Author Archives: lecia

OSHWA Trailblazer Fellow Jonathan Balkind Disseminating OpenPiton and UC-level Lessons in Open Source Hardware

via Open Source Hardware Association

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.

Dahl Winters Named OSHWA Trailblazer Fellow

via Open Source Hardware Association

Dahl Winters is presently CEO and Co-Founder of TerraNexum Inc. Her company’s goal is to provide a platform for optimizing cleantech/clean energy investment opportunities to enable rapid, profitable GHG drawdown at global scale.

Previously, Dahl was CEO/CTO of DeepScience Ltd for 7 years, leading a R&D consulting business that also built systems for science and sustainability in partnership with major corporations and research organizations. Her work there mostly focused on carbon dioxide removal and direct air carbon capture systems, as well as the analytics for scaling up those systems. One of these projects was registered as open-source hardware with OSHWA with the help of the OpenAir Collective, an all-volunteer group focused on advancing direct air carbon capture. This project grew into the focus of OpenAir’s Cyan/Carbon Forming mission which has helped many throughout the world to improve their knowledge of technical climate solutions.

Dahl is currently on the last year of her Ph.D in Systems Engineering at Colorado State University, within the Simske Lab. Her research has focused on how improvements to the carbon storage capacity and compressive strength of biochar-concrete composites can be engineered and how such a system can be successfully scaled to meet global needs for carbon sequestration and construction. Through the help of OSHWA’s Trailblazer Fellowship, Dahl can now also apply model-based systems engineering strategies to test how related, open-source hardware systems might also be successfully scaled within academia.

Prior to her recent work in carbon removal, Dahl also served as a consulting Geospatial Big Data Architect at a Fortune 500 company. There, she designed and built processing pipelines at scale to facilitate big data solutions and new tools for land cover monitoring. Before that, Dahl was a Staff R&D Scientist at DigitalGlobe, now Maxar Technologies, where she specialized in geospatial big data analytics and designed cloud-based and on-premises systems for ingesting, processing, and analyzing large quantities of geospatial data. Prior to this, she was an Environmental Scientist for Research Triangle Institute (RTI International), where she provided technical support to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Change Division (CCD) under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).

In her free time, Dahl enjoys catching up on the latest scientific discoveries within physics and quantum computing, going on hikes near her home in Evergreen, Colorado, examining the local wildflowers and birds, and doing nature photography with her husband Loren Winters.

PhD Student Shanel Wu Named OSHWA Trailblazer’s Fellow

via Open Source Hardware Association

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.

Museduino Creator Miriam Langer Named OSHWA Trailblazer Fellow

via Open Source Hardware Association

Museduino Creator Miriam Langer Named OSHWA Trailblazer Fellow

The idea of the Museduino was born in early 2015. The Cultural Technology Development Lab (CTDL), an ad-hoc team of faculty and students in the Media Arts and Technology at New Mexico Highlands University had been grappling with the role of supporting the development of responsive exhibits for museums, historic sites, and traveling exhibits. The team found they were repeatedly making versions of the same thing – different sensors (proximity, capacitive touch, buttons) and actuators – lights, audio, motor movement, video – similar processes with different inputs/outputs. The challenge was often the maintenance, cost, and the footprint size (ie- sensor in a doorway, actuator across a gallery space). So, after lots of discussions and proof-of-concept work, Stan, Rianne, Miles, and Miriam developed the Museduino.


In the summer of 2015, Rianne Trujillo and Miles Tokunow, then graduate assistants leading the project, shipped version 2.0 (1.0 was internal) to some friends who had agreed to try it out. After receiving feedback the team built some “first one is free!” demos for their cultural partners, and continued to develop and refine a modular, open-source Arduino shield with external boards that could respond with no detectable delays using CAT5 cable at distances of up to 100 feet from the central microcontroller.

The team led Museduino workshops at ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) in 2015, Museums and the Web in 2016, and INST-INT in 2017. Since the CTDL was something all members squeezed into their full-time academic schedules, they posted documentation and tutorials as they could, but finding the time to fully document both the technical iterations, code examples, and project demos/tutorials was difficult. The OSHWA Trailblazers Fellowship will be dynamic resource to revitalize the project after 18 months of being away from the lab due to COVID restrictions of state museums being closed.

The OSHWA Trailblazers fellowship will allow the current team, Rianne Trujillo (research/technical lead), Miriam Langer (PI, researcher) and Becca Sharp (graduate assistant, technical assistant, exhibit designer) to update the online documentation (museduino.org and GitHub repository) including tutorials, schematics, soldering instructions, and project examples. Along with this, each team member will be writing a textbook – with case studies from our various projects with museums, national parks, historic sites and installation artists, addressing issues around design, installation, and example applications. This document will be posted on the Museduino site, and distributed through OSHWA, along with partners at a few other universities and organizations.

Like most OSH projects, Musedino’s work would benefit from a larger community of users/practitioners who could modify the work, make changes specific to their needs, and share back to GitHub or another shared repository.

Internally at NMHU, they are working with faculty in the Forestry Institute to help their students work with sensors spread out over a large area (where wireless communication is impractical). It may seem that running CAT5/6 cables is impractical, but it does take some uncertainty out of the hardware setup, and Museduino easily accommodates 50+ meter runs in four directions from the central microcontroller (operating on battery or w/ solar).


Primarily many may think of Museduino as an OSH tool for arts/culture/exhibits – as they say, “The street finds its own uses for things”, or in this case, the forest does (apologies to William Gibson).

About the team:

Miriam Langer (she/her) is a professor of media arts/cultural technology at New Mexico Highlands University, an Hispanic Serving public institution in northeastern New Mexico. Miriam has been a professor of multimedia & interactivity with a focus on cultural technology at NMHU since 2001. In 2005, she initiated a partnership with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and has since worked with cultural institutions (museums, historic sites, national parks and libraries) around New Mexico (and elsewhere) to use emerging technology and open source solutions for these organizations. Since 2005, 268 projects have been completed at 62 cultural institutions. She is one of the founders of the Museduino, along with Rianne Trujillo, Miles Tokunow, and Stan Cohen – an open hardware platform for responsive exhibits and installation art. Her partners for this fellowship are Rianne Trujillo, instructor of software design and co-developer of the Museduino and Becca Sharp, an MFA student in Cultural Technology.Museduino.org, cctnewmexico.org

Rianne Trujillo is a professor of Software Systems Design at New Mexico Highlands University where she teaches web programming languages, experimental interfaces, physical computing/ internet of things. As the lead developer of the NMHU Cultural Technology Development Lab, Rianne has worked on Museduino and several exhibits for cultural institutions using open source software and hardware.

Becca Sharp (she/her) is a physical computing and fabrication artist with different focuses such as conservation and technology as well as technology and mental health. She has created projects using recycled materials, reused electronics and information about climate change, and is currently focused on mental health. During her undergraduate studies she had her first gallery showing and was in multiple art shows. She strives to create her work based around empathy and understanding. Her work often places one in “another’s shoes” to help spread information about current matters that need attention. She works primarily with 3D modeling, video game design, generative art through coding, soldering and physical computing. She has worked with museums and visitor centers around New Mexico including Bradbury Science Museum (2017), Meow Wolf (2018), Jemez Historic Site Visitor Center (2019), and New Mexico Museum of Art (2020). She is currently working on her MFA with mental health and technology as the center of her thesis, she is also teaching a course in her program using open-source softwares Unity 3D and Blender.

Playful Learning Lab Director AnnMarie Thomas Named Trailblazer Fellow

via Open Source Hardware Association

Playful Learning Lab Director AnnMarie Thomas Named Trailblazer Fellow

AnnMarie Thomas, the founder/director of the Playful Learning Lab (PLL) at the University of St. Thomas was awarded the OSHWA Trailblazer’s Fellowship.

The PLL is an undergraduate research lab that focuses on the intersection of Art, Technology, and PK-12 Education. I’m fortunate to work with faculty colleagues from other departments such as Music Education, Physics, and Emerging Media. Over the years some of our projects/collaborations have included:

  • Partnering with OK Go to develop OK Go Sandbox (the band’s videos and lesson plans for educators),
  • A nearly decade-long partnership with Metro Deaf School developing STEAM classes, camps, and programs for their students (who are Deaf and DeafBlind) (such as the afterschool program shown here
  • The development of engineering classes and demonstrations that use Flying Trapeze (and other circus arts) to explore physics

Most relevant to her work with open source hardware, though, is the Squishy Circuits project. Over a decade ago, Annmarie was wanting a way to teach young daughters about circuits, and with the help of an amazing first-year undergraduate engineering student, Sam Johnson, we created a method for building simple circuits that relied on two recipes for homemade sculpting dough; one that was very salty (and conductive) and one that was not salty (and worked as an insulator for electricity.) We decided to share all of our recipes and parts lists on line, and the team was amazed by how quickly the idea was embraced by teachers and parents around the world. This was the Playful Learning Lab’s first foray into open source hardware (or as we preferred, “open source squishy ware.”) This work led to the creation of a company, that is run by a former PLL member.

Annmare was an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at the time her team developed Squishy Circuits, that project played an important role in my tenure portfolio. Happily, I received tenure, and have gone on to become the rank of Full Professor, in both the School of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Opus College of Business School of Entrepreneurship. She also teaches in the university’s School of Education, in both the Engineering Education program (which she co-founded) and the Education Leadership department.

The focus of the yearlong trailblazer’s project for her will be examining the what and the where of Open Source Hardware in PK-12 Education. Her team of undergraduate researchers, overseen by Annmarie and my PLL faculty colleagues (Douglas Orzolek, Jeff Jalkio, and John Keston) are undertaking a large-scale literature review process to see where PK-12 usage of Open Source Hardware is showing up in scholarly peer-reviewed publications. They will also be compiling in-depth case studies on how some of these projects were developed in academic settings (by faculty and graduate/undergraduate students.) PLL are also aware that many of the teachers and extracurricular programs that use open source hardware are not publishing this information, so PLL will also be developing and distributing surveys to educators in hopes of getting a fuller picture of the ways in which they use open source hardware, and why.

This program gives opportunities for talented undergraduate students to actively learn about open-source hardware.