Do open source competitions really impact the movement?

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Two cents

Sunglass, a platform for collaborating on 3D projects in real time, and DIYRockets, a global space company helping humanity establish a civilazation in space by building an open space frontier, are partnering in an effort to build rocket engines.

Their hope is to promote making things that matter through open source means, and in particular, rockets that can transport nano-satellites. To encourage participation, they are sponsoring a 3D rocket engine building competition, with a top cash prize of $5000.

The goal of the project is: promote innovation and cost effectiveness in small payload delivery through the development of open source collaboratively designed 3D printed rocket engines. This competition focuses on promoting innovation and lowering costs through the collaborative design process, understanding the business cases, and exploring the possibilities of 3D printing for the space industry.

Learn more about the registration and competition deadlines on their website.

Do you think this is a good idea?

Does the quality of work resulting from projects like these warrant the size of the prize? How is open source impacting this project and why does that matter? What ways do you think the open source movement can encourage more STEM collaboration?

If you get involved with a team or know someone who has entered, we'd love to hear about it!

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Alanna is a senior at NC State and passionate about ways to make technology user friendly. She enjoys traveling and working through her long list of "To Read" books. Follow her on Twitter at @alanna_howard.


Question for you on the size of the prize, do you think it's too large or too small?

To me, any competition, open or closed, fosters interest. The size of the prize can turn it from interest to investment, like the X Prize. $10MM in prize money led to probably over $100MM in the creation of the field of private space flight. If this can push the barrier to entry on launch vehicles down from the Elon Musk's of the world to the rocket hobbyist, I think it's excellent.

If the open all the rocket designs and 3D models after the fact, even better.

I'm not a fan of contest or prizes. My feeling comes from the idea of intrinsic vs. external motivation. When I do something for an external reward, I am not particularly 'scratching my own itch.' If I am working toward someone else's agenda, I should be paid in full, not competing for a prize. But the real problem is that systems of external rewards tend to stamp out internal motivations.

Matt: I think this prize is at the wrong limit between interest and investment. I think it's too high for interest, and too low for investment. The reward for a competition like this should be the publicity and the opportunities for the winning team, which are some of the other prizes. The monetary winnings should be in the form of fellowships for individual exploration or entrepreneurship to take their design to the next level, or share the technology even further.

Rand: I agree. I understand that prizes can give lesser-known competitions legitimacy, but I think the value of the collaboration should be a pure need to improve the respective ecosystem.

Alanna, I agree on the size issues. It's probably the best they can do given all sorts of constraints, not everyone can be the next X Prize. And publicity for the winners is definitely an implied additional prize that is hard to put a value on.

On the collaboration and motivation points for you and Rand, I don't think there's a conflict here. Drawing in folks who normally wouldn't participate is a good way to grow a community beyond its "natural" boundaries. Cross domain knowledge only becomes that when someone tries to apply their experience to a problem they wouldn't normally try to solve. Networks become more valuable when they connect to other networks. The ecosystem will improve and grow if peoples interest is maintained and not harmed if someone leaves after their interest is piqued and then wanes.

I love the idea of "open source competitions".

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