Hackaday Prize Entry: A Civilization Starter Kit

Over the last few years, [Marcin] has been working on the building blocks of civilization. He’s busy creating the Global Village Construction Set, the fifty most useful machines ever created. Everything from bread ovens to combine harvesters is part of this Global Village Construction Set, and everything is open source, free for all to use and improve upon.

For this year’s Hackaday Prize, [Marcin] is working on an Open Source Bulldozer. The ability to create earthworks and move dirt around is actually one of humanity’s greatest achievements, and enables the creation of everything from foundations for homes to trans-oceanic canals.

This Open Source bulldozer is astonishingly modular, scaleable from a one-ton microtractor to a 13,000lb dozer, with attachment points for blades, drawbars, and everything else you can attach to a Bobcat earthmover. It’s 168 horses of opensource earthmoving capability, and a perfect addition to this year’s Hackaday Prize.

[Marcin] and his group Open Source Ecology posted a video of this micro bulldozer rolling around on their shop floor recently; you can check that out below. You can also see our coverage of the GLVCS from several years ago.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

43 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: A Civilization Starter Kit

      1. Except that its a consquence of where the development is taking place. Friggin impossible to find metric in the midwest.

        Its a set of plans. If you want it to be metric then use metric taps for your metric fasteners. Its called adaptation. Adapt it to your situation and what you have available to to you.

    1. Unless the bulldozer is being used to gather dirt for use with the compressed earth brick machine to CREATE houses to shelter. Or to clear land to create farmland to provide food to CREATE the opportunity to support more life.

      Its a tool. How it is used is up to the wielder.

  1. I like Marcin Jakubowski’s GVCS a lot. I’ve known about it for years, I am a big fan of that project and want to see it succeed.

    That being said, I find his entry in this contest troubling and was wondering what other people think.

    This is effectively a corporate entry. Marcin’s the head of a 501c corp with big-name foundation grants and a team of engineers. Doing this is effectively their business, they draw salaries for it.

    In the future, we could see the competition dominated by corporate sponsored entries: Google or TI or Linear could put together a team of 10 engineers and throw a ton of money towards the prestige of winning.

    Suppose Google entered their self-driving car, or Tesla entered their model S, or Dean Kamen entered his prosthetic arm, all of which can be framed to meet this year’s theme. Could any person or hackerspace group compete with this?

    We could be shut out of future competitions by corporate sponsored entries.

    What do others think about this?

    1. It seems to me you forget something fundamental here: Marcin’s work is opensource and free to reproduce (free as in license free). I could may not be in tone with the rest of HaD, but if Google or Tesla make their cars open source and free to reproduce, I’m all in for them to participate in the contest. Would it be fair for lonely amateurs or amateurs teams? Maybe not, and it could be the price to pay for the adoption of open source hardware by big companies.

    2. I think they can give it their best. At the end of the day if they make it to the finals the judges will see that they might not do as much additional good to the world with the winnings. They don’t need to win for their contributions to the open community to continue. The winning could probably go further for another entry, but who know depends what else stands in the end!

    3. Marcin’s entry is well suited for this contest, I’m only opening a discussion about the future.

      It used to be that professionals couldn’t compete in the olympics. If you were a professional boxer or hockey player, you couldn’t compete in the olympics, until they dropped the rule in the 1970’s. Their distinction was getting paid for the activity.

      Engineers from Google should be allowed to enter, but if they get paid for it by Google then it becomes a competition among corporations and professionals.

      This would put a different complexion on the competition: we would have corporate endorsements, foundation grants and endowments, and university research teams to compete against.

      Most federally-funded research is publicly available, so what’s to stop any research group from entering the contest while being paid grant money for doing it? It would cost them nothing to try.

      It just doesn’t seem like the hacking spirit any more.

      Looking at the Darpa Grand Challenge, the top 5 entrants were CMU, Stanford, Gray Insurance, and Oshkosh Trucking.

      The only thing this contest is missing is prestige. Once the Hackaday prize is popular, I expect hackers will be shut out of the competition.

  2. There are quite a few interesting concepts in this project – well done! There really is some out-of -the-box thinking going on in this group.

    However – one thing – if you are aiming this project at the world, you need to ditch the ‘customary’ measurement system. Apart from the USA and to a limited extent the UK, nobody is interested in something designed and specified in inches, feet, pounds. Apart from the USA and UK, parts and materials in customary/Imperial will be hard if not impossible to find, and people will not want to work in a system they are not accustomed to. Go metric now if you want your project to have world-wide appeal.

    In any case – I thought most US colleges/universities are teaching engineering in metric these days anyhow – am I wrong?

    1. Only time I’ve really seen imperial used in the UK these days is for personal projects where people have a preference, commercial settings and industry all seems to be metric. Also I believe the US still uses imperial measurements for things like screw threads

      1. Correct, SAE hardware is much easier to find in the store than metric. However I do think the Automotive industry is half metric. When working on a car it’s not uncommon to need both sets of sockets.
        Also I used to work at a cabinet factory. Woodworking is still mostly standard measurement, with the occasional metric hole or spacing for some hardware.

        1. OK, when I said commercial I probably should have said manufacturing, there are cases like pubs where imperial is still used (although shots are measured in ml, and I’m pretty sure a lot of pint glasses also give the volume in ml). Car speedometers give speeds in both mph and kph afaik, and signage largely hasn’t been changed because the logistics would be a nightmare

      2. Threads for metric hardware are too fine in my opinion, especially when you are working with soft metals like aluminum. Coarse metrics is often about the same as fine pitch imperial. Of course this varies from country, what is a standard thread pitch in german is non-existant in japan.

    2. My understanding is that the US military has been metric for some time, so a lot of the industry that supplies them has had to change over.

      Major US vehicle manufacturers along with the aerospace industries are now or will soon be metric. Very good business reasons for this. If you want to sell into a world market you have to be metric. I live in the UK. If I need to buy wood for DIY it is all specified in metric. Most car manufacturers went metric a couple of decades ago, though distances and speed limits are still in miles. I suspect that that will change within a decade. The only other place I find Imperial is in purchasing groceries in some shops. A couple of supermarket chains sell milk in pints, but everything else is in metric!

      The US will find that apart from legacy engineering, that metric will have taken over within a generation. Australia did it without much fuss.

      1. History provides some doubt for that prediction. The US tried to redo all the road signs in the 70’s you’ll even come across a few road signs that have distances to cities listed in km, but there’s no desire by the public to make the switch.

        For interior uses there’s no financial penalty for using imperial measures. With the advent of computers there’s no penalty for converting between units, which any engineer worth their paycheck should be able to do. In short there’s no pressure to change. Apart from crashing the odd space rover, there’s no penalty for using customary units.

      2. I worked in a machine shop that does a lot of machine work for Boeing and the drawings, tolerances, and dimensions are in imperial. Hardware is metric. And this is on latest 777 parts.

        I have taken apart stuff from places from all over and you actually run into imperial sized parts all the time. Imperial spaced bolt holes, imperial pitch lead screws. All sorts of things.

        Australia went hard metric by decree, something that will never happen here.

      3. Interesting note, the US did actually mandate that all companies switch to metric or be fined several decades ago. The result was smart companies stayed Imperial payed the fine and stayed in business, the ones that switched to metric lost all of their customers to the ones that stayed Imperial. Reminds me of Sunny “I won’t change because I’m an American.., regardless of the facts put out before me. Rock, Flag and Eagle! Right Charlie?, he makes a good point..”

    3. SAE is still the standard here. Much to my annoyance. Finding metric drill bits is VERY hard to do. I’ve got a set, but considered importing things from outside the US (It’d be cheaper, as it’s a specialty item in stores. (Not in *some* industrial settings though.)) Metric screws are available, but consider a hardware store with an aisle of screws. You’ll have maybe a tenth dedicated to metric fasteners. Thinking of about 5 stores, that’s probably somewhere close to the average. The selection isn’t that great. If you want socket heads, good luck at most places.

      I’ve been told by an engineer I know. Boeing for example, doesn’t use metric *at all*, and there’s a large aircraft industry around here. Some of that is done in metric. Most traditional machinists here seem to use SAE, if for no other reason than it’s annoying as hell to find tools/parts. Looking around apparently that may have caused some of the delays in 787 production as well. (The contractors needing to change units, and some of it not matching Boeing’s standards.)

      1. I worked on a project a few years ago and the first test pieces were all in metric. I then went to several machine shops to get the parts made and they all told me that I needed to shift to inches because they could not get metal in metric thickness. They then said, “even in Asia they still use metal measured in inches can convert to metric.” Seems they all want to export to the US.

  3. Why? Why again build massive machines to transform and conquer the new lands and supress the way of the nature? Why not start to adapt humans and humanity, so we can go back and live in nature, with nature and from nature without all the technology that only harms us and our planet and destroys the very place we depend upon for survival in the long run? If only I lived 10’000 years ago…*sadface*

    1. What’s to say this ISN’T the natural order of things? If you had 100 identical Earths, and seeded them with human-life, would they not all eventually end up here? Would the most creative species on the planet NOT create? We are not the only species to shape our environment; we just do so to the greatest extent.

      Regarding your comment about living 10K years ago; you’ve probably already exceeded the average life-expectancy from that time.

    2. No one is stopping a hypocrite from going to live in a tree like an ape. So man up and destroy your laptop or mobile device and renounce all technology and modern civilization. Today. You are free to do so.
      We (humans), be it by design or luck, are mastesr of matter by our nature. We fly higher, go deeper, or go faster, than any other creature. Nature has granted us this ability and it’s not evil. Self hatred of the human species is useless and irrational emotion. Being concerned about a planet while regarding to people on it is idiotic.

      Arguing that we are threat to all species is a fallacy. If we all just gave up and returned to the tree tops like morons then we basically surrender our place as a species in the universe. We are the only species that is not PASSIVE about the indifference of the universe. Monkeys in trees flinging feces at each other won’t ever have the opportunity to stop a meteor or comet from wiping out all life. It is us who can save the planet not primitives.

  4. I have serious doubts about the pointfulness of this project and feel like it’s wildly divorced from the realities of third-world life. I would think that a place that has this level of access to raw materials and fabrication equipment probably already has access to hand-me-down equipment that is kept running by mechanics who are very good at scrounging.

    This whole thing reeks of a sort of fantasy-camp where a bunch of nerds get together and discuss how to rebuild the world from scratch following an apocalypse that destroys big hunks of cast iron but leaves some form of the Web intact. All in good fun but I have a hard time seeing this making much of any difference vs. spending the money on mosquito nets or school books. The problem here isn’t hardware, it’s software. It’s inefficient or downright corrupt government, lack of physical infrastructure, access to finance, clean water, basic education. Even there, it’s not enough to give people clean water, you have to convince people that the clean water is worth walking an extra five minutes for when you’re going to drink it.

    By the time people are ready to execute this GVCS vision they’ll likely have moved beyond the need for it.

    1. this doesn’t seem geared towards third world bootstrapping as much as “post apocalyptic recovery” where tons of crap will be lying around to be remade into what is needed to survive

    2. Yep, agree with [The Snob]… Third world will likely need computers and internet to take advantage of the 3D design files, instructional videos, wiki, etc.; if that capability is there, they are already far beyond the need for instructions on how to build cement mixers, sawmills, bulldozers, etc. Same point applies for post apocalyptic recovery; though in that case, the finding abandoned but functional construction machinery even further reduces the need for the GVCS.

      This smells more like a way to “stick it to the evil capitalists” embodied by the Industrial Manufacturers of construction equipment than a realistic way to kick-start a 3rd world civilization.

      1. It’s a fluid project, something best managed in a digital world. There’s no reason to believe that hard copies couldn’t (or indeed wouldn’t) be made for people trying to help developing villages or countries.

        Even if their motivation is to ‘stick it to the man’ who cares?

      2. Smart phones are actually working their way into Africa (cell phones are in fact used for banking purposes over there, and aren’t TOO expensive), whereas tractors (not sure about Bobcats, mind you) are so expensive that farmers working huge areas in America stay in debt for decades (I have contact with farmers).

        So, this could actually be useful. A ghetto version made by modifying a car would be MORE useful, sure (America and Europe both export lots of OLD cars and trucks), but hopefully the locals could modify this into that form (and 3rd world countries do have SOME machine shops).

    3. Agreed. This is a very complicated build and I don’t see how it’s going to help a farmer who needs a tractor or bulldozer but can’t afford to buy one.

      Maybe entrepreneurial types with fabrication skills and some tools could take the plans and start building these things to sell. In Thailand, there are boutique fabrication shops that build agricultural equipment from parts like old car engines and water pumps. The stuff works and is cheaper than importing it since the cost of labor to built it is so inexpensive.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.