What I learned at Open Hardware Summit

On Sept. 19 I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Open Hardware Summit in Philadelphia. This conference is dedicated to the progress of the open source hardware movement and is put on by OSHWA and many companies that believe in the proliferation of the open source world. The main idea of the open source philosophy is to encourage a spirit of collaboration. The underlying belief is that ideas can freely flow and be improved upon by the community of users in a much more rapid way than by individuals who guard their ideas behind high walls. This has proven very successful in the software world, and has been gaining momentum in the electronics world over the past few years. In the electronics context, designers release their design files for others to use. This will let the community take a design that they are interested in producing but customize for size, function or cost to help improve the application they wish to target. The challenge behind implementing successful open source hardware is the logistics and time associated with creating physical designs. It’s much easier to pull in code enhancements than it is to make hardware changes. However, it is still possible, especially in the prototyping phase of hardware design, to make rapid changes to your manufacturing process.


The Open Hardware Summit is an all-day event that invites speakers and attendees from all around the world to talk about their open source hardware experience and advancements. The talks included case studies of success and failure of Kickstarter campaigns, the patent claims of the Wright brothers, open source Internet of Things (IoT), open source projects on crowdfunding, enabling academia with open source tools that offer significant cost savings, and STEM-related initiatives that can train the next generation of great minds.


Open hardware is very important at Texas Instruments to give our customers reduced time to market and improved product support. TI Designs is a repository of open reference designs that can be used by customers as a starting point for innovative products. Popular development kits such as the TI LaunchPad™, TI SensorTag, and Beaglebone Black utilize open hardware to get customers quickly from evaluation to prototyping a customized design.


Here is a look at the program of the day and speakers.


AnnMarie Thomas, Associate Professor in the School of Engineering, the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, and the Opus College of Business at University of St. Thomas

Ben Leduc-Mills. Open Hardware, Open Minds: The Rise of Open Hardware in Academia and K-12 Education
Nancy Ouyang. The Rise and Fall of an Open Source Hardware Company
Jason Kessler and Jon Ruston. ULTRASCOPE: Automated Robotic Observatory (ARO)
Ryan Fobel, Christian Fobel, Michael Dryden and Aaron Wheeler. DropBot: an Open-Source Platform for Lab Automation
Joshua Pearce. Making Open Hardware the New Standard in Science
Hugo Boyer. Open Source Robotics Foundation and the Robotics Fast Track

Eric Wilhelm. Autodesk’s Open Source 3D Printer
Sanket Gupta and Sam Wurzel. Common Parts Library
Andreas Olofsson. Open Source Chip Design: The Final Frontier
Mike Linksvayer. Open Source Hardware and Developments in Creative Commons Licenses, Compatibility, and Policy
J. Simmons. Demonstration of Open Source Engineering Analysis and Parametric CAD Modeling for OSHW
Michael Weinberg. Future of OSHWA
Kipp Bradford. Successfully Manufacturing your Open Source Hardware
Joshua Lifton. A Tale of Two Laptops: Case Studies in Open Consumer Electronics
J. Eric Townsend (aka jet). Foundation for a Common Object Description Language
Grace Ahn, Elizabeth Doyle, Myles Cooper and Michael Searing. Investigating Normal – Hacking Prosthetics
Bevan Weissman and Dan Beyer, New American Public Art. Dynamic Infrastructure for Social Innovation

Benedetta PiantellaHumanitarian Open Source Tech Projects
Bruce Boyes. What the Wright brothers Can Teach us about Open Source vs Closed Source
Tega Brain and Surya Mattu. Unfit Bits: Free your Fitness Data from Yourself
Pedro Oliveira and Xuedi Chen. Open Source Riots – Appropriating Technologies for Protests of the Future
Tom Igoe
Speaking In Tongues and Catching Flies: OSH and Connected Devices
Dusytn Roberts and Addie Wagenknecht. Closing Remarks


Mark Easley is an applications engineer at Texas Instruments and a contributor to the Energia project.