The 6-in-60 Report, the New CEB Press, and a Call for DPVs

Summing Up the 6-in-60

The 6-in-60 Production Report video is as close as you can get to the 6-in-60 Campaign without your safety glasses. And it’s one to share. Watch as the Open Source Ecology team, including Dedicated Project Visitors (DPVs)  and students from Berea College, work to make six new machines in the Global Village Construction Set a reality. Like all truly powerful stories, this one isn’t over. We continue to build on our successes and to ensure that others can, and we refine our processes as we learn from experience. Join us for a look back at the 6-in-60 and for the exciting work that lies ahead!


CEB Press: A New Controller

Open Source Ecology’s Compressed Earth Brick Press turns ordinary earth into bricks. It can press enough bricks in a day for the construction of a small, solid house at a very low cost. James Slade, with the assistance of Dedicated Project Visitor (DPV) Jonathan Miller, has been leading the reengineering of the Compressed Earth Brick Press and the Soil Pulverizer to effect key improvements in its design.

Previous versions of the brick press controller used position sensors which proved difficult to adjust. To address this issue, James built the next-generation brick press controller with a pressure switch that measures pressure only and screws right into solenoid valve.

The CEB Press Controller

In the video clip that follows, James talks through last-minute fixes and refinements, and he and Jonathan fire up the CEB Press 3 for a test.


LifeTrac 6 Design Nears Completion

Product Lead Gary DeMercurio reports that the design for the LifeTrac 6 should be ready for a final analytical review next week. The basic frame design has been completed. Lucas Warner, a former OSE intern who played a key role in the LifeTrac 5 build with Our School at Blair Grocery, returned to Factor e Farm this week to lead the LifeTrac 6 build as a Product Facilitator. The LifeTrac 6 will directly support the MicroHouse build scheduled for September 28.

Looking Ahead: An Invitation to Dedicated Project Visitors

OSE is in need of DPVs in September and October to support the LifeTrac 6 development and prototype build, the 50 HP Power Cube effort, and the construction of the MicroHouse. Dedicated Project Visitors are key to moving the mission of Open Source Ecology forward. If you are interested in becoming a DPV at Factor e Farm, please visit our Dedicated Project Visits page  and contact Technical Community Manager Audrey Rampone with any questions you may have. You may also want to take a peek at OSE’s evolving development process.


HydraFabber Technical Update: Laser Cutter Design for Review, CNC Circuit Mill Ready for Build

Open Source Ecology’s HydraFabber, now in development, is a foldable, portable combination 3D printer, CNC circuit mill, and laser cutter. Its purposes will be to enable 2D and 3D rapid prototyping for open source machine design and to mill circuits needed for OSE’s modular machines in the Global Village Construction Set.

In coming weeks, OSE will take the HydraFabber to the finish line, realizing the dream of the 3-in-1 machine proposed by Leo Dearden and worked on by Nate Wettstein, John Kobmla Stager, and Tim Boyd.

“Closing in on the target!” Exec. Dir. Marcin Jakubowski examines a spindle holder.

At this point, the laser cutter design is ready for review—heads up, please, if you are a laser expert or have friends who are: we would like to have laser experts look at our design and calculations and offer feedback. We’ve already had much help from Tim Boyd, a laser expert and active contributor to our design sprints. Tim has produced the design for our laser-cutter component of the HydraFabber. The laser cutter enables 2D prototyping by cutting paper and cardboard patterns to be made in steel on the CNC Torch Table. In Part 1 of this post, Tim lays out the technical details and calculations for the laser cutter for review.

Dedicated Project Visitor (DPV) John Kobmla, meanwhile, is developing the CNC circuit mill part of the HydraFabber, and that work is nearing completion. In Part 2 of this post, we’ll take a detailed look at progress on the CNC circuit mill.

Part 1: Laser Cutter

Check out the conceptual diagram for the laser cutter and please pass this on to any of your laser expert friends. We are reviewing the current design and would like your feedback on (1) general design considerations, (2) verification of our calculations on laser cutting capacity, and (3) any comments on feasibility, especially if you have experience with lasers. Please send feedback to Tim Boyd.

10-Watt laser cutter overview

After the calculations below are reviewed and after we receive feedback, we will purchase the parts and build the laser cutter.

The laser cutter design

The laser cutter uses a focused diode laser to cut paper and cardboard by thermal ablation, or the vaporization of the paper fibers. This process eliminates uncontrolled combustion.

We will scan the laser position in X dimension, and the paper will be panned in Y dimension. Ablation requires highly focused intensity; therefore, high laser power is required.

The necessary 975-nanometer wavelength, 10-watt fiber-coupled diode lasers are now commercially available at low cost. The laser power can be delivered to the X,Z scanning stage by a multimode fiber optic. The laser power is then focused onto the paper with a fiber-coupled optical assembly. The assembly focuses the power in a 200-micron spot at a distance of a few inches from focusing optics. This arrangement allows smoke and particulates to be vacuumed away from the optics.

A simple calculation regarding paper-cutting speed

Please review these calculations for our 10-watt laser cutter:

Ten watts of laser power focused in a 0.2 mm diameter spot results in an intensity of 30,000 watts per square cm or 300,000 times the intensity of sunlight.

Assuming the paper absorbs 1/2 of the incident power (or 5 joules per second) in a 0.2 mm diameter spot and assuming a paper thickness of roughly 0.1 mm, 5 joules/sec will act on a volume of roughly 3 millionths of a cubic centimeter.

Given a mass density of paper of 0.7 gram/cc, the mass is roughly 2 micrograms.

The specific heat of paper is 1.4 kilojoules per kilogram kelvin, or 1.4 joule per gram for 1 degree centigrade.

All of these factors result in a temperature rise of the volume of paper of roughly 1 million degrees centigrade per second.

Assuming that 1000 degrees is sufficient for vaporization, then a period of one millisecond is required for each spot. This suggests a cutting speed of 200mm per second.

Laser cutter assembly

Requirements for initial test

Before the laser module, fiber assembly, and focusing optics are procured, we must decide whether commercial power supplies for diode current and thermoelectric control should be procured or built by us and then tested by experienced personnel.

Also, laser safety is paramount. The 975 nm wavelength is the wavelength presently favored because high-power modules are most easily obtainable at this wavelength. However, these are eye-hazardous wavelengths, so the paper-cutting operation must be completely shielded by plastic that is totally opaque at these wavelengths. We should investigate dye-impregnated vinyl or other transparent plastic for its optical density at 975 nm. Fortunately such material is available for industrial application for the high power Nd:YAG wavelength of 1064 nm. However we must have a minimum of equipment to assess light leakage.

Light-proof case

A big case, possibly one that folds up, will be needed to enclose the fiber and the X-Y axis. We are working on the first cut of a design for a frame that can be lowered down—a box of steel angle iron that will hold vinyl sheeting impregnated with dye that will filter out the light the laser emits, since that wavelength of light is dangerous to the eye. You can look through the vinyl and see the progress of the cut, but the vinyl will block the harmful 975 nm light, protecting the eyes from a burn or local blindness. It must be absolutely black at 975 nm to prevent light exposure to anyone who might be standing nearby. This is critical to prevent eye damage or even blindness and to meet OSHA requirements.

Vacuum pump considerations

The caustic of rays is the focus of optical power or radiant flux, or, more precisely, the geometrical curve of the envelope of rays where they focus concentrated light. In the illustration below, the caustic is the transparent object, red in color.

Caustic, depicted in red (detail)

The caustic of rays will encompass whatever smoke and particulates are generated. Because smoke will interrupt the power from the lens, it is essential to maintain a small vacuum current to clear the region where work is taking place. An aquarium pump used in reverse might be sufficient to remove smoke from the enclosure, or a small circuit cooling fan might be used.

Bill of materials
We are ready to source the parts for the laser. The total cost for the 10-watt laser cutter portion is about $2000, as follows:

Part 2: The CNC Circuit Mill

The CNC circuit mill will enable OSE to produce the circuits needed for modules in various machines of the Global Village Construction Set. For the CNC circuit mill, John Kobmla has built upon the Ilan Moyer open source spindle from the Center for Bits and Atoms. John is currently working on the control software for running the CNC circuit mill, utilizing Fab Modules from MIT.

John reports:

After a mere four weeks, the HydraFabber has a CNC mill spindle assembly. Now we move on to the milling bed and the mill controller—the Fab Modules. The CNC mill controller and bed are in the integration process and will be completed by Wed, Aug. 21st, 2013.

The journey has been interesting, to say the least, and fun, both for OSE and the HydraFabber Team. Our documentation shows how far we have come and the progress that has been made to bring us to the current achieved stage.

CAD picture of exploded spindle assembly parts diagram

To see how the spindle goes together, view our spindle assembly animation:

And here is the spindle installed:

CNC mill spindle assembly mount on the taz, soon-to-be HydraFabber

For more pictures, see John’s log.

Feedback is welcome. Special thanks to all our supporters and well wishers for all their encouragements and to those who have contributed to the various open source designs upon which the HydraFabber’s components are based. Our work stands on their shoulders to reach to realize new possibilities for open source rapid prototyping and circuit milling.

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Progress on the MicroHouse

Open Source Ecology’s two-module MicroHouse

MicroHouse Construction Manager Chris Reinhart is moving forward on the OSE Microhouse design. The Microhouse is a modular, low-cost, simple-but-comfortable, Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) house design. It is designed such that the different parts of the house can be build in parallel – walls, utility modules, roof sections, windows and doors, and others. We are approaching this design from a “Housing Construction Set” approach – where we are developing basic, interoperable, scalable, modifiable building modules. We are experimenting with the limits of earth housing as a building method comparable in cost and build time to standard stick-frame construction – while allowing for much longer building lifetime.

A two-module design has emerged, featuring a courtyard in between. One 12′ x 12′ unit will be devoted to work and sleeping space (possibly a sleeping loft), while the other will house a kitchen, bath, and dining space.

The Microhouse’s passive solar design for direct solar gain can be built using compressed earth bricks produced by our CEB Press.  The building collects heat from its southern exposure without losing it on the other three sides.

Design for direct solar gain—See Chris Reinhart’s blog, linked below, for larger image.

The bricks will be configured to create thick, insulating walls which will keep the MicroHouse cool in summer and will keep heat from escaping in winter:

Possible brick stacking patterns for MicroHouse walls

A reverse shed roof will allow for easy mounting of solar panels, and high windows are an option to vent warm air out of the building. In an innovative departure from conventional construction techniques, a modular roof design is being considered, with each module weighing no more than 200 lbs., so that a small team of builders can lift a module into position without the help of a crane. Compressed straw packed into each module serves as insulation. Chris plans to test and refine the roof module design concept before the actual build, as there is little information be be found on such modular roof design.

Proposed MicroHouse modular roof design

For evolving design details and planning, follow Chris Reinhart’s working design log here. Here at Factor e Farm, the Microhouse build, scheduled for September 28, will likely involve 24-28 people working in crews on various aspects of the building process so that build time can be minimized. The OSE team will be making continuing improvement to the CEB Press + Tractor + Pulverizer + Power Cubes to make it all happen.

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6-in-60 Video Update and Optimizing the Development Process

For an exciting taste of the action at Open Source Ecology’s HabLab, follow the ups and downs of the 6-in-60 Campaign in our no-holds-barred video update, part one. Watch Dedicated Project Visitors (DPVs) from Berea College help us to take new OSE machines from Open Source CAD designs to functional machines. Then confront, with our team, the problem that turned 6-in-60 into 6-in-90.  (Be sure to stay tuned for our second video update, now in development. We’ll fill you in as to how we turned challenges into opportunities in revising our plan for the 6-in-60.)


Despite delays caused by supply issues, there have been some great successes so far: The Ironworker prototype went together in about 12 hours; the backhoe’s pivot, stick, boom, and bucket all went together well; and we have made good headway with the tread for the Microtractor. Meanwhile OSE’s new prototyping tool, the HydraFabber, is being put through its paces. John Stager, a member of Team HydraFabber, began testing its 3D printing capabilities on August 1.

HydraFabber Test

John Stager, assisted by David Preiss, tests the HydraFabber as Lucas Warner observes.

DPVs Target Engineering Development Processes

During the first week of August, we welcomed Scott Eisele and Jonathan Miller as DPVs. Both Scott and Jonathan come to us from Vanderbilt, where Scott is a graduate student of Electrical Engineering and Jonathan is a student of Manufacturing Engineering. Their arrival at OSE could not be more timely and helpful, as the OSE team, with their input, maps out an improved and robust product design and prototyping process.

Scott will be developing a two-month schedule to build LifeTrac 6, along with necessary protocols and templates to apply/evaluate elements of our new development processes. Scott and Jonathan will be collaborating with OSE on integrating advanced engineering analyses of our product design process via new software in development at Vanderbilt University’s Institute of Software Integrated Systems–the META Tool suite. The META Tools are a development effort funded by DARPA, whose ultimate goal is to improve the existing systems engineering, integration, and testing process.

This analysis has the potential to assist us in achieving OSE’s rapid engineering and prototyping goals. Results will help OSE plan/schedule, streamline operations and resources, communicate, track, and document projects effectively and efficiently. An optimal development process can address the kinds of real-world challenges projects encounter. Though this aspect of our work may sound a bit dull compared to watching steel cut on a torch table or cool machines roll out, it is the refinement of an optimal development process that makes exciting results possible, not only for Open Source Ecology, but for anyone who delves into developing and producing open-source hardware to help build a better world.

Coming soon: More on the MicroHouse.


Lifetrac 5 Tractor Delivered, DPV Updates

This week the LifeTrac 5 Tractor was shipped to New Orleans. With the build of this most recent LifeTrac design complete, we are in the process of setting up LifeTrac 5 on GrabCAD, an Open Engineering platform. Meanwhile, development of the documentation for the 50 machines of the Global Village Construction Set continues on the the Dozuki platform, starting with machine infographics and module breakdowns such as the ones outlined for the OSE Backhoe, drilling down to development method. (Content is under development, but you can see the modular organization documentation will take.). See Design Sprint page for this weekend’s development schedule.

Documentation modules in development for the OSE Backhoe

Audrey Rampone, OSE’s Technical Community Manager, brings us this update on Dedicated Project Visits:

Last we said goodbye to three amazing DPVs: Cory Shenk and Leandra Forman on July 19, and Jordan Phoenix on July 15. During their stay, Leandra, Cory, and Jordan were instrumental in the development and prototyping of products for the 6-in-60 Campaign and in building the Lifetrac 5 Tractor to be featured in the documentary film The Spark. In addition, Jordan Phoenix, who is the Founder and Director of Project Free World, provided advice on media strategy, outreach, and scalability.

Recently, we have welcomed the arrival of three new DPVs at Factor e Farm: John Stager, Miguel Castro, Jr., and David Preiss. John Stager is working on HydraFabber at Factor e Farm. The HydraFabber design is Lulzbot with CNC Circuit Milling spindle.

On Sunday, 28 July, we will welcome a new DPV, Scott Eisele, from Brigham Young University. Scott has participated in several Design Sprints, where he assisted with the design of the LifeTrac 5.

As members of our first “class” of DPVs leave Factor e Farm, the focus has shifted to gaining feedback in order to improve our processes. A Post-DPV survey has been launched, and we are seeking feedback to understand what we are doing well and what we can improve upon.

On that note, the Dedicated Project Visits page is being updated, and the application process has been streamlined to improve transparency and efficiency.

Dedicated Project Visitors are key to moving the mission of Open Source Ecology forward, and we are committed to making DPV’s time here as positive and fruitful an experience as possible. If you are interested in becoming a DPV and working with us at Factor e Farm on a specific project, pleases do visit our Dedicated Project Visits page and contact Audrey with any questions you may have.

Last, we’d like to encourage readers to complete the Open Source Hardware Community Survey 2013 – The survey, hosted by the Open Source Hardware Association ( requires as little as 3-5 minutes to complete, but there’s space to offer thoughtful responses to a few key open-ended questions. Please take the time!


Lifetrac 5 Ready to Roll, Microhouse Coming Soon

Download LifeTrac 5 CAD files and documentation here.

Our School at Blair Grocery’s LifeTrac 5 is finished!

When filmmaker Ian Midgley went in search of world changers, he found Open Source Ecology and Our School at Blair Grocery. And then he imagined what could happen when two different visionary projects collaborate, each contributing to the work of the other. Ian’s inspiring idea became a reality this past week as Open Source Ecology and Our School at Blair Grocery came together to build a LifeTrac 5 tractor for the school to take back home to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans for use in its gardens. Meanwhile The Spark film crew, led by filmmaker/collaborator Tom Griffing, captured it all – the coming together, the hard work, the unexpected hurdles, the ultimate achievement – in footage shot for The Spark.

In all, 21 people converged at the Factor e Farm to take part in the build and film project, including James Slade, Jason Smith, Savanna Slade, and students from Our School at Blair Grocery. The build took close to a week. OSE’s Operations Manager, Katie Whitman, praised everyone involved, with special thanks to Dedicated Project Visitors Lucas Warner, Leandra Forman, Cory Shenky, and Jordan Pheonix, who pushed hard to make the tractor a reality: “Their resilience was amazing,” Katie explains. “The timeline for this build was being pushed back by externalities that they could not control. They painstakingly worked through all the holdups to completion.” Katie attributes the build’s success to “the stamina and character of the people involved.”

During the build, the flow of learning definitely went two ways. Durante Chappell from Our School at Blair Grocery shared expertise during the build, offering time-saving solutions. He would see someone struggling and quietly offer advice.

If you ask the tractor-building crew about highlights of the past week, they probably won’t fail to mention, along with new friends and great work done, DeRonta Langand’s southern-style fried chicken, complemented by Tom Griffing’s gumbo. Terrific! Thanks to all involved for a memorable week. The tractor is finished, ready to go to work, but the story of the collaboration will ripple forward through the impact of the upcoming film, The Spark, inspiring other collaborations between organizations working for social good.

This week, we are saying goodbye, with sincere thanks, to Leandra, Cory, and Jordan, but we also welcome Miguel Castro and John Stager as new DPVs (working on the Hydrafabber).

Meanwhile, OSE Executive Director Marcin Jakubowski notes other highlights from recent Design Sprints. Design Sprint collaborators are working on oxyacetylene version of CNC torch table, with a gas control and separate height controller. The Open Source Welder/Plasma Cutter design is in progress. Here is an initial diagram.

Marcin met this past week with designer  John Motloch and construction manager Chris Reinhart  to move forward on OSE’s Microhouse build.  The Microhouse is a natural construction building made primarily from compressed earth blocks and built using OSE’s open-source construction equipment such as the Brick Press.

Open Source Ecology’s CEB Microhouse

The design is perfect for anyone who wants to create simple, affordable, and energy efficient living space. Fans of the DIY tiny house movement will want to look at this option. John and Chris will be responsible for the build of the 400-square foot Microhouse, which is now scheduled for Sep 28. And with the build coming up and plans falling into place, we can now announce that we are ready finally to fulfill the 2011 Kickstarter reward structure.


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The Spark Update, OSE Car Ready for Review, and Much More

OSE is Teaming up with The Spark Documentary Team and with Our School at Blair Grocery to Produce a Tractor in One Day

Preparations for The Spark tractor build are in full swing. On Sunday, filmmaker Ian Midgley and his film crew arrived, and Monday marked the first day of serious planning with Open Source Ecology regarding of the build of the tractor for Our School at Blair Grocery. Writer Emily Eakin from The New Yorker arrived yesterday to cover OSE’s work, including the one day tractor build, The Spark, and the remarkable collaboration that is emerging. Nat Turner and students from the School at Blair Grocery arrive today, and the exciting one-day tractor build begins tomorrow – Friday, July 12. You can read more about this inspiring convergence of creative projects for social good in our earlier post here.

6-in-60 Campaign Updates

The Car – The OSE Car Design is complete and ready for review. We are extremely excited about this! Yann Lischetti (engineer, entrepreneur, social hacker, and developer of the open-source Vélocar) explains the goals which governed its design: “To meet GVCS specifications, a good car design had to be efficient, simple to build, and modular. Wikispeed SGT01 was a great starting point, I just had to simplify, lighten, and add a hydraulic transmission.” The same PTO motor as is used in the Lifetrac tractor will be used to drive the car, in accordance with OSE’s vision that design should be modular and key parts interchangeable. Yann offers a detailed overview of the car’s design:


We hope that you will contact Yann with your review comments. Yann is requesting these points for review:

  • This is version four of design, and it’s simpler to build than earlier versions .
  • The parametric CAD assembly can adapt to many load and dimensional constraints.
  • The FEA analysis test has been passed.
  • The first step for fabrication documentation has been done.
  • The bill of materials has been completed, with sourcing links.

All design updates for the car are reflected in OSECar rhizome and on the GitHub repository.

The Ironworker – The OSE Ironworker is done!

OSE Ironworker under construction

Assembly of the OSE Ironworker in progress

The Backhoe – Product Lead Gary DeMercurio reports that the backhoe has, perhaps, one day’s work left to do. “It was not finished due to some serious issues with getting the pivot to align. “Great lessons learned, though,” Gary added. The team determined they 3D printed scale models will be a great help to refine the build procedure and achieve a perfect fit for parts. For a peek at the backhoe about to come together, see our short video clip:


The Hydrafabber – The Hydrafabber laser cutter is ready for part sourcing. The laser diode is on the side of the machine, where it couples cutting power via an optical line to optics on the toolhead platform. See Tim’s Log.

The CNC Router – Major progress has been made on the CNC router design: our next step is creating fabrication diagrams. See John’s Log.

The Microtrac – Production of the Microtrac will begin after The Spark tractor is finished.

Documentation at Dozuki – Documentation Manager Rob Kirk is shooting footage for later incorporation into video documentation for the OSE machines. At Dozuki, placeholders for machines and modules are being set up. We look forward to populating the Dozuki page with excellent, detailed documentation for each of the machines of the Global Village Construction Set. Work continues on that project next week. If you do video or any other documentation-related work, check out how you can become involved.

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of all that has been going on in the workshop over the 5 build days of last wee, you can view video clips here:

6-in-60 Becomes 6-in-90

Given the upcoming build of the tractor with Our School at Blair Grocery, in conjunction with a few real-world logistical challenges (like metal delivery problem and plasma cutter issues) in conjunction with our mere-mortal stamina, we’ve decided to upgrade our 6-in-60 Campaign to a 6-in-90 Campaign. Taking a little extra time – with the backhoe, for example – will ensure that each machine represents the highest quality we can achieve for the current iteration of each machine.

These are exciting times at Open Source Ecology as we turn our vision of the Global Village Construction Set –  into a reality, one step, one process, and one machine at a time. We owe this unfolding success to the tireless work of many. Our numbers are at under 20 contributors per week. So invite your friends. We look forward to stabilizing at 50-100 contributors for each Saturday sprint – for every Sprint Master that we have on the team. See our evolving process here and sign up as a technical team contributor. There are many roles to fill – and you can contribute as long as you are able to surf the web and navigate Google docs.

Design Sprint Participation, May 11-July 6, 2013


6-in-60 Machine Builds Under Way

With the machine builds of the 6 in 60 campaign now in full swing, exciting work at OSE continues. Days start at 9:00 a.m. and end at midnight, but Product Lead Gary DeMercurio reports,  “Everyone has been churning out tasks with great attitudes. Working with our interns and Dedicated Project Visitors (DPVs)  has been phenomenal.” Check out the action at the HabLab as the builds began!

Currently in production, the backhoe and the ironworker may be completed as early as today, as the work of all those who participated in design sprints comes to fruition.

Backhoe Design Sketch

For many of you who follow and support the work of Open Source Ecology, it may seem all too easy to conclude that you can’t do much to help further OSE’s mission, except monetarily, if you aren’t an engineer or if you don’t know how to cut steel at a CNC Torch Table. But that’s just not true. Operations manager Katie Whitman reports, “Yesterday we had a great True Fan, Randy, come out to give some pro bono accounting advice. Contributions like this one will save OSE money, but also help encourage and facilitate an environment where ‘do it yourself’ is the ‘go to’ response.”

There are more ways to contribute to OSE’s mission than you might think. If you haven’t yet checked out how you might help with video documentation, be sure to check out Documentation Manager Rob Kirk’s invitation to get involved.

Not all work we do at OSE is dramatic enough to be caught on video, but it is all nonetheless vital, whether that is tracking down a working printer for use at Factor e Farm, fetching yet another load of steel for the builds, or plugging critical information into Project Manager software for the first time to see how the program can help with the management of OSE’s many projects. We celebrate every step we take, with the help of many collaborators, toward fulfilling OSE’s core mission. This week we want to give a shoutout our Dedicated Project Visitors, including Jordan Phoenix, who has been working hard on prototyping, vision, and OSE’s strategy for scalability. In his free time he has been working just as hard to bring back our Facebook. Four of our six DPVs are pictured below. Thanks, all!

Prototyping at OSE


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Video Documentation as It’s Never Been Done Before: An Invitation

Rob Kirk here. I’m Open Source Ecology’s documentation manager, and I’d like to fill you in regarding our innovative, collaborative approach to creating documentation. More than that, I’d like to invite you to consider becoming involved.

Collaboration is the core of Open Source Ecology. Much of the design work for the Global Village Construction Set is done through remote collaboration with talented people around the world. Design Sprints on platforms like Google Hangouts allow for easy exchange of ideas and design files.

But on the all-important documentation side of the equation, remote collaboration is not as simple or efficient. High definition video files are very large and uploading a file can literally take hours, or worse, time out entirely. Many skilled video pros have volunteered to help on OSE documentation projects, but the roadblock of bandwidth has made this collaboration very difficult.

This is all about the change. Open Source Ecology has launched a groundbreaking video collaboration project with latakoo, designed to help document the work of the organization and then to share the final productions with OSE users around the globe. Developed by a group of journalists and technologists, the latakoo platform is designed to enable users to send high resolution video files over the internet as much as 50x faster, with no loss of quality. Their application simultaneously encrypts, compresses, and uploads video to the cloud from almost any device and over any Internet connection.

Latakoo (

Through latakoo, remote video collaborators will now be able to download video in whatever format they need from the OSE archives as well as material shot during the builds, in full resolution, and then work with the footage. The videos created will benefit others trying the replicate the building of the Open Source Ecology machines, as well as help OSE better understand and improve upon their designs.

OSE’s founder, Marcin Jakubowski, has recognized the need for clear documentation since the inception of the project. He points out, “Without documentation you just can’t build on other people’s work.” While the open source hardware movement removes the proprietary barriers that prevent people from replicating and building upon others’ work, it is only first-rate documentation, freely accessible, that can unlock that potential. Video is a key method for offering information and instruction about the machines.

Just as it is using and continuously refining a collaborative design model to create the machines of the Global Village Construction Set, OSE also aims to break new ground by developing a collaborative model to facilitate the production of first-rate video documentation. Our next step is to recruit video production teams, spread out around the globe, to help produce, write, shoot, edit, and then share high-resolution material, in real time, anywhere in the world.

This collaborative approach to video production will result in efficiently produced video documentation for the machines of the Global Village Construction Set. But it will also forge cutting edge collaborative practices that can revolutionize video production for any project. If you work in any area related to video production and find yourself excited by the possibilities this work will enable, we invite you to be involved.

These are some of the categories of people that will be needed for the project. We welcome collaborators at all skill levels.

Producer/Directors – These are people that organize and lead a shoot. Sometimes they may also do the filming, but usually they are directing the film crew and conducting the interviews. They need to have a clear understanding of the story and goals of the shoot. These folks are very valuable if there’s a build happening elsewhere and we need to get it documented without flying our people to the location.

Cameramen/Women – This, of course, is a very important category. When we have an important event happening it’s great to be able to document with more than cell phones. Usually camera people will have their own cameras, and the quality will be much better than anything we can capture on a phone. A good documentary cameraperson usually can also act as a producer/director, be able to understand the story in front of them, get the right shots, and ask questions.

Editors – This is the other key category for us. The goal is to be able to post our “raw” footage on the latakoo platform and have these remote editors build videos from scripts that we write. They can work on their “home” systems, and the entire process can take place remotely. Latakoo lets them download the footage directly in whatever format they need for their editing system.

Graphic Artists – These people are important for creating explanatory graphics and titles for the productions. They usually are skilled in programs like Photoshop and After Effects or their open source equivalents.

Writers – This is another good category to fill. We could create outlines for scripts and then pass them along to writers who could turn them into editing scripts for our video editors to run with. This is important as we want to scale up to creating many videos at once.

Music – There is a wide variety of open source music available, but we’d be thrilled to have composers contribute new music cues for OSE projects.

Assistant Editors/Video Librarians – these are people who are willing to help us log and organize the raw materials we shoot (and have shot in the past). They will log the footage and help organize our database/video library. It’s important that they know a lot about the project, so their logs can have the necessary detail to make the footage useful for the future.

We want to emphasize that we welcome collaborators at all skill levels. I have a long history in creating documentaries for television networks like the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and would be thrilled to help new filmmakers learn more about any aspects of the television and documentary world. Together we can create documentation to further Open Source Ecology’s mission, and we can unlock the collaborative potential of video production.

When I learned about OSE’s work, I immediately wanted to know how I could be involved – how I could use my skills to help further this world-changing endeavor. If you’d like to be involved, too, contact me via email ([email protected]).

Robert Kirk, OSE Documentation Manager


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All Aboard! The 6 in 60 Campaign Continues

Let’s kick off this Tuesday update with a quick word from Marcin, OSE’s Executive Director:

As our Operations Manager Katie Whitman joins us officially this week, we are excited to say that OSE 2.0’s core staff is now all on board, even as the 6 in 60 campaign (6 new machines in 60 days) moves forward at turbo speed. Last week’s highlight was a successful sprint with 19 participants and collaboration with VéloCar, on the OSE Wikispeed Car.

This week Katie is getting a sense of current operations, creating a system to develop OSE Protocols, and moving forward with OpenERP, the open source business management program that will help OSE manage projects, tasks, and contacts. She affirms, “Overall, my first week’s highlights pertain to organizing, organizing, organizing, which I love!”

As Product Lead Gary De Mercurio organizes people and materials for the builds ahead, working with OSE’s interns and others to make it all happen, large materials orders are rolling in. Gary swears he’s done a “metric ton of research” this past week into how to squeeze all the essentials of the Wiki Speed car’s engine and power cube into its frame.

Last week OSE Documentation Manager Rob Kirk secured a groundbreaking new video collaboration system through latakoo. This system will allow remote video collaborators around the world to help document OSE projects. More on that soon! If you work in any capacity with video production, stay tuned—we need you. Rob will be arriving on site Friday in anticipation of upcoming 6 in 60 machine builds.



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