The Square Inch Project

For the last few years, Hackaday has been putting together some amazing contests. We gave away a trip to space, but the winner took the money instead. We gave away another trip to space, but those winners took the money instead. But we had a ton of fun along the way and are glad to see some others are getting in on the action. In September, a contest appeared out of the blue on It is the Square Inch Project, a contest with the goal of stuffing the most electronics on a square inch of printed circuit board.

This wasn’t a contest designed, planned, or organized by anyone in charge here; this is a completely organic competition arranged and implemented by the community. A few months ago, a few notable people just decided to have a contest. Awesome.

OSHPark was kind enough to give out credits for PCBs as prizes, a we added in a few gift certificates to the Hackaday Store. Apparently that’s all you need to get a lot of people making a lot of cool stuff.

There are a lot of really great entries – far too many to cover in a single post – but you’ll find a few great ones below.

Continue reading “The Square Inch Project”

Biomimicry Challenge: Hack Like Mother Nature, win $100k

Hot on the heels of the 2015 Hackaday prize, with its theme of “Build stuff that matters”, comes another opportunity for hackers to make a difference. But you’ve got to think like Mother Nature for the 2016 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge.

wind chillThe aim of this challenge is to transform the global food system using sustainable approaches that emulate natural process. Entries must address a problem somewhere in the food supply chain, a term that could apply to anything from soil modification to crop optimization to harvest and storage technologies. Indeed, the 2015 winner in the Student category was for a passive refrigeration system to preserve food in undeveloped areas. It’s a clever two-stage system that uses an evaporative cooling loop inspired by the way an elephant’s ears cool the giant beast, and by use of a wind-capturing funnel that mimics how animals as diverse as termites and meerkats cool their nests.

In addition to the Student category, the challenge has an Open category for teams of any composition. Up to 10 teams will be selected from the Open category to proceed to the Accelerator phase, where they’ll receive support for a six to nine month development of their design into a marketable product. The winner will be awarded the $100,000USD Ray of Hope prize, endowed by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

We’d love to see someone from the Hackaday community take home the 2016 prize, and there are plenty of 2015 Hackaday Prize entries that may be eligible. The deadline for submissions is 11 May 2016, so get a team together and get to work.

The Square Inch Project Challenges Your Layout Skills

577901443070423938[alpha_ninja] proves that is not just about great projects, but about an awesome community. Over this past week [alpha_ninja] has created The Square Inch Project, which is a grass-roots contest. The contest rules are pretty simple: The project PCB must fit in a 1″ x 1″ square. That’s 2.54 cm for those that don’t use freedom units. Smaller than a square inch is fine. If the project has multiple PCBs like a cordwood module, ALL the PCBs must still fit within the 1″ x 1″ square. users coming up with cool contest ideas and inviting everyone to take a shot at winning? Awesome!

Of course a contest has to have prizes. [Alpha_ninja] has already lined up $100 in gift certificates to OSHPark. Many thanks to [Laen] and the rest of the OSHPark crew for sponsoring this contest. Hackaday loves the idea so we’re also kicking in eight $50 gift certificates to the Hackaday store, as well as four more $25 gift certificates to OSHPark.

Though the contest has been up for less than a week, the square inch project already has some great entries.

twiz[Drix] has entered Twiz, a 9 degree of freedom Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity. Twiz senses its environment with a MPU9150 IMU chip. A nRF51822 provides the Bluetooth connection and ARM Cortex-M0 processor. Put all this together, and you’ve got a great way to determine where an object is in space. [Drix] has used Twiz to control everything from holographic projectors to room lights. Contests aren’t new to [Drix], he’s already entered Twiz in the 2015 Hackaday Prize.


numi[WeisTekEng] has entered Micro DIY Lipo retro NumiTron clock. [WeisTekEng]  loves the classic IV-9 Russian numitron tubes. His plan here is to build a numitron clock driven by an ATmega328 microcontroller. The timebase for this clock is also a classic — The Dallas Semiconductor (now Maxim)  DS1307 I2C real-time clock chip. Everything is going to run on a single LiPo cell. Fitting within the project constraints, the board will be only 1″ square. This is [WeisTekEng’s] first big project on, so we’re happy to see him join the community. He’s also just getting started, so the PCB’s only exist in the virtual word of his EDA software for now. We’re looking forward to reading the numitron clock!


tiny7[Al1] has entered tiny7, a 7 segment display which is compatible with Atmel ISP headers. Ever notice those 6 pin headers on the Arduino? That’s the ISP connector, used to program the ATmega328 micro. In many designs these valuable IO pins spend most of their time unused. [Al1] decided to give them a purpose – displaying data! He’s connected a 75HC595 shift register to the SPI pins of the ISP header. Data clocked into the ‘595 is displayed on a 7 segment display. [Al1] designed the boards with castellated connections on the sides. Some careful soldering allows the boards to be daisy chained. Several 7 segment displays to be driven from a single ISP header.


nyan[Radomir Dopieralski] is using The Square Inch Project as a learning platform as well. He’s entering Nyan Board, a tiny PCB shaped like everyone’s favorite rainbow pooping cat. [Radomir] is using nyan board to learn how to work with ATtiny microcontrollers. Due to memory constraints, these little controllers can be a bit harder to program than their bigger brothers. [Radomir’s] early goals for Nyan are humble ones – he will be happy to have the cat’s eyes flash while it plays the Nyan Cat tune. Once that task is complete, the RAM and Flash of the ATtiny microcontroller will be his only constraints.

The contest deadline isn’t until November 28, 2015, so there is still plenty of time to enter. If you want to see more of the entrants, check out The Square Inch Project page, or the entrant list. Want to know more? Ask a question on the project page, or drop [Alpha_Ninja] a message!

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Win an Internship at CERN Openlab

Have you ever wanted to visit CERN, or maybe even work there? Well guess what — one of the prizes for the Intel Modern Code Developer Challenge 2015 is a trip to CERN — and another one for a 9 week internship there!

The CERN and Intel sponsored competition is looking for a bright young developer (you must be a student) to improve the performance of the code used to simulate brains — specifically to simulate the growth of cells in the cerebral cortex. It’s called the Human Green Brain Project.

In this Challenge, you’ll be working with this code to improve its runtime performance, so researchers can make life-changing scientific breakthroughs faster.  Download the code, optimize it, and submit it to the Challenge.  The students who submit the fastest optimized code will win the prizes and help accelerate science – that could be you!

Improve it, and you’re literally accelerating science and research discovery. Oh — and you’ll get a chance to visit or work at the CERN OpenLab. What are you waiting for? Go enter!

[Thanks for the tip David!]

Caption CERN Contest – All Good Things…

Week 25 of the Caption CERN Contest is complete. Thanks to all the entrants who tried to figure out exactly what is going on with this scientist and his strange box. We’re still just as confused (and amused) as you are. He definitely is focused on the box and whatever is in there.

So, without further adieu, here are the winners of this week’s contest:

The Funnies:

  • “On the slim chance my invention does not go down in history. I hope no one makes a Schrodinger’s cat joke about it.” – [masterdurr]
  • “Step one, you cut a hole in the box” – [FuzzyNegguts]
  • “here is a rare shot of CERNs artificial heart prototype. Due to its size, it was only installed in whales. And badgers. I don’t know how, but somehow badgers.” – [jakewisher125]

This week’s winner is [Jack Laidlaw] with  “At Cern you have to be careful when having fun with the new guy, John was sent for a bucket of steam and only reappeared 6 months later with this contraption.” Jack is a web designer based in Scotland. He’s an avid fan of electronics, and is going to be getting a hands on course with his new Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store!

A bit of a break

After 25 great weeks of the Caption CERN Contest, it’s time to take a bit of a break. The Hackaday Prize competition is really heating up, along with plenty of other work here at Hackaday HQ. I’ve said it each week, but I have to give one more big thank you to all the folks who have entered and made this a great contest. It’s been a pleasure to read the captions every week and to award the prizes to all the top captions. The science and fun don’t end here though – There are plenty of images in CERN’s archives waiting to be discovered. Take some time and browse through. You won’t regret it!

Finally, I’d just like to say don’t forget to document your own work, and take notes on what each image contains. Be it on, on Github, or even on your own drive. Otherwise you might see your own hacks in the next incarnation of the Caption CERN Contest!

Caption CERN Contest – What’s In The Box?

Week 24 of the Caption CERN Contest was one for the books. There were so many good captions that we had a hard time picking a winner! Thank you to everyone who wrote up a caption and entered the contest. We still don’t know quite what this device was. Our best guess is a coil from a beam line. Some creative positioning and camera focus sure turned it into a conversation piece though!

The Funnies:

  • “I am the Face of Boe. Has anyone seen the Doctor?.” – [jonsmirl]
  • “CERN’s brief attempt into the consumer “Pro” audio market. They lost out to the competitions because they didn’t use unidirectional oxygen free copper wires that are blessed by the Tibetan monks. They might be the expert with super conductor magnets, but one hard lesson they have learnt is that you can’t spell consumer without the “con” part.” – [K.C. Lee]
  • “Go ahead pick up the operating tool!! For your first task remove the patient’s tooth for 10 points. But beware!!! there’s the 10,000K volt charge if you touch the sides!! Enjoy!!!” – [EngineerAfterLunchTime]

This week’s winner is [surubarescu] with “Prototype of the sextuple face electric razor was a complete technical success, but it never went into full production due to some raised (then lost) eyebrows.” Enjoy your new Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store, [surubarescu]!

Week 25

cern-25-smWe’re not kidding when we say CERN scientists and engineers really get into their work. Check out this CERN scientist looking down at his… uh, experiment. We’re not sure exactly what this device is. There is a sealed chamber, but is it a vacuum, or some sort of specialized atmosphere for the research this scientist is working on? Either way, he seems very interested in whatever is happening inside this box!

So what’s happening here? High energy physics, or some new coffee maker? You tell us!

This week’s prize is once again a Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store. Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the contest itself.

As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Mech Engineers: Win 5k for Using a Bearing

Another year, another Boca Bearings Innovation Competition! Boca Bearings is a US based ball bearing manufacturer and distributor. They make bearings for anything from RC cars, to bicycles, to fishing reels — and even industrial applications as well. And they’re one of those companies that actually cares about the tinkerers at home.

They sponsor a lot of community events like RC derbies, but our favorite is their yearly Innovation Competition; which allows anyone around the world to enter their project — so long as it uses a bearing somewhere. And it doesn’t even have to be one of their bearings.

With all these fantastic entries we’ve been having into the Hackaday Prize, maybe if your entry features bearings, you can enter this competition too! What do you have to lose?

Continue reading “Mech Engineers: Win 5k for Using a Bearing”