Open science hardware across the Andes

After an intense programme of Open Scientific Hardware (OScH) workshops in Argentina and Chile, researchers André Chagas (University of Tübingen) and Ben Paffhausen (Freie Universität, Berlin) go back home with less material in their luggage but with a bunch of future projects, new friends, stories… And empanadas, for sure!

The workshops were organised by Fernan Federici (Universidad Católica/University of Cambridge) in Chile and Fernando Castro (LabFD, UTN) together with Pablo Cremades (UNCuyo) in Argentina.

Participants – around 20 PhD students, professionals and researchers – learnt how to assemble FlyPi, an open source fluorescence microscope; IORodeo, a low cost colorimeter; and other OScH equipment. More information on the projects can be found on the workshop programme (Google Doc, in Spanish).

The hands-on methodology of the workshops allowed both groups of participants to learn in three days the basics of prototyping tools such as Arduino or 3D printing in a pragmatic and accessible way, while being introduced to open source hardware philosophy. During the last day in Santiago de Chile, Chagas and Paffhausen introduced their projects (on biomedical open source equipment and bee neurobiology, respectively) together with presentations from Ariel Lutenberg (Computadora Industrial Abierta Argentina), Paz Bernaldo (Vuela project) and Julieta Arancio (CENIT/STEPS América Latina).

There was an OScH exhibition outside the hall at Universidad Católica, and all the equipment built during the workshops was donated to public research institutions.

The organisers, all members of the Global Open Source Hardware (GOSH) movement, highlighted the importance of being part of the community: ‘We want to promote GOSH ideas locally and connect the interested actors with the communities and infrastructure needed to sustain their work,’ says Federici. After the workshop in Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Mendoza, the scientists visited rural communities in the area with whom they aim to collaborate in the future.

‘For us, OScH is a crucial need as we always depend on importing expensive equipment to do research with these communities,’ points out Castro, and continues: ‘It’s about democratising knowledge generation, allowing anyone outside academia to do research. We don’t ignore the political aspect of Science, but acknowledge it and take a position.’

This article first appeared on the Gathering for Open Science Hardware (GOSH) website and is reproduced with the author’s permission.

Open Science Hardware Workshops in Argentina & Chile

  • April 5, 6 and 9: Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo – Mendoza, Argentina
  • April 10-12: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile – Santiago, Chile