Published: Oct. 31, 2023 By

Open Hardware Creators in Academia Fellowship logoATLAS PhD Shanel Wu recently concluded their participation in the Open Hardware Creators in Academia Fellowship, an initiative run by the Open Source Hardware Organization (OSHWA).

The fellowship, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, brought together nine diverse, passionate researchers in the open hardware field to create assets to assist other academics studying the topic, support the movement, foster collaboration and amplify the power of open hardware in academia. Wu says, "I was excited to be part of OSHWA's work in building an academic community in open hardware, especially because the organization has been so involved with promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion."

S Wu portraitAs a member of the ATLAS Unstable Design Lab, directed by assistant professor Laura Devendorf, Wu centered their PhD research on making things that are both useful and beautiful, and exploring technical complexities through handcraft, including e-textiles, wearables and unique materials with embedded electronics. This culminated in their recently-published dissertation, Retooling E-Textiles for Coproduction: Weaving Circuitry as Cloth

Wu embarked on an extensive set of research outputs through the course of the fellowship, including talks, essays, documentation and articles, with particular focus on Loom Pedals, an open-source customizable interface for a Jacquard loom, designed to promote improvisation and experimentation for makers. In this work, Wu relates, "I learned to trust in my ability to contribute to my field and to have confidence in my value as a researcher."

An open-source approach to research and tool development is particularly important to Wu as they “believe in sharing knowledge outside of traditional institutions as widely as possible, [as the] work will be more impactful if it is openly available.” 

According to OSHWA, the fellowship program has achieved critical outcomes including:

  • 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.

Wu has now embarked on post-doc research at Carleton College in Ottawa as Research Associate in the Creative Interactions Lab working on wearable technologies and accessibility. The lab, headed by professor and Associate Dean (Research), Audrey Girouard, studies computer-human interaction through the lens of deformable materials and flexible displays. On this new endeavor, Wu says, "Working in the HCI accessibility space will be a great opportunity to do more community-based research, while continuing to explore textiles and handcraft in wearables."