Oceanography for Everyone: Empowering researchers, educators, and citizen scientists through open-source hardware

Three years ago, Kersey Sturdivant and myself launched an ambitious crowdfunding project–the OpenCTD–with the plan to produce a low-cost, open-source CTD for thousands of dollars less than the commercial alternative. That campaign fizzled, bringing in barely 60% of our target goal. After taxes and fees, that amounted to about $3500 available to us to play around with. The OpenCTD wasn’t dead, but it was on life support.

We had a vision: to make to tools of oceanography accessible to the widest range of people, not just ocean researchers, but citizen scientists, boat-owners, fishermen, surfers, swimmers, any one who enjoyed the ocean and wanted to better understand their local waterways. The OpenCTD was ambitious, not only in its scope, but also in our ignorance of the knowledge required to achieve that goal. In the three years since, I moved to California (and then moved back East) to meet with some of the best underwater engineers in the open-source movement. We added Russell Neches, an experienced hardware hacker to our team. We partnered with OpenROV to learn from their vast experience. And I’ve spent the time re-skilling: learning to code, design and fabricate 3D printable materials, build electronic components from the ground up, and manage an open-source project.

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