- Name: Joshua Pearce
- Number of lab members or colleagues (excluding PI): 24
- Location: Houghton, MI, USA
- Graduation Date: Ph.D., 2004
- H index: 57
- Grants: $9m Pi/co-Pi (funders https://www.appropedia.org/Pearce_research_group_sponsors)
- Success of lab’s members: Several have gone on to be professors or CEOs of their own companies building on the work we did together in open hardware and solar energy.
- Twitter followers: >1800 https://twitter.com/ProfPearce
- Academia.edu followers: >19,000 https://mtu.academia.edu/JoshuaPearce/
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
I am currently the Richard Witte Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and a Professor cross-appointed in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Michigan Technological University where I run the Open Sustainability Technology Research Group. I was a Fulbright-Aalto University Distinguished Chair (2017-2018) and am now a visiting professor of Photovoltaics and Nanoengineering at Aalto University as well as a visiting Professor Équipe de Recherche sur les Processus Innovatifs (ERPI), Université de Lorraine, France. I received my Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. Then I developed the first Sustainability program in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and helped develop the Applied Sustainability graduate engineering program while at Queen’s University, Canada, before moving to Michigan Tech.
My research concentrates on the use of open source appropriate technology to find collaborative solutions to problems in sustainability and poverty reduction. Thus my research spans areas of electronic device physics and materials engineering of solar photovoltaic cells, and RepRap 3-D printing, but also includes applied sustainability and energy policy. My research is regularly covered by the international and national press and it is continually ranked in the top 0.1% on Academia.edu. I am also the faculty advisor for the Michigan Tech Open Source Hardware Enterprise. I am the editor-in-chief of HardwareX, a journal dedicated to open source scientific hardware and the author of the Open-Source Lab:How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs.
My research focuses on open and applied sustainability, which is the application of science and innovation to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems. Specifically I am interested in exploring the way solar energy can be used to provide clean sustainable electricity through photovoltaic devices and how the sharing of open source hardware and software can create sustainable and equitable means of production (e.g. I create open source appropriate technology and other free and open source hardware).
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I was first an assistant professor I was working on a project to solar power laptops for the developing world. My students and I had developed this solar photovoltaic system that would be integrated into the back of the laptop screen and we wanted to prototype the case for it. I was finally at a university that had a rapid prototyping system and was super excited to try it out. Sadly, the proprietary tool ended up making a prototype plastic case that cost more than the solar and electronics and almost as much as the laptop. I started looking around for a solution that would actually work and found the self replicating rapid prototyper project (RepRap)- and open source 3-D printer that could print itself. I immediately jumped in with both feet and developed the Open-Source Lab:How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs. Today my lab runs close to 100% on self-built open hardware, which has been getting progressively more sophisticated with time from help from all over the world.
Please describe the process of learning, iterating, and creating the project
Everything my lab does is free and open source. This allows us to avoid all the time other researchers spend wasting on talking to administrators, lawyers, getting patents etc. Instead we just focus on science and engineering. This allows us to move much faster than many colleagues that get bogged down in the morass of legal paperwork, patents and obtuse contracts.This open source way of inventing and working attracts others interested in our projects from academia, industry and the maker community. The more we share and the better it is the more help we get externally. For example, Elsevier contacted me about writing the Open-Source Lab:How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs because of research and designs I had published freely. More recently, McGraw-Hill approached me a