The Best Conference Badge Hacking You’ve Ever Seen

72EJpM5noCVCOQOeMV74_fmZeSQKcPxiqv70JYc9psgAs with any proper hardware con, the Hackaday Supercon needed a badge, and preferably one that was electronic. This conference centered around hardware creation, and the badge was no exception.

Designed on a tight timeline, it was possible to deliver a PCB badge for the attendees but it didn’t include microcontrollers, FPGAs, or software defined radios. This blank slate was the foundation for a completely unconstrained freestyle electronics soldering session.

The front of the badge includes a matte black solder mask with Truchet tiles of traces. Put multiple badges edge-to-edge and the pattern continues indefinitely. Inside of each curved trace is a through-hole via and those makes up a grid of holes on the back of the badge. On that back side there are also two rectangular grids that presented a nice area to which hackers soldered their components.

More than a few people took up the challenge of hacking their badge, and despite a strange pitch for the through holes (0.230″), and traces that didn’t go anywhere, there were some amazing builds. I would go so far to say that the badge hacking at the Supercon was the best I’ve ever seen, and this includes DEFCON and CCC.

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Help Decipher the DEFCON Badge

The 23rd DEFCON — the Western Hemisphere’s largest hacker conference — doesn’t start until tomorrow but Thursday has become the de facto start for regulars. [Brian] and I rolled into town this afternoon and are working on gathering as much information as possible about the badge challenge.

This year the badge is a 7″ vinyl record. Traditionally the badge alternates years of electronic badges and ones that aren’t. Spend your weekend pulling your hair our trying to solve the puzzles. Check out all the pictures and information (updated as we gather it) and work together collaboratively for a solution by requesting to join the crew on the Badge Hacking page.

Hackaday Breakfast on Sunday

Iocn of Coffee CupIf you’re in town Sunday morning, come nurse your hangover with [Brian], [Eric], and me. We’re headed to Va Bene Caffè at 10:30am on 8/9/15. It’s just across the street in the Cosmopolitan. Request to join this event and I’ll send you a reminder so you don’t forget. You can also hit me up on Twitter for a reminder. See you then (and don’t forget to bring hardware to show off if you have some!).

PS- The Hackaday WiFi Hat is in play. Anyone have the chops to hack it this year?

See You at LayerOne this Weekend

LayerOne, the first level of security. [Brian Benchoff] and I are excited to take part in our first LayerOne conference this Saturday and Sunday in Monrovia California.

Anyone in the Los Angeles area this weekend needs to get out of whatever they have planned and try out this conference that has a soul. Get the idea of a mega-con out of your head and envision a concord of highly skilled and fascinating hackers gathering to talk all things computer security. Speakers will cover topics like researching 0day exploits, copying keys from pictures taken in public, ddos attacks, social engineering, and more.

It’s not just talks, there is a ton of hands-on at LayerOne as well. I plan to finally try my hand at lock picking. Yep, I’ve covered it multiple times and we’ve even had a session led by [Datagram] at the Hackaday 10th Anniversary but I’ve never found time to give it a roll. Of course electronics are my game and [Brian] and I will both be spending a fair amount of time in the hardware hacking village. We’ll have a bunch of dev boards along with us if you want to try out an architecture with which you’re unfamiliar. This year’s LayerOne badges are sponsored by Supplyframe; we’ll have something in store for the best badge hacks we see during the weekend.

See you there!

SXSW Create: Sparkfun Gives Kids Awesome Badges to Hack

By far the most desirable booth for the crowds at SXSW Create was the Sparkfun quadrant. We call it a quadrant because they had a huge footprint approaching 1/4 the tented area, but it was well used. They brought a number of staff down to Austin in order to give away a legit electronic badge project they call BadgerHack.

sxsw-sparkfun-badgerhack-kit-thumbWe love badge hacking. LOVE IT! But South-by isn’t purely a hardware conference so the badges aren’t made of PCBs (for shame). Add to that, free entry to Create scores you a wristband but no badge.

This is the answer to that, a badge giveaway and build-off aimed at kids but cool enough to make me feel only slightly awful for accepting one when I pretty much knew they were going to run out before the final day was done.

The USB stick PCB is, as you guessed it, an Arduino compatible loaded up with an FTDI chip and an ATmega328p which they call the BadgerStick. Accompanying this is a multiplexed 8×7 LED matrix board. Solder the three pin headers and the battery holder leads, connect to the plastic badge using the supplied double-stick tape, and you have a badge that scrolls a message in LEDs.

DSC_0508What an awesome giveaway. I really like it that they didn’t cut corners here. First off, the kids will value the badge much more because they had to actually assemble it rather than just being handed a finished widget. Secondly, there is the USB to serial chip and USB footprint that means they can reprogram it without any extra equipment. And an LED matrix… come on that’s just a gateway drug to learning Wiring. Bravo Sparkfun and Atmel for going this route with your marketing bucks.

The badge activity rounded out with some hardware interfacing. There’s a 3-pin socket that attendees could plug into 4 different stations around the booth. Once done they received a coupon code for Sparkfun that scrolls whenever the badge is booted up. For some at-home fun, the writeup (linked at the top) for the BadgerHack firmware is quite good. It offers advice on changing what is displayed on the badge and outlines how to build a game of Breakout with just a bit of added hardware.

LayerOne badge hacking twofer

Here’s a pair of LayerOne Badge hacks that actually included the RC as intended by the badge designers.

First up, we have the autonomous RC car built by [Arko]. He calls it Stanley Jr. as an homage to the Stanford DARPA Grand Challenge vehicle. It uses an Arduino shield to add a servo with an ultrasonic rangefinder on it. The lets the vehicle drive a bit, stop and scan the horizon, then drive some more. The hope is the rangefinder will keep it from running into anything. There’s a quick test run embedded after the break.

On the right is the badge hack which [Zjpahle] finished up after the contest was already over. He also chose to go with an Arduino shield, this time it’s an IMU board. But he added a standalone Arduino board to the vehicle which drives some EL wire (ground effects) and adds IR sensors to the front of the car. The IR sensors are for obstacle avoidance, and the IMU lets him tilt his badge for direction control.

We looked at the winner of the badge hacking competition on Wednesday. That hack didn’t involve the car, but used the badge as a Morse Code beacon.

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Time to get serious about going to LayerOne

This year’s LayerOne Hacking and Security Conference is right around the corner. But it’s not too late to attend. You can still get a block-rate hotel room if you register by the end of April, and registration for the two-day event only costs a hundred bucks. It’s scheduled for May 26th and 27th in Anaheim California.

As usual, the Speaker lineup is quite impressive. Everything from Android Malware to embedded exploits and botnet adventures will be discussed. And then there’s the perennial favorite lock picking and hardware hacking villages. Did we mention badges? We’d bet it was this pick-and-place machine which helped assemble this year’s pile of badges. We haven’t seen any word on what they might include, but there’s a hacking contest so plan to pack your tools.

Hacking and Rolling at the Red Bull Creation Challenge


The crew over at the HarfordHackerspace used their wits and creativity to land a spot at the final round of Red Bull’s Creation challenge. The team arrived in Brooklyn just yesterday, ready to take on all comers in the 72-hour hacking challenge which kicked off earlier this morning.

Like any other hacker convention, the Red Bull challenge sports its own unique guest badges just begging to be poked, prodded, and otherwise fooled with. Once the team arrived in New York they were given theirs, and after the opening festivities came to a close, the hacking began. The badges were putting out what looked like Morse code messages via a single red LED, and while part of the team worked to record and decode the message, others started reverse engineering the badge’s on-board PIC.

They were successfully able to bypass the PIC’s fuses to read the code inside, and what they found was pretty funny. You will have to follow the link above to find out what it was, but rest assured, the Red Bull folks definitely have a decent sense of humor.