Hackaday Design Challenge – yes, a contest!

So, you guys want to show off your skills? We’re giving you the chance. [If you don't like it, blame Limor - she came up with the original idea]

The Challenge:
Design our next give-away: a business card sized PC Board. We’re not telling you what to make the circuit do, just make it something handy for hacking. Me, I think a PIC programmer/proto board would be handy.

The board must have:

  • The Hackaday logo
  • business card dimensions (90mm x 55mm)
  • reasonably easy to construct
  • A useful circuit (programmer, interface, whatever.)
  • Assembly instructions
  • Parts list

Through hole components are a good idea (Of course, if you can do it with SMD cheaper, and keep it easy to build… Surprise us) Maybe we could surface mount the CPU before we give them away, or we might put together parts kits, but it depends on the winning design(s).

You can put whatever circuit you like on it. PIC
programmer, JTAG interface, flux capacitor… but it has to work!

We want to have a board house make these up for us, so we’ll need the design in a format we can work with. We suggest EAGLE. It’s free and runs on just about everything. (But it limits you to two layers – which should be plenty)

Some hints to help you get the winning design:
Bonus for extra functionality
Clever incorporation of our logo
Completeness – include solder mask, drill info, everything we need to make the board.

The Prizes:
Fabienne is putting up her black 2gb iPod nano engraved with “hackaday.com” “one fresh hack each day” –
It’s been used a bit, and opened up a few times so it’s got some scratches, but hasn’t been modded… yet.

We’ll send you some of the boards of course. I’ve got more good stuff in the works, and I’ll announce more prizes as we get them confirmed.

Submissions: When you’ve got your design ready, Put it online and let us know about it on the tip line. (Or send in a tip and we’ll tell you where to email it if you don’t have anywhere to host it.)

The Deadline: December 25th. Plenty of time to get your design cranked out. Everyone needs a winter break, but We’ll try to have a winner chosen within a week or two of the deadline.


  1. nickjohnson says:

    So, what about speakers, LCD displays, and other components–do they have to fit onto the circuit, or is it ok if they hang off?

  2. CreepyFootDR says:

    Will there be a maximum height?

  3. Jimbo says:

    Ok, this is going to be my first hack ever..so let me get this straight, it can be ANYTHING?, HAHAHAHAH!

  4. Will O'Brien says:

    We’re only limiting the size of the PC board, *not* the assembled size.

  5. nickjohnson says:

    What’s up with the fear of SMD? This is a very small board for through hole…

    And can you provide a vector image of the hackaday logo? (or even better, an eagle component definition of the hackaday logo)

  6. Jeremy says:

    How many entries can we submit?

  7. Will O'Brien says:

    I’ve got another prize lined up… I’ll announce it when I’ve got it in hand. :)

  8. kevinin says:

    i’m looking forward to this!

  9. trebuchet03 says:

    alright — now the complainers can put the proverbial money to their excessively large proverbial mouth :P

  10. Erik Walthinsen says:

    If Eagle is the preferred EDA program, then a vector hackaday logo in an .lbr file would be extremely useful.

  11. Tabajara says:

    Can I use a fine pitch SMD CPU? Any price restriction for the final device? Does it have to “work” like a radio or an mp3 player, or can be a hack-building-block kind of toy?

  12. Erik Walthinsen says:

    Also, I’m assuming the board will have a silkscreen, otherwise the logo would have to be done in copper, which could be very problematic… Are we also looking at a generic green soldermask, or are other colors a possibility?

  13. Will O'Brien says:

    Design it however you want! SMD, whatever you want. (You might try to avoid a design that would require a pick and place machine)

    There will definitely be silkscreen.

  14. Denmark says:

    Hey, what about setting up a competition wiki? Hell, I’ll even set it up myself if you’d like ; ) That way it’d be an easy and convenient way to keep all of the submissions in one place and it provide a place to have things like FAQs, entry forms, etc. Although, you guys probably already having something in the works…well, you have my e-mail (or this form does at least), let me know if you’d like any help or anything.

  15. grim factor says:

    This is a great idea, but I think you really need to move the deadline back to about.. March.

    Honestly, while it’s certainly not impossible, I just think that there are not many people in the Hackaday audience who could pull off something worthy of consideration, in this time frame, and who are not already engaged in other serious projects with their own deadlines, nevermind that the deadline is CHRISTMAS!

    I love the idea though, and I hope you do more contests. I can’t compete on the microprocessor level yet, but I’d be interested in trying if you have a contest that’s a little more lo-tech. I will definitely be trying out the winning design!

  16. dragonBTV says:

    1.a card size something or a card size computing core?
    2.a full function device or a PCB only?
    3.a design for DIYs to follow?
    4.where to download the official halogo file? use the one on the top of this page with letters even the ‘BETA’? :)

  17. Erik Walthinsen says:

    > This is a great idea, but I think you really need to move the deadline back to about.. March.

    I agree. I’ve got way too many commitments right now to do this any real justice. I have an idea, and I’ve started to toy with board placement etc, and I have a pretty good start on parts of the software from previous projects, but I don’t think there’s any chance I can get something built in only 5 weeks on top of all my other stuff.

  18. Calvin says:

    * thin-quad flat packs? MLF’s (microleadframe)? I have hand soldered a few, never on the first attempt though. toaster oven + solder paste can work, however. or would using said packages negatively affect in some subjective way?
    *entry limit?
    *rohs compliant bom? (rofl)
    *cost limit of bom?
    *do they have to be available from a specific set of suppliers (digi-key, mouser, newark) or can it be from those that aren’t really for joe prototyper (future electronics)?
    *in what volume (100-1000?) if the volume was high enough, there are board houses that will assemble the entire board fairly economically, allowing easy use of all sorts of super-small parts…you could pack a helluvalot on this “small” board.

  19. Alan says:

    Great idea! I can’t wait to see what cool and crazy designs are submitted. I like the idea that people will be able to buy and build it.

  20. eflyersteve says:

    I don’t know if Hack A Day has a board shop in mind, but I can tell you that coming from a board shop, any board shop will WANT to use a pick and place machine to keep costs down, assuming the volume is more than a couple hundred boards.

    If the design does not use very fine pitch components, the board shop could get by with automated solder paste dispensing which would negate the need of an expensive stencil.

    I would say use any type of part you like because if it goes to production, any board shop should be able to build it cheaply.

  21. mage2 says:

    Didn’t they say it might be released to the public as a kit?
    Thats why the hesitation on SMD parts. Not everyone has the skill or tools to build something with many SMD parts. That said they did say they could possibly get the harder SMD things already put on the board for you. So that could help.

    It is a short timeline but I think its possible. They did not say it had to do anything too difficult.

  22. halftrack says:

    Does the design need to be tested?

  23. Robotguy says:

    December 25 sounds like a good deadline to me. For those of you who are too busy to hit that deadline, save your ideas and see if they’ll do it again in March.

  24. Barry Carter says:

    25th of December is very tight. I have a ton of ideas, but I doubt that I could pull anyhing that would be considered as tested by then. I would imagine that there are plenty of people out there with great projects that will be re routed and submitted as entries.
    Hopefully you are correct and there will be another comp.

  25. TGBM says:

    Just a suggestion to someone who can do this… i don’t have time… anyway… how about a taser the size of a buisness card?…. just a thought…


  26. strider_mt2k says:

    I like this idea alot!

    There are some extremely simple but useful circuits that could be put on this space!
    I’m all for complexity, but a series of these with the right projects on them could really speak to the hacking masses!

    Thanks for igniting my interest, hackaday!

  27. strider_mt2k says:


  28. Morgan says:

    I’m working on making a Gerber copy of the Hack-a-day logo. I can have it finished by tonight. (I have an old program that will convert 2-bit Bitmap, .BMP, images to a Protel PCB. Once I get Protel up and running I can convert it to Gerber.) a Gerber format should be able to import in to ANY cad program.

    could you E-mail me a bmp image of the HAD logo? I converted the one on the web sight but it looks a little Jagged, but will work…


    PS. I don’t have a project Idea but I design PCB by trade and would LOVE to help with this project.

  29. Jason says:

    I already have my idea ready. It’s just a matter of being able to learn Eagle in time.

    The “hackable” option sounds great, my entry will have PC connectivity and I can’t write decent windows software.

  30. ladyada says:

    Eagle can import bmp files already, its the import-bmp.ulp ULP. works good.

  31. morgan says:

    Cool I did not know that. I need to play around with Eagle. I’m only used to Protel 99SE, Protel DXP, and Mentor Expidition Flow.

  32. Albert says:

    Just completed my first prototype of a business card sized pic programmer. Just have to get the firmware updated and perhaps test it out first. Here is a sneak peek

  33. Jason says:

    Nice prototype. I’m glad to see you didn’t use much board space. Mine using through-hole components doesn’t really fill the board much, I thought it looked too simplistic.

  34. JErome says:

    > This is a great idea, but I think you really need to move the deadline back to about.. March.

    I agree!

    Give use more time to make a great design!

    We are human too and we have a life, school, Xmas is coming soon, party, etc. Push it back so we can work on it more this winter. I just got a great idea but I have some robots to build, prepare for my final year project (micromouse) and some robot sumo for march!


  35. JErome says:


    don’t put resistor for your leds! The pic give out 25mA per pin, you really don’t need limiting resitor. I like the idea of a proto board for pic.

  36. Jason says:

    Don’t delay the contest. 5-6 weeks is plenty of time, and I already want to see what people come up with.

    You can always do it again in March.

  37. albert says:


    Hey thanks for the advice. You also have a good eye. I’m not driving the leds off the pic though. Anyways, taking another look at the board since all except the header is surface mount it is probably too hard to make by hand. So back to the drawing board for me.

  38. Robotguy says:

    Heres a start:

    Not all of the parts are on yet (like a battery), but only a couple more. The BOM is coming along also:

    I’ll post hackaday.lbr tomorrow with at least one silkscreen image of the logo.

    Did anyone start a wiki? Or should we keep the discussion in the comments section here?

  39. Kajer says:

    This is an awesome contest, but I lack the electronics Knowledge to make it work. If I had a huge board to work with capacitors and relays I’d be all set. I have a few ideas and I think they are pretty sweet, but I need someone to work with, or somebody to design, not that I want any prizes, just the fame ;)

    If you know how to design boards and circuits, but have no idea what to do, e-mail me at kajer at comcast d0t net.

  40. albert says:


    Excellent work :). I didn’t have the patience to actually draw out the logo. So I used a program to convert a dxf of the logo into a eagle script. but the problem with that is i can’t move the logo around that easily. I decided to play around with my previous prototype some more. here is another look.

  41. albert says:
  42. Robotguy says:

    looking good albert. Almost makes me wish I hadn’t switched to AVR.

    i started a blog to detail my progress:

    more info soon

  43. Jason says:

    Anyone want to offer some help getting the logo into Eagle? My board is done except for the logo stuff.

    I had a horrible time trying to enter the schematic into eagle. 99% of the time, my nets don’t connect to the components and I have to add junctions and then delete them. Plus the only way I can see to check if they’re connected is to move the parts around. What a pain.

  44. Robotguy says:


    I was having that same problem early on when learning Eagle. Turns out I was trying to wire using the wire tool when i should have been using the net tool. The net tool will stay active (ie, will keep drawing lines after a click) until you actually connect on a component. I don’t know if thats what’s happening for you, just an idea.

  45. bobsalive says:

    Anyone else find it kind of annoying that there are no great, free tools available?

    Free Eagle has limits, PCB is x-windows only, etc.

    Anyone using anything else worth recommending to other hobbyists?

  46. albert says:

    I can offer some advice for putting the logo on the PCB board. I’ll have to update my website first. Or you can email me at albert dot la at usask dot ca.

  47. albert says:


    AVR is the awesome man. I just like PICs because you can get the free from microchip ;)

  48. Xone God says:

    I too agree that Chrismas is cutting not only close, but it will interfear with my current projects. That is not an excuse, however, not to try.

    The only problem I trully see about moving the date back is that people that where fired up due to the short amount of time will become complacent, and will not make a project, vs. people having to cram and think to get done and meet the deadline. ..X..

  49. wolf says:

    im not good enough to pull somthing like this off completly yet, but i was thinking a generic datalogger that writes to a cf card would be usefull, and probly pretty cheap, or perhaps an ethernet packet sniffer, a barcode reader using a phototransistor and irled, or even an adjustable, digital pulse generator, idk

  50. Ushanka says:

    Will we get to see all the entries, or just the winners?

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