Surviving the Hackaday Prize Party

What a week it has been. I’m in Munich, Germany along with [Brian], [Jasmine], [Ben], [Alek], and the rest of the crew who helped plan and guide the 2014 Hackaday Prize. If you somehow missed it, we announce the rank order of the finalists. It was SatNOGS that claimed the Grand Prize, congratulations!

We have a ton of content headed your way, but to be honest there’s going to be a bit of “recovery lag” before that hits the front page. We spent the entire day at Technikum in the Munich Kalturfabrik. It was originally some sort of factory complex (having to do with potato processing) which has since been turned into co-working spaces, restaurants, and performing arts venues. We felt right at home in the post-industrial, brightly muraled maze of buildings.

The official activities started with the Embedded Hardware Workshops which were packed! The previously assured “robust” WiFi immediately, and repeatedly, went down. Fortunately hackers being hackers everyone pooled their local copies onto one SD card and passed it around. We’ve segregated that piece of hardware in an evidence bag for future testing.

We pushed back the closing of the workshops by about 40 minutes since everyone was having fun. This marginally outraged the company who was handling furniture and food as we weren’t following the plan. They were pleasant enough about the issue but for me it was an interesting peek at the difference in cultures. During the switch we had lightning talks which I found both enthusiastic and interesting. We then moved to the major presentations of the night. [Jeroen Domburg] aka [Sprite_TM] gave a stunning presentation about reverse engineering the ridiculously overpowered microcontroller on a special lighted keyboard. We’ll surely have a standalone post about it. We then closed with a recap of The Hackaday Prize and the naming of the winners. That too will have its own feature.

DSC_0095After handing over the trophy, and taking a few photos the writers all rushed to the downstairs “backstage” area. I had previously written the announcement post and we spent some time getting the word out, first to all the finalists, then to the sites that are close friends, and finally started pushing the news on social media. All work and no play? Forget about it. The party was raging and the food and drinks were fantastic. They were, however, far outshined by the conversations with interesting people to be found at every turn. I spoke with people who had driven in just for the event from France, Austria, and of course all over Germany.

The venue was packed up starting around Midnight. You know it’s a great time when the crowd hangs out in the cold for another 40 minutes afterward. The point of the story? Any chance you have to spend time with the great people who make up the Hackaday community is a chance to jump at. Where to next?

The Hackaday Prize Judge’s Recap

With the Intertubes atwitter about the finalist – and winner – of the Hackaday Prize, it’s only fitting the rest of you get to hear what the judges thought about the finalists.

We had some amazing judges combing over these projects, ranging from people who have told Congress they could shut down the Internet at will to a Dutch guy that just figured out how to order a plain hamburger in the Munich train station. Really, really smart people. Here’s what they had to say about each project:

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Hacking Werkstatts and Other Workshops

We had a few very cool workshops at our party in Munich today, with Moog synths, robotic arms, Linksys routers splayed open on a table, and Club Mate flowing like water. We’re wrapping the workshops up right now and the kegs are being tapped. Before that, though, it might be a good idea to show off all the other Hackaday Prize projects that showed up today.

The M.A.R.S. Rover, a 3D-printed rocker-bogie robot showed up around noon. I didn’t see it driving around, but there will probably be video up later.

Also shown was the AutoCut robotic lawn mower. No blood was shed today.

[Mario] was cool enough to fly in and show off the OpenExposer, a laser resin printer that is heavily inspired by the RepRap project.

Pictures below.

T Minus Several Hours Until The Hackaday Prize

We’re only a few hours away until we announce the winner of The Hackaday Prize. Until then, we have a huge workshop and party to put together. It’s only noon here in Munich, and we’ve been up since the crack of dawn putting stuff together.

The doors open in a little bit, but so far we have people putting together the workshops. [Ben Gray] from Phenoptix is busy putting together a few MeArm robots for a workshop. They take one person 45 minutes to put together. There’s kinda something resembling an assembly line going on:

[Ben Gray] @phenoptix working on a MeArm

[Sprite_TM] shows off soldering skills
Hackaday Prize judge [Sprite_TM] made it out to the workshop/party. He’s working on soldering up some Teensy 3.1s for the Moog workshop. There are a ton of parts for this, everything from extremely expensive slide pots to opamps, audio caps, pressure and pulse sensors, and a vintage wah pedal that also has +5v CV expression output. Really cool.

Setting up the venue








Since we’re announcing the winner of The Hackaday Prize, there was the question of what the trophy should be. Trophies are not utilitarian in any way, so we thought we would put our own spin on this. It’s a PanaVise, emblazoned with a 3D printed plaque.




Doors open in a few minutes. More updates to follow

Hackaday Prize Finalist: An Un-noodly Spectrometer

And so we come to the final finalist bio for The Hackaday Prize. In only three days, we’ll know whether [fl@C@]’s RamanPi Spectrometer or one of the four other projects to make it into the finals round will be making it to space, or only Japan.

There are a surprising number of spectrometer projects out there on the Intertubes, but most of these setups only measure the absorption spectrum – literally what wavelengths of light are absorbed by the material being measured. A Raman spectrometer is completely different, using a laser to illuminate the sample, and measuring the scattering of light from the material. It’s work that has won a Nobel prize, and [fl@C@] built one with a 3D printer.

Bio below, along with the final video that was sent around to the judges. If you’re wondering who the winner of The Hackaday Prize is, even I don’t know. [Mike] and a few Hackaday overlords do, but the rest of us will remain in ignorance until we announce the winner at the party we’re having in Munich next Thursday.

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Hackaday Prize Finalist: A Network of Satellite Ground Stations

There are astonishing things you can do with a network of sensors spread across the globe, all connected to the Internet. Thousands of people have already installed hardware to detect lightning and flightaware gives out subscriptions to their premium service to anyone who will listen in to airplane transponders and send data back to their servers. The folks behind SatNOGS, one of the five finalists for The Hackaday Prize are using this same crowdsourced data collection for something that is literally out of this world: listening to the ever-increasing number of amateur satellites orbiting the planet.

There are dozens of cubesats and other amateur satellites flying every year, and they have become an extremely popular way of experimenting in a space environment, giving some budding engineers an awesome project in school, and testing out some technologies that are just too weird for national space agencies. The problem with sending one of these birds up is getting the data back down; a satellite will pass above the horizon of a single location only a few times a day, and even then for only minutes at a time. The SatNOGS team hopes to change that by planting receivers all around the globe, connecting them to the Internet, and hopefully providing real-time telemetry from dozens of orbiting satellites.

[Pierros] from the SatNOGS team was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us about his entry to The Hackaday Prize. That’s below, right after their finalist video. Some of the SatNOGS team will also be at our Munich event where we announce the winner of the Prize.

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Hackaday Prize Finalist: A Portable SDR

No other project to make it to The Hackaday Prize has people throwing money at their computer screen hoping something would happen than [Michael Colton]’s PortableSDR. It’s a software defined radio designed for coverage up to 30MHz. Amateur radio operators across the world are interested in this project, going so far as to call this the first Baofeng UV-5R killer. That’s extremely high praise.

[Michael] was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about how his entry to The Hackaday Prize has gone. You can check that out below, along with the final round video of the project. Anyone who wants their own PortableSDR could really help [Michael] out by taking this survey.

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