2014 Summer of Extreme Design-Build

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OSE carries out most of its overall development at its headquarters - Factor e Farm - a 30 acre facility in the Kansas City area of Missouri.

Participants are selected based on an initial application and interview. The program cost is $450 per month, and includes food and dorm-style accommodations. People also have the option of camping out in our summer campground.

Development happens most intensively during our Summer of Extreme Design/Build. In 2014, we will emphasize swarming – working with a group of 24 dedicated developers on a single machine or module design/build each week. In this way, rapid development and prototyping occurs on the time scale of a week – harnessing a weekly effort on the order of 1000 development hours. Areas include machine prototyping, infrastructure-building, and testing our machines in agriculture. Our summers are focused on University students – though anyone can join.


Our program involves design, build, and documentation. While engineering is the core aspect of our work - our program is intended for anyone interested in transitioning from zero to maker. We will focus on teaching the hands on skills from welding to computer design to physical computing to construction to agriculture to video production to graphics design to carpentry to energy systems to hydraulics to natural building to management. We emphasize practical, interdisciplinary training that may otherwise be difficult to obtain at a traditional school or university.

Because we will work as a team, everyone will be exposed to a wide variety of skills, and our approach focuses on each person teaching another about their specific areas of expertise. Our approach is to provide a powerful, integrated platform for learning by doing - an immersion program. You will not only design, but also build the things that you are designing.

The 2014 summer will center around the Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) brick press, construction using CEBs and other methods, CNC torch table, Microcar, and tractor. Because our program takes the module-based, construction set appraoch, we will be exploring many variations of the above. We will be using 3D printers and laser cutters for rapid prototyping. The tractor involves Microtractor, Bulldozer, Power Cube, and agricultural implements.

In August, we will run an Extreme Manufacturing workshop where we build the Tractor in a single day. That means that we will spend a lot of time perfecting our documentation and testing various prototypes. In order to achieve the 1 day build, we will finish developing the CNC Torch Table to automate steel cutting.

We will also build our new Electronics Workshop - using our CEBs. We will also have other construction projects and remodeling of our natural building huts.

Tentative Schedule, 24 people:


  • Week 1 - Carpentry 101 + Brick Press Building Workshop + Pool Build + Cabins Rebuild. New Clean Workshop Build; Brick Press Manual Publishing.
  • Week 2 - Digital Fabrication 101 CNC Torch Table Build; Agriculture Plantout; Water Line Trenching with Open Source Trencher; Brick Press Workshop
  • Week 3 - Design Sprints + Tractor Build; Backhoe Build; Microhouse Documentation
  • Week 4 - Gasifier Burner Workshop


  • Week 1 - Microtractor Build; CNC Torch Table Manual Production
  • Week 2 - Microhouse Workshop - Stove + Well; Agricultural Implements Build; well connection
  • Week 3 - CEB Press Workshop; Backhoe Build
  • Week 4 - Trucktor/Bulldozer Build; Trucktor Design; Micro Power Cube Workshop;
  • Week 5 - Microcar workshop.


  • Week 1 - Tractor and Microhouse Documentation; Backhoe Build; Gasifier Power Cube Workshop
  • Week 2 - Biogas 5kW Electric System Design/Build; Pelletizer
  • Week 3 - Tractor Workshop; Wood Gasifier Build
  • Week 4 - Brick Press, Tractor, and Microhouse Build in 3 Days


Now if you observe the schedule above, it is unreasonable. It's an Apollo Program for open development: a significant prototype every week. We think that with 24-36 people swarming on the design, documentation, planning, and build - this is possible. 24 people is 1000 development hours every week. For reference, the complete brick press itself takes 40 hours to build - so our experience tells us that our ambitious program is possible - by a module-based, parallel design-build process. Our learnings on documentation and extreme design from over the last few years are encouraging. But we do recognize this takes a significant team to accomplish, and the challenge will be running a collaborative, social process that makes everyone happy and productive. Join us to make this happen. Build yourself. Build your world.


You may ask: do I have the skills to do this? The answer is - if you are willing to learn, then you have the proper mindset. It is necessary that you can keep a positive attitude and be open to learning. We favor those individuals who are open to new learning on a subject, rather than those who think they know a lot already. This project is highly experimental, and our approach is innovative and different. While we build on industry standard procedures and techniques - these are just a starting point. We do not like to see standard procedure get in the way of innovation.


The schedule for the summer will be design work in the morning, followed by lunch, and builds/hands-on in the afternoon. The morning design session will take place from 9 AM to 1 PM, followed by lunch. The build work will go from 2 PM to 6 PM. Dinner will be served at 6 PM sharp.

The work week is Monday - Friday, a total of 40 hours per week. Weekends are off.

Typically, a prototype build will take place all day Friday. The time leading up to that will include design, documentation, and build preparation. During the build, we will take pictures and video, and update our documentation. Every Thursday, we will work with remote contributors in a Design Sprint setting - where in the morning session from 9-1, remote collaborators join us on specific development points.

Apply Now

To apply, see the Dedicated Project Visit (DPV) page. The cost during the summer and other breaks is $15 per day, and $10 per day during other times. An additional benefit of participating for a month or longer is that you get to participate in any Workshops taking place at Factor e Farm during the time of your stay. We may consider financial assistance to those in need.

Setting up OSE Presence at Universities

If you can help us set up OSE presence at your university – such as a summer internship, alternative break program, or as a course for credit – please contact us at info at opensourceecology dot org.


The Summer program is an interesting social experiment. The question we are answering is whether a team of non-experts can collaborate to tap and internalize external expertise - via a sophisticated, interdisciplinary team collaboration architecture and process - to gain access to any technical information quickly and reliably? Ie, can an open R&D platform be created to tap high-level technical development and organizational learning + process learning at an unprecedented rate? What is required to do so?

Our guess is that this is possible if a laundry list of technical development items is described and process are written for these - as well as a coherent method for getting there.


  • We will plow up 2 acres late May for tomato, pepper, sweet potato, squash, and carrot. This means also unrolling large bales.
  • Early June we plan on building summer kitchen and new workshop. Will probably workshop this.
  • Mid June we do a CEB Press build with 17 welders in 4 hours. (Midwest Renewable Energy Fair)
  • Late June we do a gasifier workshop. (Doug Brethower)
  • Mid July - another microhouse workshop - by Curtis Calkins.
  • Late July - microcar workshop by Yann Lischetti.
  • August - 1 Day tractor build.

Learning Objectives

By the time you leave the 3 month program, you will:

  • Be able to design homes in Sketchup and interiors in MySweetHome3D (by jumping into user-friendly MySweetHome3D and massaging imported parts libraries in Sketchup). Part of the work in the summer will be based on generating component libraries for the Microhouse - as a construction set for regenerative housing.
  • Be able to design tractors - using parts libraries and simple design rules. These libraries will be generated throughout the summer, and the design rules follow basic principles of mechanical engineering.
  • Be able to work on technical design file manipulation in CAD in FreeCAD and LibreCAD (power lies in simple tech design of LibreCAD, and ability to manipulate and import files from many formats). Interoperability is one of the key features allowing this project to go viral, so we will draw up and document techniques for file conversion.
  • Be able to manipulate and design simple circuits and send them for fabrication with Fritzing, and cloud-collaborate on designs in UpVerter. Fritzing is already a construction set from existing parts, and we will further adapt part libraries for GVCS purposes.
  • Edit videos like a pro with OpenShot, including adding open source soundtracks. We will generate video production assets, such as uniform title screens edited using simple tools like GIMP, Google Docs, and Inkscape, and add open source soundtracks.
  • Build using welding, torching, drilling, milling, and other operations going from parts and modules to real builds with welding and CNC torch table
  • Be able to generate CNC cut files and digital fabrication files for torch table, laser cutter, and 3D prints with a 3D printer
  • You will learn to build a 3D printer, tractors, a brick press, micro power cube, gasifier burner, and backhoe.
  • Learn to build a CEB home, including basic carpentry, foundations, electrical, and plumbing.
  • Learn to collaborate openly in design sprints while tapping subject matter experts on a collaborative platform that lists Current Problems, focuses Design Sprints around these, follows up with Contribution Form, and uses social media (main site for problem statements (embed current active issues, form for answers, and responses),
  • Do earthworks with backhoe and bulldozer.

Workshops included in summer: CEB Press, Quad Delta 3D Printer, Micro Power Cube, Gasifier Burner, MicroCar, Tractor, Microhouse (off-grid deluxe low cost, minimal and low cost but full service, simplest summer structure). Industrial Robot model?, Small Plastic Extruder?,


  • Intensity vs. Long Haul - We do M-F 9-5. You are expected to work hard during this time. Evenings and weekends are yours.
  • Historical Continuity vs. The Here and Now - The project is built on lots of past work and it stands on the shoulders of giants. Start with the history of what has been done before embarking on a project.
  • Hacking vs Hacking Around. Hackers understand industry standards before breaking them and taking a project to completion. Hacking Around means doing random acts that lead to no particular end goal. It is important to understand the distinction between the two when working with OSE.
  • Long-term View vs. Test-Driven Design - We have the long view in mind - but that is also consistent with doing quick partial prototypes according to the principles of Test-Driven Design.
  • Designing Products vs. Designing Construction Sets and Modules - Designing a product means you have one product as a result. Designing a construction set allows you to produce an unlimited variety of products.
  • Window of Opportunity vs. Perfectionism -
  • Team Player vs. Solo Warrior - This is perhaps the biggest issue. To keep morale and development velocity high - everyone has to pull together on the project - in our swarming approach. This means problem-solving, solutions-based approach to everything, and no arguing about trivial details, as there is plenty of big-picture things to work on. One sour apple can spoil the bunch.
  • Computer vs Hands-on Work - Some people tend to 'disappear' whenever it comes to doing physical work.
  • Collaborative Effort - You are not doing us a favor by being here. We are not doing you a favor by letting you participate. We are here to work as a team, differences aside.
  • Theoretical vs Practical - there are significant practical improvements that need to be made right now. Discussions on site should focus on strategies for things that we will build, as opposed to things that we will not build.
  • Proven vs Experimental - we build proven things. That does not mean that we don't do a significant amount of experimenting - but our progress depends on building on industry standards, not trying untested ideas. We simply re-mix proven concepts, and they appear as innovative.
  • Army boot camp vs chaos - While our process is highly experimental and emergent, we operate in a strict framework of project schedule and planned outcomes.
  • Hackerspaces vs. Makerspaces - Hacking is the original term. Make is a brand.