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Photography by Stefano Borghi

In August and September, 100 self-proclaimed eco-hackers took over a 16th century chateau west of Paris for five weeks of sustainable making. Their mission: to design and prototype open source hardware projects for a sustainable low-carbon economy.

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POC21 transformed the castle into a maker’s paradise: an open source laboratory, hardware accelerator, and pop-up prototyping facility. As one participant put it, “The geeks have officially stormed the castle.”

The event played host to 12 projects, selected from a pool of 200 applicants (you may have seen this call for projects posted by Dale Dougherty back in April). “POC21” stands for “proof of concept” — a cheeky play on “COP21” (the international climate summit scheduled to take place in Paris this December). The event’s organizers wanted to show that makers are ready to and capable of advancing their own solutions to environmental issues, even as politicians have been slow to act. And they succeeded. Indeed, the projects at POC21 are just one slice of a growing global community of makers confronting environmental sustainability issues head-on.

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POC21 converted the chateau’s stables into a round-the-clock factory where the CNC router, laser cutter, metal and machine shops, and electronics lab worked overtime. After weeks of co-living, collaboration, experimentation, partying, and a few all-nighters, the results are in. Nearly all the project teams churned out working prototypes in time to exhibit them in a giant geodesic dome facing the main building.

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But this event was just the beginning. For these projects to have maximum positive impact in the world, they need massive uptake. To those of us with the technical skills, these solutions are readily accessible, and step-by-step build guides will soon be available on Instructables. For those who need a little help, kits and readymade units are (or should soon be) available from the project teams.

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Stay tuned for Make:’s series featuring each of the projects in turn.