2015 THP: Judges and Sponsors

And now it’s time to recognize a big part what makes the Hackaday Prize possible: our Judges and our Sponsors. First up are the Judges. We are fortunate again this year to be joined by top experts from around the world. We are going to briefly touch on each in this post, but you really should hit the Judge’s page for bios and links on everyone.

New Judges in 2015

We have seven judges new to the panel this year:

We love seeing a project pic used as an avatar and [Akiba] of freaklabs didn’t disappoint; we covered that project in 2013. [Pete Dokter], known well for According to Pete, joins us from Sparkfun. [Lenore Edman] and [Windell Oskay] are the force behind Evil Mad Scientist Labs. [Heather Knight] of Marilyn Monrobot is finishing her PhD in Robots at Carnegie Mellon. [Ben Krasnow] should need no introduction; formerly of Valve, currently of Google[x], and always of Applied Science. [Micah Scott] is artist/engineer/hacker and her Blu-Ray drive RE work is among our most favorite of 2014 hacks.

Returning Judges

Five of our friends from the 2014 Hackaday Prize are returning this year:

We have a hard time calling the founder of Adafruit anything other than [Ladyada] but you may know her as [Limor Fried]. The hardware design site The Ganssle Group is spearheaded by [Jack Ganssle]. You know [Dave Jones] from his electronics design and reverse engineering videos on EEVblog and also from the Amp Hour podcast. [Ian Lesnet] is a Hackaday alum, creator of Dangerous Prototypes, and expert regarding manufacturing in China. And finally, [Elecia White] is an extraordinary embedded engineer, founder of Logical Elegance, and the Embedded podcast.

Welcome back, and so happy to have the new Judges this year!

2015 Hackaday Prize Sponsors

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The 2015 Hackaday Prize is presented by Supplyframe (parent company of Hackaday). This year we have added five giants of the hardware world as sponsors. We don’t recall having seen so many major players come together for a single initiative. We’re excited that they share our vision of supporting design initiatives. Please thank them by following their Hackaday.io pages: Atmel, Freescale Semiconductor, Microchip, Mouser Electronics, and Texas Instruments. Thank you sponsors!

2015 Hackaday Prize: Build Something that Matters

Last year we challenged you to build the next generation of connected devices. Six months later, the best teams and projects from around the world battled for the greatest prize of all: the respect of their peers and a trip to space. This year, we’re issuing a call to hackers, engineers, makers and startups from all over the world, to focus their creative efforts on nothing less than solving serious issues facing humanity.

Fix the World

thp2015-build-something-that-matters-a6We’ll all be facing a lot of problems in the next few decades, whether they’re from rising costs and consumption of oil, droughts, access to food, demographic shifts in populations, or increasing health care costs. These problems need to be dealt with, and there’s no better time than right now to start working on solutions.

What do we want from you? We want you to identify the greatest problems faced by humanity in the next few years and come up with a solution. This can be anything from better, lower-cost solar power components, inexpensive ultrasound machines, better ways to store drugs, more advanced ways of measuring farm production, or cheaper, more sustainable smartphones to bridge the digital divide. The world is full of problems, but if there’s one thing hackers have taught us, it’s that there are more than enough people willing to find solutions.

Prizes

If worldwide notoriety isn’t enough personal incentive, Hackaday is back with a huge slate of prizes for those devices that best exemplify solutions to problems that matter.

The Grand Prize is a trip to space on a carrier of your choice or $196,883 (a Monster Group number). Other top prizes include a 90-Watt laser cutter, a builder kit (pcb mill, 3d printer, cnc router, bench lathe), a tour of CERN in Geneva, and a tour of Shenzhen in China.

New this year is the Best Product award. Go the extra mile and show a production-ready device (in addition to supplying three beta test units for judging) and you can score $100,000! The entry is of course still eligible to compete for the Grand prize and other top prizes.

We’re able to pull this off once again thanks to the vision of Supplyframe who managed to unite giants of the electronics industry as sponsors of the 2015 Hackaday Prize. Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, Mouser, and Texas Instruments have all signed on in supporting this mission.

Individuals, Colleges, Hackerspaces, and Startups

If you just don’t want to go-it alone, get your team excited. After all, it was a team that won the Grand Prize last year. SatNOGS transformed the cash-option of $196,418 into a jumpstart for a foundation to carry the project forward. Get the boss on board by touting the notoriety your company will get from showing off their engineering prowess. Or help build your resume by herding your college buddies into some brainstorming session. And the Best Product prize is perfect for Startups who want to show off their builds.

Judges

Joining the Judging Panels this year are Akiba (Freaklabs), Pete Dokter (Sparkfun), Heather Knight (Marilyn MonRobot), Ben Krasnow (GoogleX & host of Applied Science on YouTube), Lenore Edman & Windell Oskay (Evil Mad Scientist Labs), and Micah Scott (Scanlime).

Our returning judges are Limor “Ladyada” Fried (Adafruit), Jack Ganssle (Ganssle Group, & The Embedded Muse), Dave Jones (EEVBlog), Ian Lesnet (Dangerous Prototypes), and Elecia White (Logical Elegance).

You can read all of the judge bios and find social media and webpage links for them on our Judges page. We are indebted to these industry experts for sharing their time and talent to make the Hackaday Prize possible.

Tell Everyone

We don’t ask often: please tell everyone you know about the 2015 Hackaday Prize! Social media share icons are just above the image at the top of this post. Submit this page or the prize page (http://hackaday.io/prize) to all your favorite sites. No hacker should get through this day without hearing about #HackadayPrize and we can’t reach total media saturation without your help. Thanks in advance!

GET STARTED NOW

Don’t wait, put up an idea right now and tag it with “2015HackadayPrize”. We’re sending out swag for early ideas that help get the ball rolling. And as you flesh out your plans you could score prizes to help build the prototype like PCBs, 3D prints, laser cutting, etc. Make it to the finals and you’ll be looking at the five top prizes we mentioned earlier. A simple idea can change the world.

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An ATTiny Bluetooth Board

Since just about everyone who would be interested in electronics has a decent cellphone now, there’s an idea that we don’t need USB or weird serial adapters anymore. Bluetooth LE is good enough for short-range communication, and there are a ton of boards and Kickstarter projects out there that are ready to fill the need.

[Michah] has built what is probably the lowest-spec and cheapest BTLE board we’ve ever seen. It’s really just an ATTiny85 – a favorite of the crowd that’s just slightly above Arduino level – and an HM-10 Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy module.

This board was developed as a means to connect sensors for a vintage motorcycle to an iOS device for display and data logging. A small, cheap board was needed that could be powered by a LiPo battery, and [Micah] created a board that fit his needs perfectly.

Four of the six IO pins on the ‘Tiny85 are broken out on a pin header; two are used to communicate with the BTLE module. It’s simple, fairly cheap, and can be powered by a battery. Exactly what you need if you want a wireless sensor board. All the files can be found in the Git repo and everything is open source. Not bad.

Reverse Engineering a Blu-ray Drive for Laser Graffiti

There’s a whole lot of interesting mechanics, optics, and electronics inside a Blu-ray drive, and [scanlime] a.k.a. [Micah Scott] thinks those bits can be reused for some interesting project. [Micah] is reverse engineering one of these drives, with the goal of turning it into a source of cheap, open source holograms and laser installations – something these devices were never meant to do. This means reverse engineering the 3 CPUs inside an external Blu-ray drive, making sense of the firmware, and making this drive do whatever [Micah] wants.

When the idea of reverse engineering a Blu-ray drive struck [Micah], she hopped on Amazon and found the most popular drive out there. It turns out, this is an excellent drive to reverse engineer – there are multiple firmware updates for this drive, an excellent source for the raw data that would be required to reverse engineer it.

[Micah]’s first effort to reverse engineer the drive seems a little bit odd; she turned the firmware image into a black and white graphic. Figuring out exactly what’s happening in the firmware with that is a fool’s errand, but by looking at the pure black and pure white parts of the graphic, [Micah] was able guess where the bootloader was, and how the firmware image is segmented. In other parts of the code, [Micah] saw thing vertical lines she recognized as ARM code. In another section, thin horizontal black bands revealed code for an 8051. These lines are only a product of how each architecture accesses code, and really only something [Micah] recognizes from doing this a few times before.

The current state of the project is a backdoor that is able to upload new firmware to the drive. It’s in no way a complete project; only the memory for the ARM processor is running new code, and [Micah] still has no idea what’s going on inside some of the other chips. Still, it’s a start, and the beginning of an open source firmware for a Blu-ray drive.

While [Micah] want’s to use these Blu-ray drives for laser graffiti, there are a number of other slightly more useful reasons for the build. With a DVD drive, you can hold a red blood cell in suspension, or use the laser inside to make graphene. Video below.

Continue reading “Reverse Engineering a Blu-ray Drive for Laser Graffiti”

Building A Better Sewing Machine

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After making a few fabric RFID tags, [Micah] had a sewing machine sitting in her workshop completely unused. This was due at least in part to how crappy this entry-level sewing machine was; it stalled easily, unusable at low speeds, and noises like a robot with bronchitis. The solution, of course, was to replace the motor and add electronic control, turning a terrible sewing machine into one that should cost several hundred dollars more.

After some experimentations with an AC motor, [Micah] came upon a small DC motor. This, combined with an LMD18200 H-bridge, Propeller microcontroller, and a beefy power supply gave [Micah] enough torque to run the sewing machine without mechanical wheezing and grinding.

The new update to the motor allowed [Micah] several control modes for the machine, all controlled by the foot pedal: an open-loop mode is pretty much the same as the stock machine, a closed-loop mode keeps a constant RPM on the motor regardless of resistance. There are a few more interesting modes that moves the needle down when the pedal is released, perfect for detailed work.

A small addition to this project was an LCD attached to the front of the machine, allowing [Micah] to toggle modes without the microcontroller being connected to the computer.

Continue reading “Building A Better Sewing Machine”

The story behind developing the Sifteo from an engineer’s perspective

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The video game industry must be one of the most secretive sectors when it comes to developing the electronic hardware used in the gaming consoles. The big guys don’t want to give anything away — to the competition or to the hackers who will try to get around their security measures. But it seems Sifteo doesn’t share those secretive values. We had a great time reading about the bumpy ride for the developers bringing the gaming system from concept to market. [Micah Elizabeth Scott] wrote the guest post for Adafruit Industries. She was brought on as an engineer for the Sifteo project just after the first version of the interactive gaming cube was released. From her narrative it seems like this was the top of the big hill on the roller coaster ride for the company.

What’s seen above is one gaming cube. The system developed in [Beth’s] story puts together multiple cubes for each game. The issue at hand when she joined the company was how to put more power in the hardware and rely less heavily on a computer to which it was tethered. She discusses cost of components versus features offered, how to deliver the games to the system, and all that the team learned from studying successful consoles that came before them like the long line of Nintendo hardware. It’s a fascinating read if you’re interesting in how the sausage is made.

Reproduce 3D printed models by making your own molds

Need fifty copies of that 3D printed whirligig you’re so proud of? It might be faster to just cast copies by using the 3D printed model to make a mold. [Micah] found himself in this situation and managed to cast one copy every 10-12 minutes using the mold seen above.

With the object in hand, you need to find a container which will fit the mold without too much waste. The bottom half of the mold is then filled with modeling clay, a few uniquely shaped objects to act as keys, and the model itself. After getting a good coating of release agent the rest of the mold is filled with a silicone rubber product which is sold for mold making. This creates one half of the mold. After it cures the clay and key objects are removed, everything is sprayed with the release agent, and the other half of the mold is poured.

Now your 3D object can be copied by pouring two-part resins in the to shiny new mold.