After a successful “hail mary” push to get the satellite simulator working, software installed into the borrowed Windows 7 laptop, and testing the Ground Sphere Mk2 prototype, we left Walsenburg around 10am on Thursday, heading to Boulder for the Front Range Open Source Hardware Symposium. Attending as presenters rather than just attendees, We got the opportunity to show folks what we think open hardware is all about. Congressman Jared Polis was there as well as some of the companies that do Open Source Hardware (OSHW), such as SparkFun Electronics, LulzBot.com and others. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up showcasing Ground Sphere, the Cubesat ground station receiver that we’ve been working on for months as a collaboration between Southern Stars and Mach 30.
We managed to pull enough stuff together to show not only the product and software, but also the processes and design philosophies behind them. We got there in plenty of time, found our hotel, relaxed for 10 minutes, and then headed out for a late lunch before setting up at the event. We found the place, The Studio, met Alicia Gibb, the executive director of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA), got set up and began to chat with people. About 50 people attended, with nine other presenters besides us all from Colorado’s Front Range. Other presenters included Nathan Seidle of SparkFun Electronics, Jeff Moe of Aleph Objects (Lulzbot), Michael Ossman of Great Scott Gadgets, Ryan Edwards of Sparky’s Widgets, Eric Schweikart of Modular Robotics, along with people from the Boulder, Denver, and Loveland Colorado Maker Spaces.
The round-table discussion with US Congressman Jared Polis went smoothly. Questions were asked such as “What part should government take in the OS movement (if any)?”. Sort of a help or hindrance viewpoint question. Another one was how could Colorado as a state help with the growth of the OS movement and what the benefits of such an effort could be. This morphed into a discussion of the benefits of OS versus patenting. Last, a brief bit on how the companies present had helped the economy. Our tack on this point was focused primarily on education and enabling hobbyists to build themselves into success in the new economy of makers, just as most of the tech giants of today did in the 70’s, only with an open philosophy when it comes to intellectual property.
Interestingly enough, the most correct answer for most of these questions was advocacy, education, and don’t get in the way of progress. Very much a “let people invent!”, and don’t stagnate. As Nathan Seidle said on his TED talk, organizations must innovate, and do so on a rapid pace, otherwise they are, or become, unfit. 21st century business moves too fast for patent law, especially electronics, computers, and aerospace. His TED talk is well worth the watch.
We had a lot of fun talking with the people there. Every aspect of the project got a lot of attention. At first some were turned off when they saw something they could have built themselves… but then they had the dawning realization that this is precisely where open source hardware projects must start. It must be repeatable, not only in the documentation, but also from the standpoints of hardware selection, cost, and build techniques. Once this has been accomplished, the design refinements may begin, so that the designers of the next iteration will have a solid foundation to stand upon. As one gentleman put it, “We all stand on the shoulders of giants. The trick to getting on the shoulders of the tallest giant is to start with the smaller ones”.
If you’d like to learn more about Ground Sphere, you can check it out on Open Design Engine.
You can also see more about the event at OSHWA’s webiste