Santa-pede Challenge: The Conclusion

At the end of October we announced the Buy, Break, Build series kick off with “The Santa-pede Challenge“.  The goal was to get your hands on one of those annoying dancing santas, tear it apart, then use its parts to build something that walks. We got our hands on some cool prizes and even got [Phillip Torrone] to be a guest judge. Join us after the break to see just what we came up with and maybe have a few laughs.


So, as you can see in the video, this contest was a complete failure. We didn’t get a single entry. I quickly tossed this horribly lame attempt together in about 30 minutes. I’ll show some pictures of what I did, just for fun. It really doesn’t technically “walk” so much as it creepily scoots across your desk making you question your life decisions.

Here’s the beginning of the disassembly. Nothing amazing here. You can see that his lower half is a solid plastic piece (not jointed or motorized).

Here is the basic breakdown of what I did. I cut off the feet, Removed the servo that made his hat flip back and forth, and melted the middle piece to for the leg things. There is a wire that went into santa’s arms. This was too thin and flexible to be useful for much of anything so I just tossed it in the parts bin.

I couldn’t find the attachment for my propane torch, so I had to resort to some pretty questionable tactics. I wouldn’t recommend using a space heater to get your plastic soft for most projects. It did get the job done though.  After putting this piece back on, all I had to do was tweak the newly created “legs” until it pulled itself forward. Its pretty pathetic, I know. It was meant to be the joke entry that made all the others look good.

What we would like from you, are ideas. What contest ideas do you have? What would you compete in? What item can you think of that has tons of hacking potential for a variety of skill levels?

66 thoughts on “Santa-pede Challenge: The Conclusion

  1. I can not believe that I missed this.
    I actually got some animated santas from last year I have been trying to find time to do something with.

    bummer will have to watch better for these challenges

  2. Honestly I wanted to join, but do to no work from a broken ankle I’ve been completely broke. So not even buying a little Santa. Next time though, please do this or something like it again.

  3. I’d like to see a hacked bug. The premise being that you would salvage parts from other devices and try to get a working transmitter and receiver. I know it doesn’t sound challenging, but to give it that extra challenge make the winner the one who used the least money.

  4. Was looking into doing this contest, but sadly could not get my hands on a dancing santa to save my life.

    Ah well, looking forward to the next challenge. Just try to make it something more common please (still can’t believe the 3 stores I checked didn’t carry them).

  5. I didn’t have a Santa. I actually had a quick look at a couple of stores and didn’t find any.

    I think the concept of the contest was fine but the assumption that everybody has one or more of the dancing Santas to hack was a bad one. Pick something more generic next time like a toaster or cordless screwdriver or something.

  6. I did not have a Santa on hand, nor did I take the time to find one. I still think the BBB is a great idea though. Maybe a BBB utilizing an old cell phone would be more universal. Any good hacker has a few lying around or available cheap at the nearest thrift store.

  7. I think it’s a cool idea for HaD to have contests like this. A lot of the contest was set up well. The theme item was cheap, so us broke hackers would not be excluded. The rules were open-ended enough to allow for a lot of creativity, and the categories allowed us to take our creativity in our own directions.

    I guess that wasn’t enough to get people to participate. For me, the theme created some cognitive dissonance. If I were to try to make a walking robot, I wouldn’t be excited about the project unless I had plans to do something awesome. If I wanted to do something awesome, I wouldn’t want to be time-limited or be forced to incorporate some arbitrary part. So I’m left with doing something that is uninteresting to win a contest. That’s when the prizes start to matter. The only one I wanted was the MintyBoost, but I figured I could make one myself for about the same cost as a mechanical Santa.

    I do like how HaD has been trying to engage its readers more, and I hope that continues.

  8. I was planning on entering this contest too, but could not find a dancing santa. I could not find any stores selling them until the deadline of the contest was almost over, and at that point, I figured that there was not enough time left.

    I agree with what MarkT said.

  9. I wasn’t able to find a cheap Santa.

    Perhaps a contest where you are trying to accomplish something, but you have to use parts from broken electronics and/or have a low cap on what you can spend on it (10-15).

  10. Perhaps cheap santas will be much easier to get hold of after christmas when shops are trying to get rid of their stock?

    Also I don’t want to dis the prizes but 1st place prize being something I could hack together in less time then it would take to hack a santa-pede together certainly discouraged me.

  11. hello, I would have entered if there would have been more to work with… I was put off by the brief tbh, the next triple B would be better if there was a little more variety in terms of parts, maybe 3 items to choose from sourced from a site with a $20 limit total, and then we could choose how many to use to meet your brief! YEAH!! I can see it now!! A laser pointer, An RC toy and an airsoft gun! Build a sentry turret! :0D

  12. As someone mentioned, maybe try again using something similar on clearance after Christmas. Perhaps the lack of entries might also be attributed to the general lack of spare time leading up to the holidays.

  13. SUGGESTION: LED Christmas Light Hack Challenge.

    This year lights got interesting with the addition of RGB LED Christmas lights available at Costco’s internationally and likely at every store for a very reduced price in 1 week.

    The light hack contest could see who comes up with the most creative hack for addressing and programming each light. Also the simplest way to p0wn a string and make it far more interesting that randomly changing R-G-B.

  14. @ Hackaday …

    Not enough of us had a Santa handy. For those that didnt, the deadline was too short to obtain one over the net then do something with it. Don’t let that stop your BBB concept though, which is still enticing. Just choose something a bit more obtainable. As mentioned earlier, an old mobile phone is a good one. Universal remote hacks.. these are available at all discount stores for a pitence. Uses for old CD/DVDs. Cordless screwdriver / drills. $10 limit discount store open challenge.

  15. I went to my local walmart/kmart/target and couldn’t find one then I went to several thrift stores and couldn’t find them there either. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to enter but didn’t have the dancing santa to do it.

    What about a contest of CD drive into boat? Used CD drives are cheap and everywhere and even have motors and tons of parts built in so it’s really a contest of imagination and design.

  16. Issue #1
    The Santa walkers were not cheap enough to justify destruction

    Issue #2
    Just guessing here but some people have more important things the $10-$15 could go towards. For me its tuition and gas. If they were cheap or free I would have participated hands down.

    Issue #3
    People buying these things would want to use them first. Which means until xmas or later.

    So what could be the target of the next competition?

    Something cheap – free or on sale *wink* and can be justified for its destruction. After xmas you can go to the landfill and find tons of good things about to be thrown out. Offer people a hand and you can keep something you spotted *cough* tv *cough* bicycle *cough* power wheels *cough* Christmas decorations *cough* *cough* *cough*

    Sorry. I was trying to say tv, bicycle, power wheels, christmas decorations.

    I think if this contest was announced on the 26th and run until Jan 30 you would have more entries.

  17. I wanted to do this really i did. Why i didn’t was,in early November i didn’t think it was time to buy a dancing Santa early December would have been better. The prizes i can’t remember but i know they didn’t interest me. plus i forgot about the contest.

    Tip: Mention the contest a lot, the only time i saw this one was the day it was announced and today.

    Please do more contests i hope to enter the next one

  18. Arrgh.

    The place that I saw the santas was lowes and Home Despot. I didn’t look over the price though, just laughed and said to my wife, “That would be fun, but there will be a ton of cool stuff submitted. I stand no chance.”

    Now here we are.


  19. I think the idea of a walker/pede/x-ped is a good target, but there was issues with the santa part as others have mentioned. You could have done stupid-mechanical-dancing-and-possibly-singing-novelty-item-pedes and had bonus points for christmas theme.

    Perhaps something more universal would be just a price cap like others have said (whether it’s what you actually paid or what the parts are “worth”) or perhaps using computer parts. Floppy drive racers?

  20. I think if you had a banner for the contest page, so it wouldn’t get buried?

    I actually saw a pile of those stupid santas at a thrift shop and briefly thought of doing an AT-AT thing with a duo (or four of them) of Santas. But meh, I had my own agenda while at the thrift shop. Magic 8 balls and cameras and junk. :) Perhaps a thrift shop contest? Get a device that costs less than $5 at the thrift shop and make something cool?

  21. @Hackaday
    The problem was the part and the timing. I don’t have a dancing santa, no one that I knew with one was going to hand it over for destruction at this time of year, and the price of buying a new one was just prohibitive. This might have been a great contest next week, when the little critters will be a dollar each.

    Secondly, who hasn’t been busy for the last month? Halloween first, then Thanksgiving, then x-mas shopping. Did my gift exchanging last week, and still haven’t had time to rest.

    I really did want to enter, but when I couldn’t find a $2 santa-bot in the first week, I forgot about it entirely.

  22. I do not want to wine, but this was a bit over my head as a task… I think this do a walking robot was the hard part, I think if would say make santa to a Bad santa, everyone would do a robot with fire thorch, and would paint it black, etc.

    For the next BBB you could choose this nowadays so darn popular revers enginering thing, like buy a RC- boat and make simpel pnp-transistor circuit to make it to go faster. Or somthing like take this and add it to somthing, like make the ultimate computer mouse add Bluetooth,wifi,gps,cardreader,32gb memore, etc..

    But thanks for inventing this consept I look foward to hear about this contest, keep up the good work you all.

    (Sry for my typos I am from Finnland,and yes santas everyvear) :)


  23. Loads of used dancing santas on ebay when this was announced… I wanted to take part but didn’t because I thought there’d be so many entries that my meager effort would be overlooked

  24. Surely the deadline can be extended, after all the time for picking up cheap Santo toys is AFTER Christmas when the big stores are practically throwing them away.

    Perhaps the new theme should be “What Santa does for the rest of the year”

  25. … furthermore I currently have a Halloween toy in my laptop bag, it sings, it dances (vibrates) and came with two batteries, some switches, the usual black blob IC, a motor (the vibrator) some wires and LEDs total cost 50p from the local supermarket chain. Less than 1/10th of the original price. A veritable hackers delight. Always wait till the festivities are over before grabbing the hackables.

  26. I would reconsider the whole buy-break-build concept. Necessary is the mother of invention, for me the spirit of hacking is needing a given result and preferring to adapt the first thing that comes to hand. “Create a dancing Santa out of everyday objects” may have been a more interesting challenge.

  27. I second bWare’s post,

    I really don’t see how you could buy stuff to do useless hacks for the sole purpose of hacking.
    It’s like a top-down approach where the fundamental reasons of why you are doing it are ignored completely.

    Cargo cult.

    Great idea for the contest, maybe next time.

  28. I thought it was a semi-fun idea, but right now my hacking efforts are reserved for my project car. Temp gauges using thermisters and LED bar displays. Speedometer? still considering. Lots of stuff to do. (Fiberglass, metal, wood, foam, etc)
    (Cheap sensors for oil pressure? water pressure?)
    – I never did get my flapping bat re-geared for Halloween, either. Bother.

  29. My dad volunteers at a charity shop. When I visit him he often has a couple of broken dancing toys rescued from the skip. We often spend half an hour or so getting them running again.

    These toys are without exception complete junk. They are designed to be as cheap to manufacture as possible. I’ve seen literally every part in these things fail, even the typically safe stuff like switches and LEDs.

    These are extremely low quality items that are sold at high profit margins. For hacking purposes you want high quality items sold at low profit margins.

    For the price of one dancing toy sold in season you can buy a handful of quality components which you can combine with some decent scavenged materials.

  30. Firstly, no santa – never ever seen one in real life. Perhaps they are less common in the UK.

    Secondly, forgot/no time. I thought it might be a bit of fun when I saw the contest but I completely forgot about it with the run-up to the holidays.

    I do think this is a good idea but it has to be much much more general. It’s all well and good saying that something is on offer everywhere and it’s really cheap but people are often not too inclined to go out and buy something for a contest like this and also, people have different stores/live in different countries and may have never seen the item before in their life.

    As was suggested, you need something very common. Supply a list of parts that everyone has and see what the best thing people can come up with is with the addition if minimal parts.
    Old mobile phones, CDs, computer parts, paper, card etc.

    If you supply a large-ish list then people may not be able to get/have everything but perhaps enough to make something cool from things in the list.


  31. If you extend the contest untill the end of January for something like “lack of entries” – I’ll buy the dancing Santa at the thrift store I just saw for a couple bucks and get it to do something. Mabey the moonwalk backwards. Let me know if it gets extended.

  32. Ive been super busy with end of year stuff, and holiday stuff, had I known nobody was entering i would have bought one or two four our fledgling hackespace here in Albuquerque NM (Ya know that place buggs bunny turned at?)

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