Basement 3D Printer Builds Are Too Easy. Try Building One on Mars.

[Tony Stark Elon Musk] envisions us sending one million people to Mars in your lifetime. Put aside the huge number or challenges in that goal — we’re going to need a lot of places to live. That’s a much harder problem than colonization where mature trees were already standing, begging to become planks in your one-room hut. Nope, we need to build with what’s already up there, and preferably in a way that prepares structures before their inhabitants arrive. NASA is on it, and by on it, we mean they need you to figure it out as part of their 3D Printed Hab Challenge.

The challenge started with a concept phase last year, awarding $25k to the winning team for a plan to use Martian ice as a building material for igloo-like habs that also filter out radiation. The top 30 entries were pretty interesting so check them out. But now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. How would any of these ideas actually be implemented? If you can figure that out, you can score $2M.

Official rules won’t be out until Friday, but we’d love to hear some outrageous theories on how to do this in the comments below. The whole thing reminds us of one of the [Brian Herbert]/[Kevin J. Anderson] Dune prequels where swarms of robot colonists crash-land on planets throughout the universe and immediately start pooping out building materials. Is a robot vanguard the true key to planet colonization, and how soon do you think we can make that happen? We’re still waiting for robot swarms to clean up our oceans. But hey, surely we can do both concurrently.

Win Loot with the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest

Have an awesome Raspberry Pi project in mind (or maybe sitting on your bench right now)? Show it off for the Enlightened Raspberry Pi contest and you can score some excellent loot.

The Raspberry Pi has changed the face of experimental computers. These little $35 Linux powered boards can do incredible things. An active community has sprung up around the Pi. With it have come thousands of projects published on the web, in books, and in magazines. Many of the best Raspberry Pi projects are seen right here on Hackaday and published on, which boasts over 1000 user created Pi powered projects (yes, we counted). Show us how you pull off those projects and you’ll be eligible to win.

Prizes and Judges

One thing we’d like to see more are really well documented projects — showing off everything anyone with an average skill set needs to perform the cool hack themselves. Do that and you’re well on your way to claiming one of eight great prizes! The grand prize winner gets a Pi-top Raspberry Pi laptop. First prize is the new Pi-top Ceed all in one. Second place is a 32×32 RGB Matrix kit. And the list goes on.

Submit your entry as a project on and use the “Submit Project To…” option on the left sidebar of your project page to add it to the Enlightened Raspberry Pi contest. When entries close on November 9th, the Hackaday Staff will begin judging, bringing in some help to choose the top winners. This help comes in the form of a few VIP judges!

[Alvaro Prieto] is a Firmware/Electrical engineer who works on electronics for work and for fun. He previously worked at TI, Apple, and Planet. You’ve seen him hacking micro quadcopters, and as a presenter at the 2015 Hackaday SuperCon,

[Matt Richardson] is a Product Evangelist for the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi. We’ve seen [Matt] building heads up displays for bicycles, and removing celebrity gossip from our TV’s.

[Ken Shirriff] writes a popular blog ( on reverse engineering everything from chargers to microprocessors. Ken was formerly a programmer at Google and has a PhD in computer science from UC Berkeley. We’ve covered his microprocessor work as well as his teardowns of knockoff laptop chargers.

It’s All in the Details:

Entries are open now, show us the details that make great Raspberry Pi projects happen! The full rules can be found on the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest page. Fire up your soldering irons, warm up your 3D printers, and load up your favorite code editor. It’s time to start hacking!


Soldering Challenge To Challenge You

[Rick] knew that the blinking, beeping microcontroller kits that are commonly used for educational soldering workshops just would not cut it for a serious combat among SMD reworking professionals. The “Soldering Challenge” he created to fill this gap is a little PCB with eight difficulty levels from large through hole components to the smallest hand solderable SMDs. After assembly, the circuit assesses the skill level of the soldering aspirant based on a built-in scoring system.

soldering_challenge_ongoingThe challenge is meant to be played on a time limit. There are no two same-sized components of different value, so contestants may focus on soldering fast. Little rubber pads on the backside of the board provide for good ground contact in the curves. After the starting signal, you will be confronted with a few through hole resistors, a capacitor, different LEDs and a DIP-8 IC. Here it’s all about the speed and efficiency as you tackle a track full of bends and cut-off resistor legs. Over the course of the challenge, the components get smaller and smaller, until you finally reach the 0603 level, with a tiny SC-85 MOS-FET and a TSSOP 555 timer at the finishing line.
Continue reading “Soldering Challenge To Challenge You”

Hack The Pentagon, Legally

The United States Department of Defense just launched the world’s first government-funded bug bounty program named HackThePentagon. Following the example of Facebook, Google, and other big US companies, the DoD finally provides “a legal avenue for the responsible disclosure of security vulnerabilities”.

However, breaking into the Pentagon’s weapon programs will still get you in trouble. This pilot program has a very limited scope of the Pentagon’s cafeteria menu some non-critical systems and is open only between April 18 and May 12 this year. In total, about $150,000 of bounties may be rewarded to responsible hackers.

Anyone can take part in the program, but to receive financial rewards, you need to fulfill a list of criteria. Your profile will undergo a criminal background check and certain restrictions based on your country of residence may apply. Also, to hack into the government’s computer system and get a tax return, you must be a US taxpayer in the first place.

Even though this framework turns the initiative more into one-month hacking contest than a permanently installed bug bounty program, it is certainly a good start. The program itself is hosted on HackerOne, a platform that aims to streamline the process of distributing bug bounties.

Hack the Hackaday Demoscene from Your Own Home

We are just two weeks away from the Hackaday | Belgrade conference, and tickets have completely sold out. That means you can’t get your hands on one of these sweet hardware badges, but you can still take home some prizes for pulling off a gnarly hack with the badge firmware.

What we’re talking about is the Hackaday Belgrade Badge Demoscene – which includes a surrogate presenter program for anyone who wants to send in their own code for the device. You have two weeks to work on and submit your code — and we’ve made it really easy for anyone who has a working knowledge of C.

The day of the conference we will download all entries, and have a surrogate at the conference load it onto their badge and present it on your behalf. There is a separate pool of prizes for online entries, so hackers not at the con will win. And of course we’ll be celebrating the awesome demos with some posts on the front page.

No Hardware Needed

Badge emulator scrolling the word "Hackaday"
Badge emulator scrolling the word “Hackaday”

Hack in C for Abstracted Bliss or Be Hardcore:

You can use the emulator shown here to write your code for this badge. It comes with a set of basic functions that abstracts away the low-level hardware functions, and launches a demo window on your computer to test out your code. Check out this barebones C framework to get started.

For those that want more control, we have published the official assembly code that the badges will ship with (including a user manual). We’ll be squashing bugs right up to the day of the con). You can alter and compile this code yourself, or just start from scratch using the design spec if you prefer to travel the hardcore bit-monkey path.

Either way, you have an 8×16 display and 4 buttons to work with. Exercise your creativity and amaze us by doing a lot on a rather modest canvas. That’s what demoscene is all about.

How to Enter

Entry is easy, just start a project on and submit it to the Belgrade Badge Demoscene contest using the “Submit Project To…” menu on your project page. You need to upload .C and .H files, or a precompiled .HEX to the file hosting part of your project page by Saturday, April 9th.

That’s the extent of the requirements. But it would be super fun if you recorded the software emulator playing your demo for all to see. The easiest way to do this is to record a video of your computer screen using your smartphone. Good luck to all!

Raspberry Pi Zero Contest Grand Prize Winners!

The Raspberry Pi Zero Contest presented by Adafruit and Hackaday came to a close last week, as the clock struck 11:59 am on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Since then our team of judges has been working to pick the top three entries. It was a hard job sorting through nearly 150 amazing creations.  In the end though, the judges were able to pick three grand prize winners. Each winner will receive a $100 gift card to The Hackaday Store.  So let’s get to the winners!

[JohSchneider] and [Markus Dieterle] both won Pi Zero boards and went on to win $100 gift certificates. [shlonkin] didn’t win a Pi Zero, but persevered and continued working on the classroom music teaching aid even without a Zero board. The top winners aren’t the only ones who are doing well. Everyone who entered has a head start on a great project for The 2016 Hackaday Prize.

I’d like to thank Hackaday’s own [Dan Maloney], [Kristina Panos], [Sophi Kravitz] and [Brian Benchoff] who joined me to judge the contest. The entire Hackaday staff is indebted to [Limor Fried] and [Phil Torrone] over at  Adafruit for coming up with 10 live videos, and providing 10 hard to find Pi Zero boards for our winners. The biggest thanks go to the entrants. If I could send a prize out to each and every one of you, I would!

Battery Backup For The Raspberry Pi

You can go to any dollar store, gas station, big box store, or your favorite Internet retailer and get a USB power bank. It’s a lithium battery mashed into a plastic enclosure with a USB port, probably poorly engineered, but it does serve as a great power supply for the Raspberry Pi. For the Raspberry Pi Zero contest we’re running over on, [Patrick] built a lithium phosphate battery pack that’s much better engineered and has some features a simple USB power bank will never have.

Battery[Patrick]’s Raspberry Pi UPS isn’t just a battery and charge controller attached to the power rails; this board has a microcontroller that has full control over when the Pi wakes up, when the Pi goes to sleep, and can put the Pi into a clean shutdown, even in headless mode. SD cards around the world rejoiced.

The electronics for this project are just a low-power MSP430 microcontroller and a boost regulator. The battery pack/power manager attaches to the Pi through the first few GPIO pins on the Pi’s 40-pin header. That’s enough to tap into the 3.3 and 5V supplies, along with the serial console so power events can be scripted on the Pi.

So far, [Patrick] has made a few time-lapse movies with his lithium battery backup, a Pi Model A+, and a Raspberry Pi camera. He managed to take 99 pictures over the course of about 24 hours, powered only by a single lithium-ion cell. You can check that video out below.

Continue reading “Battery Backup For The Raspberry Pi”