2017 Hackaday Prize Begins Right Now

Today the 2017 Hackaday Prize begins!

This is Hackaday’s global engineering initiative that encourages people to direct their skill and energy to make the world a better place. We call it the Hackaday Prize, but it’s far more than that. Join a community of talented people who enrich their own lives by seeking out new challenges and new technologies, then pioneers a way to combine them to Build Something that Matters. Show us your build by starting a Hackaday.io project page and enter today!

You Have Every Reason to Get Involved

The Hackaday Prize truly has something for everyone. Making the world a better place doesn’t end with a grand prize for a single build. Just by talking about your ideas and sharing your excitement you become the inspiration for this and every successive generation of problem solvers. But yes, there are prizes — a lot of prizes — and they’re spectacular.

We have over $250,000 in cash going out to hundreds of entries this year. The Grand Prize of $50,000 is joined once again this year by the Best Product Prize of $30,000. Four other entries will place second through fifth and receive $20k, $15k, $10k, and $5k respectively.

But the breadth of entries is too great to stop at that. We’ll select 120 projects as finalists and award each $1000. You can even get in on Seed Funding starting right away. We’re saving those details for the end of this announcement.

How Do I Build Something that Matters?

Whoa, all this talk of prizes, but you want to know what kind of hardware will be a hit for the Hackaday Prize? Here’s what you need to know: you can enter your project at any time from now until October 16th. But the exact time that you enter matters.

Your best bet is to get started right away. The first challenge of the Hackaday Prize is: Design Your Concept. Every great build starts with a plan and this is the time to show us what you got. The key is to consider if the project benefits society in some way. Show us how, document your build plan, and you can be one of the first twenty finalists to receive $1k cash and move on to compete for the big prizes.

We’ll have four more challenges that focus on different types of entries. You only need to enter one challenge, but you may choose to enter (and win) as many of the five challenges as you wish. We’ll be looking for connected devices that don’t suck Internet of Useful Things during the IuT ! IoT challenge. After that, it’s on to all things mobile with the Wheels, Wings, and Walkers challenge. Assistive Technology challenges you to make the world a better place for the physically or mentally challenged and aging or sick people of the world. And finally, a Hackaday favorite closes the challenge rounds with Anything Goes — as long as it clearly benefits society. Each of these five challenges will yield twenty finalists who receive $1000. That’s $100k!

The Return of Best Product

Two years ago we tried something new by adding the Best Product Prize to the mix and it was an enormous hit. We’re happy to be able to bring it back again this year.

There is a difficult path from a working prototype to a product ready for its audience. As hardware development is unlocked for an ever wider engineering community, we want to see the path made wider so that the journey becomes easier. Best Product is designed to do just that.

Any Hackaday Prize entry may also choose to compete and be named the Best Product (receiving much deserved recognition as well as the addition $30k prize). You need to submit your entry no later than July 24th, which includes full documentation of the project as well as a bill of materials used in the build. We’ll select twenty finalists (sending $1k to each) who will then need to deliver three working beta test units for the final judging round of the Best Product.

How Can We Pick the Top Entries?

One amazing part of the Hackaday Prize family are the world-renowned experts who donate their time and talent as Judges. They are just as eager as everyone else to see all of this creative energy focused on solving the problems facing our civilization.

Learn more about all of these amazing people on the Hackaday Prize page.

One Last Thing: Seed Funding

When realized to their full potential, design concepts should knock the socks off of anyone who reads through them. Because of this we have one more thing in store for you during the first challenge which starts right now.

Entries with the most likes at the end of the first round will split $4,000. Each time someone on Hackaday.io “likes” your project it will move a bit higher on the leaderboard found on the Hackaday Prize page. The top projects will receive $1 for each like, with a max of $200 per entry so that at least twenty will win (but likely many more).

This seed funding is a little push to help offset the cost of building prototypes. But it really comes down to your decision to make the time and to make a difference. Enter your project in the Hackaday Prize now.

Two Bits a Gander: Of Premature Babies, Incubators, and Coney Island Sideshows

Newborn humans are both amazingly resilient and frighteningly fragile creatures. A child born with a 40 full weeks of gestation has pretty good odds of surviving the neonatal period these days, and even if he or she comes along a few weeks early, things usually go smoothly. But those babies that can’t wait to get out and meet the world can run into trouble, and the earlier they’re born, the greater the intervention needed to save them.

We’ve all seen pictures of remarkably tiny babies in incubators, seemingly dwarfed by the gloved hands of an anxious parent who just wants that first magical touch of their baby’s skin. As common as such an intervention is now and as technologically advanced as neonatology is, care for premature infants as a medical discipline has a long and interesting history of technical and social hacks that’s worth looking at.

Continue reading “Two Bits a Gander: Of Premature Babies, Incubators, and Coney Island Sideshows”

How An Oscilloscope Probe Works, And Other Stories

The oscilloscope is probably the most versatile piece of test equipment you can have on your electronics bench, offering a multitude of possibilities for measuring timing, frequency and voltage as well as subtleties in your circuits revealed by the shape of the waveforms they produce.

On the front of a modern ‘scope is a BNC socket, into which you can feed your signal to be investigated. If however you simply hook up a co-axial BNC lead between source and ‘scope, you’ll immediately notice some problems. Your waveforms will be distorted. In the simplest terms your square waves will no longer be square.

Why is this? Crucial to the operation of an oscilloscope is a very high input impedance, to minimise current draw on the circuit it is investigating. Thus the first thing that you will find behind that BNC socket is a 1 megohm resistor to ground, or at least if not a physical resistor then other circuitry that presents its equivalent. This high resistance does its job of presenting a high impedance to the outside world, but comes with a penalty. Because of its high value, the effects of even a small external capacitance can be enough to create a surprisingly effective low or high pass filter, which in turn can distort the waveform you expect on the screen.

The answer to this problem is to be found in your oscilloscope probe. It might seem that the probe is simply a plug with a bit of wire to a rigid point with an earth clip, but in reality it contains a simple yet clever mitigation of the capacitance problem.

Continue reading “How An Oscilloscope Probe Works, And Other Stories”

The Inventions Of Arthur Paul Pedrick

We hear a lot about patent portfolios when we scan our morning dose of tech news stories. Rarely a day passes without news of yet another legal clash between shady lawyers or Silicon Valley behemoths, either settling spats between multinationals or the questionable activities of patent trolls.

These huge and well-heeled organisations hold many patents, which they gather either through their staff putting in the hard work to make the inventions, or by acquisition of patents from other inventors. It is not often that a large quantity of patents are amassed by any other means, for example by an individual.

There is one prolific individual inventor and holder of many patents though. He achieved notoriety not through his inventions being successful, but through their seeming impracticability while conforming to the rules of the patent system. His name was [Arthur Paul Pedrick], and he was a retired British patent examiner who filed a vast number of eccentric patents from the early 1960s until his death in the mid 1970s, all of which stretched the boundaries of practicality.

His subject matter was varied, but included a significant number of transport inventions as well as innovations in the field of energy and nuclear physics. We wish there was room to feature them all on these pages, but sadly they are so numerous that it is difficult even to pick the selection we can show you. So sit down, and enjoy the weird and wonderful world of [Pedrick] innovations.

Continue reading “The Inventions Of Arthur Paul Pedrick”

Hands-On Nvidia Jetson TX2: Fast Processing for Embedded Devices

The review embargo is finally over and we can share what we found in the Nvidia Jetson TX2. It’s fast. It’s very fast. While the intended use for the TX2 may be a bit niche for someone building one-off prototypes, there’s a lot of promise here for some very interesting applications.

Last week, Nvidia announced the Jetson TX2, a high-performance single board computer designed to be the brains of self-driving cars, selfie-snapping drones, Alexa-like bots for the privacy-minded, and other applications that require a lot of processing on a significant power budget.

This is the follow-up to the Nvidia Jetson TX1. Since the release of the TX1, Nvidia has made some great strides. Now we have Pascal GPUs, and there’s never been a better time to buy a graphics card. Deep learning is a hot topic that every new CS grad wants to get into, and that means racks filled with GPUs and CUDA cores. The Jetson TX1 and TX2 are Nvidia’s strike at embedded deep learningor devices that need a lot of processing power without sucking batteries dry.

Continue reading “Hands-On Nvidia Jetson TX2: Fast Processing for Embedded Devices”

Autonomous Delivery and the Last 100 Feet

You’ve no doubt by now seen Boston Dynamics latest “we’re living in the future” robotic creation, dubbed Handle. [Mike Szczys] recently covered the more-or-less-official company unveiling of Handle, the hybrid bipedal-wheeled robot that can handle smooth or rugged terrain and can even jump when it has to, all while remaining balanced and apparently handling up to 100 pounds of cargo with its arms. It’s absolutely sci-fi.

[Mike] closed his post with a quip about seeing “Handle wheeling down the street placing smile-adorned boxes on each stoop.” I’ve recently written about autonomous delivery, covering both autonomous freight as the ‘killer app’ for self-driving vehicles and the security issues posed by autonomous delivery. Now I want to look at where anthropoid robots might fit in the supply chain, and how likely it’ll be to see something like Handle taking over the last hundred feet from delivery truck to your door.

Continue reading “Autonomous Delivery and the Last 100 Feet”

Paramotoring for the Paranoid: Google’s AI and Relationship Mining

My son approached me the other day with his best 17-year-old sales pitch: “Dad, I need a bucket of cash!” Given that I was elbow deep in suds doing the dishes he neglected to do the night before, I mentioned that it was a singularly bad time for him to ask for anything.

Never one to be dissuaded, he plunged ahead with the reason for the funding request. He had stumbled upon a series of YouTube videos about paramotoring, and it was love at first sight for him. He waxed eloquent about how cool it would be to strap a big fan to his back and soar with the birds on a nylon parasail wing. It was actually a pretty good pitch, complete with an exposition on the father-son bonding opportunities paramotoring presented. He kind of reminded me of the twelve-year-old version of myself trying to convince my dad to spend $600 on something called a “TRS-80” that I’d surely perish if I didn’t get.

Needless to say, the $2500 he needed for the opportunity to break his neck was not forthcoming. But what happened the next day kind of blew my mind. As I was reviewing my YouTube feed, there among the [Abom79] and [AvE] videos I normally find in my “Recommended” queue was a video about – paramotoring. Now how did that get there?

Continue reading “Paramotoring for the Paranoid: Google’s AI and Relationship Mining”