sharing stuff, combined with my experience in academia, industry, conservation work, and non-institutional groups gives me a robust background of not only just hardware experience, but also experience in things like finding sponsorship, legal stuff (getting sued for millions by patent trolls), and policy. I have also cultivated a nice network of communities and friends that I proselytize open source hardware to constantly! 🙂

What is your personal DEI+J (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) statement?

My core draw to open source philosophies comes from its ability to disrupt existing power dynamics. I have never been interested in things that are only available to “elite” audiences whether this is certain types of art, hardware, hobbies, etc… Instead, I’ve noticed my joy derives from the liberation of these concepts and activities such that everyone can play.

Thus I take this core belief into my own work on the social side of things as well. There are massive power structures (many visible, but many obscured) that exist in our society to prevent many from getting the opportunities I have been afforded (white, cis, abled, straight-passing guy). I work to channel my energy towards fighting back against these power structures by creating new opportunities for those who would not have been able to receive them. A key reason I quit my job as an academic professor was that I found that despite the significant backing of a large institution and decent salary, very little of these resources were able to get funneled towards people who could actually make use of them. Instead the way things were structured, at the end of the day most of what I was pushing my energy and resources towards was doing more to reinforce the power structures already established. I found I could actually give back more to society making a paltry salary and volunteering 80% of my time towards causes that would be otherwise overlooked.

My goal is to use the privileges I have to identify these power structures and to fight against them, and then in turn put in work to creating paths that support marginalized persons to act and speak as they would like to.

Katherine Scott

Why do you want to be on the board?

I’ve been on the OSHWA board off and on for a number of years; and have served as one of the more active board members. My interest and affiliation with OSHWA started shortly after its inception, and I believe that over the past decade we’ve laid the groundwork necessary to finally become a larger and better funded open source organization. The world, and more importantly larger NGOs and government organizations, have finally become more amenable to open-source philosophy and practice; we’re at a pivotal time for both open source and OSHWA. I would like to continue serving on the board (or as a volunteer) to help see the organization through this period. My professional role, as a developer advocate for the open-source software and hardware project ROS (Robot Operating System) puts me in a unique position of being able to serve both communities and advocate for our shared ambitions for the future.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

In terms of my academic background I hold undergraduate degrees in both computer engineering and electrical engineering, and a masters degree in robotics and computer science. Professionally, I have been an open source contributor and advocate for my entire career. I have co-founded two reasonably successful startups and have worked at a number of others; all at the intersection of hardware and software. Presently, I am a developer advocate at Intrinsic, an Alphabet subsidiary, focused on democratizing robotics. In practice, my job entails acting as the developer advocate for the Open Source Robotics Foundation’s two big open source projects Robot Operating System (ROS) and Gazebo. My practical experience in this role, and in my previous roles, provide me with a deep understanding of how to effectively operate open-source organizations. I am often the board member bringing practical open source community experience to bear at OSHWA. On a daily basis I find myself working with a number of other open source orgs, like the OpenCV foundation and the Drone Code Foundation, and acting as intermediary between the broader open-source community.

What is your personal DEI+J (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) statement?

I take diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice very seriously, and believe that part of OSHWA’s role is to act as a megaphone and stepping stone for marginalized and oppressed communities. I’ve seen first hand how open source can be used to address inequity, highlight the contributions of marginalized groups, and act as a bridge into technology for those from underserved communities. In our previous efforts at OSHWA – from putting together the summit, to distributing grant funds – we’ve made every effort to cultivate the talent of, and represent the important contributions from, marginalized groups and individuals. I hope to continue these efforts, and further expand our practices for years to come.

Ramon Roche – Video Application

Why do you want to be on the board?

I want to continue supporting the aerial robotics industry, by establishing the validity of open hardware.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I’ve been working with Pixhawk for the last 7 years, currently leading the program creating open hardware and open standards for the drone industry.

What is your personal DEI+J (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) statement?

Respect for the rights of others means peace.

Nikolas Kameník

Why do you want to be on the board?

I want to be on the board of the Open Source Hardware Association because I believe in the power of open source to democratize technology and empower people to create and innovate. I have a passion for open source hardware and have been involved in the community for many years. I am also a strong advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, and believe that the open source community should be a welcoming and inclusive space for everyone.

The Open Source Hardware Association is a keystone organization that supports and ensures the success of open hardware in academia, industry, and finally – but perhaps most importantly – individual passion projects which have future potential to educate and help others. The association does this by providing resources, networking opportunities, and advocacy for open hardware. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in the open hardware movement, and I am committed to working towards that goal.

Seven years ago, I left my career in the space industry as a research analyst, moved to Prague, and have since fully been applying myself to keeping additive manufacturing accessible through open source ideals at Prusa Research. I now am looking to extend my passion beyond 3D printing, into broader domains of open source and apply my experience to help open hardware succeed at every scale of its application.

I am confident that I can make a positive contribution to the Open Source Hardware Association and help to advance the open source hardware movement. Thank you for your consideration.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

Prior to moving to the Czech Republic, I was the Finance Manager of the NewSpace conference, where for three years I helped organize an annual event with 50+ sponsors and several hundreds of attendees. As an appointed advocate of the Space Frontier Foundation I aspired to progress commercial involvement in the space industry, furthering political strategies for the success of the space startup ecosystem.

Shortly after moving to Prague, I was provided an opportunity to help Prusa Research and I have continued to be involved with the company in every way possible. I’m proud to have had a role in the company’s growth from less than 50 to now more than 800 employees and am currently helping lead a team of 73 people. In addition to overseeing the development of several of our internal software systems, I also gather the experiences of our many hundreds of thousands of active users across all channels, present reports to all departments within the company, ensure effective communication, and endeavor to achieve the greatest satisfaction possible for every user of our open source software and hardware.

My previous experience working with a non-profit in the United States and now as a manager in a successful open source hardware company, uniquely positions me to help ensure the integrity and success of the Open Source Hardware Association. I believe that my involvement in the open source community, as well as my skills in management, communication, and advocacy; make me an ideal candidate for the board. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to the success of the association and to help advance the open source hardware movement.

What is your personal DEI+J (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) statement?

I believe that the open-source movement should be a beacon of accessibility, welcoming everyone irrespective of their background, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. Simply striving for inclusion is not enough, each individual should also know and feel they are valued. I aspire to speak for underrepresented voices, and wish to help keep open source as a realm that truly embraces the diversity of human experiences, as all should.

Open-mindedness has always been one of the key qualities which I try to apply in every situation. One of my most favorite aspects of my current work is having the opportunity to travel and attend many events every year. I love the openness and inclusivity fostered by everyone at RepRap Festivals, Maker Faires, and other open source events and conferences. I also often attend and support LGBTIQA+ events and charities with my partner.
On social media, I am usually found under the username of nik0tron and my enthusiasm for meeting and talking with people about their passions and projects has no limits. I consider myself to be exceptionally accepting of alternative views, as long has they do not restrict the freedoms, success, or happiness of others.

Trailblazer Reflection: Miriam Langer

Open Source Hardware for Museums, National Parks  and Historic Sites

Miriam Langer (with Rianne Trujillo and Becca Sharp)

We did not expect to be awarded the Trailblazer Fellowship.  When the call for submissions arrived,  I was  teaching a class called  “Grants, Pitches and Proposals”  for my department at New Mexico Highlands University . I had spent years learning how to write successful grants to  the  small department at my rural, Hispanic-Serviing Institution( HSI). Additional resources for student projects, internships, and travel were always needed, and I thought it was beneficial for our students to get an idea, early on, of how they could support their own work.

The Trailblazer announcement arrived part way through the semester,  giving me the opportunity to write the application with my students in real time. I told them that it was likely to be rejected – the community of Open Source Hardware practitioners was a large and highly accomplished one, working across the sciences, architecture, space research and engineering – my team’s work in open source hardware for museums and cultural institutions would probably not merit the same consideration.

Either way – it would be a useful learning experience for the class- writing the proposal, doing the budgets, and specifying  timelines would clarify  how the requirements and parameters of a funder can help a grantee distill the goals of the work, and consider the time commitment required to achieve them.

What a joy and surprise it was to make it through the three rounds and be granted this generous funding to document the museduino and our work in low-cost, responsive exhibits!

When the Cultural Technology Development Lab’s Museduino project was awarded the Trailblazer’s fellowship for the summer and academic year, the first thing Rianne did was to submit the (long-delayed) documentation for OSHW certification. We were certified in early autumn, and that felt great! Alicia gave us a shoutout on the Trailblazer email list, and I felt like we were on track.

Then the semester got busy, as it does. Accepting this funding  meant committing to the goals and deadlines we had agreed upon with Alicia and Lecia. What seems totally manageable when writing a proposal can become a different story when it’s late fall and  your academic obligations are converging rapidly.

Rianne was our project lead, and she kept the checklist of deliverables and dates. Becca, our graduate fellow, wrote the first two case studies drafts: The Bradbury Science Museum/Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos, NM, and the “Breathtaking” exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Art.

We had proposed to write  five case studies out of our many projects – each would be documented with a narrative, code, and schematics. Code and schematics would be posted on github, and the museduino website would be updated with new links and tutorials. The case studies are:

Acadia National Park (Mt. Desert Island, Maine)

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art (Santa Cruz, CA)

The Bradbury Science Museum (Los Alamos National Lab)

“Breathtaking” at the New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe)

Los Luceros Historic Site Visitor Center (Alcalde, NM)

The opportunity to look back at past projects – some of which had been completed as early as 2016,  was invaluable. Becca went back through the documentation, then visited the sites in New Mexico to check on their functionality. More joy! Everything was still working and on display and in use.

We called the locations that were too far to visit (Maine and Santa Cruz, CA), and were able to reconnect with our clients from 2016 and 2018 to confirm that the exhibits were functional there as well.

The prestige of being OSHWA Trailblazers Fellows renewed our confidence to commit to this hardware we’d created – when we needed it to do our work. To many, it may seem simple or basic – but for cultural partners at small museums, parks, and historic sites who want responsive, physical (as opposed to only screen-based) exhibits – an open source, modular, low-cost solution is absolutely necessary. Our past partners were thrilled to tell us how well our work had held up, which, to be honest – we had some fear of asking, as several of these locations had been shuttered for up to two years during the pandemic. 

We at the CTDL  are so grateful for the Trailblazer’s Fellowship award – honored to have been part of such an impressive cohort of academics, thrilled to have been included in the cohort discussions and to feel that representation from a small, rural university was possible. For our case-study partners, it was an opportunity to revisit older projects, discuss what worked well and what could be improved, and for them to see their sites featured in our final documentation.

The work continues – as our fifth and final case study for Los Luceros Historic Site (the wayfinding table developed and built by Becca and Rianne) debuted at the site on October 7th.  We’ll be watching visitors do their best to break it (intentionally or not), but it’s modular, inexpensive, open source and ready to last like our other projects!

Miriam, Rianne & Becca

Department of Media Arts & Technology

New Mexico Highlands University

Las Vegas, NM

Find our work on the Cultural Technology Development Lab site

Full documentation of the Museduino

Our new logo

You might have noticed things are looking a little different around here!

We are happy to announce that OSHWA has gotten a fresh new look for Open Hardware Month with a brand new logo designed with Christopher Wong.

The logo was designed with what OSHWA does to provide the platform for bringing the open source hardware community together, creating the standards, quality control, and documentation necessary for the community to thrive in mind.

The new icon focuses on OSHWA’s development of these building blocks and captures the energy of OSHWA’s work exploding out into the world.

We hope you love it as much as we do!

Open Hardware Summit 2024

We are officially looking for your wonderful, exciting and intriguing pitches for talks, workshops and exhibition tables for OHS2024 in Montreal, Quebec April 26th and 27th, 2024.

Fill out this form to submit your idea for OHS2024.

We are also looking for our Summit Fellows for 2024. If you identify as a marginalized person please fill out this form. We accept 10 Fellows every year and they will receive a travel stipend as well a programming leading up to the Summit.

Learn more and keep up to date on all things Open Source Summit on the official Summit website.

OSHWA 2023-2025 Board Nominations Open!

OSHWA is looking for 4 new faces to join the board of directors for the Open Source Hardware Association. The nominee form is, as always, for self-nominations only. Please fill out the nominee form (deactivated 11:59PM ET on Oct. 10) to become a nominee or forward the link to someone you want to nominate. Do not fill out the form for someone else. The purpose of this form is to tell voting members why you want to serve on the OSHWA board. We will publish the nominees and their answers on Oct 12th. Board members hold a 2-year position. Once board members have been chosen by the membership, the board will appoint a President, VP, and Secretary. Board responsibilities include fundraising, promoting OSHWA, advising on goals and direction, and carry out compliance with the organizations purposes and bylaws. Board members must follow our Code of Conduct. See the board member agreement to get a sense of the responsibilities. Board members are expected to adhere to the board attendance policy and come prepared having read the board packet. Board members are expected to spend 5-10 hours of time per month on OSHWA. Nominees can submit questions to Nominations will be open until 11:59PM ET on Oct. 10th.

Anyone can nominate themselves, and OSHWA is specifically short on the following talents: finance, non-profit governance advisement (think someone who loves reading bylaws), and medical field advisement.

Member voting will take place Oct 17-24th. View our election policy.

Want to vote in the election? Become a member! Please note that only individuals can vote, corporate members cannot.

Trailblazer Reflection: Dr. Carlotta Berry

My time as an open-source hardware trailblazer fellow was one of the most enriching and exciting experiences I’ve had in my academic career. This was because OSHWA and the Sloan Foundation allowed me to take a year to focus on projects that were always important to me. I already did open-source robotics work but was not educated on the formal tenets of open-source hardware or software until I joined this community. I was able to execute my vision to use robotics to bring STEM to more people and bring more people to STEM.

My “Robotics for the Streets: From Outreach to Education to Research” project had a mission to improve diversity in STEM by increasing access, knowledge, and inclusion. I was able to create a novel and innovative method for academics to engage in open-source hardware and software to achieve their professional goals. It allowed me to strategize and educate the community about a topic that is not traditionally pursued because of how it is evaluated. This lack of knowledge would hinder many academics from engaging because they are not aware of how to do this work and still be able to be promoted, tenured, and retained. I could show them that there was a way to use robotics to engage in teaching, research, and service.

This journey allowed me to develop an open-source platform that K-12 teachers, professors, and researchers were able to adapt for their individual needs with respect to teaching, service and research. It allowed me to serve as a champion and spokesperson for open-source hardware to bring in non-traditional, and historically marginalized and minoritized communities to appreciate the potential of this work. I was able to do this through social media posts, emails, listserves, YouTube videos, and projects on GitHub, HacksterIO and Instructables. I also gave presentations and wrote papers to educate the community at large about open-source hardware in order to increase visibility and broader impacts on the usefulness of this community. I was also able to give six undergraduate students experiences in research and open-source hardware that they would not have been able to have otherwise. They are now more versed in designing open-source hardware, documenting their designs, writing technical papers and giving technical presentations on this type of work.

Through mentorship and our cohort meetings I was able to learn about documenting the open-source hardware process, getting certified, identifying useful resources for creating my project and how to share it with others in a meaningful and useful way. I have now seen my Flower∞Bots used in engineering design competitions, summer camps, classrooms, research labs, and sold to the community through my NoireSTEMinist® company.

In conclusion, I can never thank OSHWA and the Sloan Foundtion enough for this opportunity. I want to ensure them that the work will continue through publications, keynotes, conference, presentations, and enhancements to the Lily∞Bot, Daisy∞Bot, and Flower∞Bot.

Find Dr. Berry’s Work:

Blog posts

Youtube channel


Social media handles are @DrCABERRY on Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, TikTok

Open Hardware Summit 2024

OSH2024 branding by Enna Kim @fongkikid

Join us in Montreal, Canada for the 2024 Open Hardware Summit!
Call for talk proposals, workshops, Summit Fellowship applications and more to come…

How did OSHWA pick Montreal?

After OHS2023 we sent out a survey asking people about their thoughts around 2024 and found there following:

– The survey had over 120 responses.

– In general, people thought the most inclusive location would be where the most people lived, however as you can see from the Eventbrite ticket map, our community is spread across the globe. Many people cited needing a city that was less expensive than NYC, but also that had public transit. Many people requested we not host the Summit in a US state that had laws imposing on the safety of LGBTQIA or BIPOC participants.

– Overall, outside the US, Canada had the most responses as to where the next Summit should be. While the US was first, we recognize that response may skewed be because the previous Summit(s) have been in the US, giving more survey responses from that population. 

– A large majority thought the hybrid approach to Summits being both online and in-person was the most equitable and inclusive. OSHWA is committed to continuing our hybrid Open Hardware Summit.

The map below shows where we had OHS2023 tickets purchased from

At the Interface of Open/Closed Technologies

One of the unique features of my work as a fellow (the “trailblazing” part) was building open hardware on top of closed-IP hardware (closed intellectual property, i.e. proprietary hardware and patents). The Loom Pedals system is an alternative software/hardware interface for the TC2 Digital Jacquard loom, a product of the Norwegian company Tronrud Engineering. I want to discuss “interface” from a couple of different angles. First, we’ll take the literal definition of “interface” in digital technology and go into some technical details in the software and hardware development process. Then, I want to explore alternative interpretations of “interface” for the Loom Pedals: a social interface between academic researchers and industry engineers, a craft interface between weavers and their looms, and a translation interface between two communities of hackers.

The Loom Pedals system directly replaces the existing software interface for the TC2. The TC2 communicates via Wi-Fi with this driver software, which is running on the weaver’s personal computer. Over Wi-Fi, the TC2 and driver exchange instructions—such as “start weaving”, “send the next row”, and “roll the fabric forward”—in byte packets according to Tronrud’s unique protocol. While we had to reverse engineer this communication protocol, we really didn’t have to take apart any of the underlying TC2 hardware like the motor drivers or vacuum control, or even reverse-engineer the driver software. The protocol seemed to have some quirks that hinted at the TC2’s system design, such as the loom expecting a particular sequence of start-up commands. But again, it was enough to just figure out what bytes got the right response through trial-and-error. Knowing the underlying system implementation would likely help us figure out the commands more quickly, but it was just icing on the cake.

In the middle of our reverse-engineering and development, we were very fortunate to get in touch with Tronrud about our lab’s research, including the hardware work with the TC2. Rather than discouraging any further hacking on their product, they were instead intrigued to talk to members of a newer, growing group in their customer base. Many TC2’s belong to art schools, university textiles departments, artists, and designers. Because the TC2’s development was led by weavers and intended for weavers, Tronrud has put in remarkable effort in creating a community of TC2 weavers and showcasing what users do with the loom. Yet in recent years, more STEM research groups and makerspaces have become interested in the TC2 and other textiles equipment in general. 

We were up front with Tronrud’s engineers that we intended for our work to be open-source, but part of our existing codebase depended on their proprietary protocol.  As someone who does not have industry experience in a large, well-established company like Tronrud, talking to their engineers has exposed me to new perspectives. Like many companies in industry probably worry about, Tronrud’s main concern is protecting their unique invention and preventing another business from copying their product to undersell the TC2. A key focus in our conversations has been identifying a clean separation between what could be shared and what could be kept closed, and we have been proposing an open API specification that any software could use to communicate with a TC2. This would open the proprietary communication protocol, but as I mentioned previously, Tronrud would not have to reveal any other components.

Personally, I believe that Tronrud would be capitalizing on a huge opportunity if they ended up releasing their communication protocol. My lab will certainly not be the last of their customers who want to hack the loom, and supporting users who want to customize their TC2 interfaces would only encourage this particular user group to grow. Rather than making their design more easily copied and possibly less unique, I think this would make the TC2 an even more unique product. After all, can you think of another hackable, maker-friendly, prototyping-scale Jacquard loom where the manufacturer is so involved with their user community? And what’s more, could Tronrud’s communication protocol become the standard for open hardware Jacquard weaving?

Can you think of another hackable, maker-friendly, prototyping-scale Jacquard loom where the manufacturer is so involved with their user community? Could Tronrud set the standard for open hardware Jacquard weaving?

Grappling with the interface between open/closed systems has been a challenging, yet rewarding experience, made even richer when we consider the wider context of weaving and the history of technology. Weaving is a craft that often relies on complex machines, yet it is also steeped in thousands of years of history and culture. Our human eyes and hands are how we interface with a weaving loom and its various accessories. The loom is our interface to the yarns and emerging cloth design. The (first) Industrial Revolution actively opposed many of these interfaces with its emphasis on automation and large-scale production. Ironically, the Jacquard loom was an invention of this era and drove much of the industrialization of textiles. By establishing many features of our current technological paradigm, I would also theorize that the Industrial Revolution set the stage for the closed-IP, black-boxed hardware, and planned obsolescence of modern electronics. 

The OH community, maker movements, and contemporary craft revivals represent what some call a “new” Industrial Revolution, one that values small-scale, on-demand production and celebrates the hand’s ingenuity. By looking at traditional craft tools, we can find technological interfaces that are already “open” in their design and highly hackable, despite the earlier Industrial Revolution’s efforts to make them obsolete. Traditional looms come in so many different forms because they have been hacked on and modified throughout millenia by countless communities. There is an elegance in being able to see all the mechanisms of a hand-powered loom or spinning wheel, an almost self-documenting system. I see potential for new machines, like the TC2 and the Kniterate, to find a compromise between closed-IP equipment and their open hardware ancestors through open interfaces.

If you have more business experience than Shanel Wu (i.e. any business know-how at all), please send them your version of how you’d make the business case to Tronrud. You can find them at: (website) / (Github) @sminliwu / (Instagram and Discord) @pipernell / (email)

On Open Hardware and Being a PhD Student

As one of the Open Hardware Trailblazer Fellows, I hope that my experiences can be informative, or at least bring some sense of solidarity, to other PhD students working on open hardware (OH). PhD programs seem to be isolating experiences by design. After all, you’re supposed to do original research — by definition, doing something that nobody else has ever done. How do you find community when you’re the only one doing what you’re doing?

I think my answer is to find connections with other people who are making things with similar features, and asking similar questions. I try to ignore traditional labels and disciplinary silos like “researcher”, “artist”, “engineer”, etc. so to some, the connections I make might seem like big reaches. My research in textiles and maker tools falls under the human-computer interaction (HCI) umbrella, and building hardware is my way of ensuring that my output research can not only support textile makers in their designing processes, but also play a part in the physical fabrication of those designs. Through the Trailblazers fellowship, I met academics who were working on very different projects, but we found unexpected connections anyway. I was the only person working with textiles, but everyone struggled in their own way with staying on top of documentation and hustling for recognition. Meeting with the other fellows during our cohort meetings gave me comfort that I wasn’t alone, even if I felt like my project was weird and niche. Moreover, most of the other fellows were faculty rather than students and many of the mentors worked outside of academia, so I had constant reminders that the stress of my PhD studies was only temporary, and open hardware would lead to much more exciting places in the future.

However, sometimes doing open hardware and PhD research added more stress to my plate, despite the community I found. Because my research focuses more on the design theories around and qualitative evaluation of the hardware in question, my writing needed to mostly discuss these aspects and heavily streamline the implementation details. Thus, I couldn’t use much of the technical documentation I wrote for the OH project for my academic writing. I essentially had twice the writing to do. And I already had a lot of writing to do.

I noticed other conflicts between academic output and OH output when judging how “ready” the work was. For the Loom Pedals, my advisor suggested that it was “publishable” once I had a proof-of-concept prototype. The Loom Pedals were nowhere near their current level of functionality and polish: I hadn’t designed the PCB yet, the enclosures were an earlier boxy version, and I was still ironing out the software interface. The crux of the manuscript was to be the “novel” concept of creating a customizable interface for a Jacquard loom. If I were to post about the project online, as I have with some personal hardware projects, I would’ve waited until I had documented things better and organized my files — a “pushable” state. Maybe this is just my perfectionism speaking, and/or specific to publishing in HCI, which is so focused on “novelty”. 

Lastly, I can’t forget my dissertation. This fellowship lined up with my final year as a PhD student, so for my final few months, my primary focus was just putting together my dissertation. I hope I’m not sounding repetitive because all of my issues have been with writing. But writing has been the single most prominent aspect of academia that I wouldn’t think about so much if, say, I was working as an engineer in a start-up.

Starting with this one parallel, I’ve been thinking about other ways that academic tasks mirror open-source practices; and going even further, ways that academic spaces could learn from open-source communities to become more nurturing and collaborative. 

As a minor example, I ended up putting my dissertation (LaTeX files, images, and other assets) into a Git repository because I was overwhelmed by organizing my files and tracking changes in response to my committee’s feedback. On a whim, I made it public on GitHub, like so many other projects that I’ve just thrown online. I’ve already sent the link to a few other students who wanted ideas for their own dissertation processes. I’ve realized that I want my academic work to include my process to transparently show the mess that preceded a polished manuscript. I want to be honest about my struggles, so I can share and create resources with others (like a living dissertation template that will be updated every year, not every decade). I want my work to exist outside of paywalls and institutions. And most of all, I want to dispel the myth that academics are solitary geniuses who periodically emerge from their wizard towers, publications in hand — a myth which only perpetuates elitist, exclusive institutions that isolate and burn out prospective academics who lack certain privileges.

I recognize that some (maybe most) of my feelings of isolation stem from doing my PhD during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conferences were moved online or outright canceled, and in a field that heavily emphasizes publishing in conference proceedings, I missed out on a lot of networking, commiserating, and collaborating with other students that would normally take place at in-person conferences. Nevertheless, I would love to talk with others who might feel similarly and brainstorm ideas to support each other. Discord server? (entirely serious)

If you would like to commiserate about PhD angst and lament about not having actual wizard towers, you can find Shanel Wu at: (website) / (Github) @sminliwu / (Instagram and Discord) @pipernell / (email)