The Hackaday Prize: You Build Open Hardware, We Send You To Space



For weeks we’ve been teasing you that something BIG was coming. This is it. Six months from now one hardware hacker will claim The Hackaday Prize and in doing so, secure the grand prize of a trip into space.

You have the skills, the technology, and the tenacity to win this. Even if you don’t take the top spot there’s loot in it for more than one winner. To further entice you, there are eyebrow-raising prizes for all five of the top finishers, and hundreds of other rewards for those that build something impressive. You can win this… you just need to take the leap and give it your all.

Wait, what?


We want the next evolution of connected devices to happen now and we want it to be Open. Why shouldn’t Hackaday be the biggest cheerleader, encourager, and enabler for the cause of Open Hardware?

Build a piece of hardware that moves past the rut of “Internet-enabled refrigerators” and billion dollar thermostats (we couldn’t resist). Think big, come up with a piece of hardware that has the potential to change the lives of many. Or just build something silly and fun. But do it at a high level, and share your work. We’re not disqualifying entries that don’t share their secrets, but we are giving a strong judging preference on just how open each design will be.

It’s no secret that Hackaday is in favor of Open Design. The benefits of Open Hardware and Open Source software are vast for all of society. Stop banging your head against the same wall that has already been broken down by another engineer who posted the solution for all to see. Learn new skills by reading the code of masters and studying the design files of successful products. But for this to happen, the Openness must grow.

You’ll Be in Good Hands

We like to think we know a thing or two about this stuff. But for a trip into space Hackaday reached out and recruited remarkable people to judge your work. So far, the panel includes: (alphabetical order) Limor “Ladyada” Fried, Jack Ganssle, Joe Grand, Bunnie Huang, Dave Jones, Ian Lesnet, Sprite_TM, and Elecia White are all on board. We expect a few others to join and will update as that happens. If you know them or follow them on social media, please reach out and say thank you. We’re both honored and lucky to have them for The Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Needs Your Help!

Obviously we need to you to enter the contest and build something awesome. But we really need your help getting the word out too. For one thing, this is a great way to encourage more Open Design in the projects and products we see. But wouldn’t it be awesome to see The Hackaday Prize as a recurring challenge? It all hinges on the success of the program we launched this morning.

Please publicize in as many ways possible. Call in favors from your friends who work in media, post it to your blog, Tweet about it until your fingers bleed, post on Reddit, Facebook, MySpace (kidding…), and anywhere else that will let you sing the praises of the awesomeness that is this initiative. The the hashtag #TheHackadayPrize and let’s see how far we can get with this thing!

You have the heartfelt thanks from all of the Hackaday crew for anything you can do to share the message. Thank you! Now get hacking.

166 thoughts on “The Hackaday Prize: You Build Open Hardware, We Send You To Space

        1. Three months is no time at all for something like this. With a time frame like that, the only people with any chance of winning are those who already have their project almost done. Anyone who read this announcement and thought “Hmm, what should I make?” is already too far behind to have a chance.

  1. So, you can choose a trip to space or ~$200k cash. In this case, it seems very likely that the winner would choose the cash…at which point the “trip to space” is just a PR stunt. That’s kind of disappointing, and I expect many people will be disappointed when that happens.

    Would you spend $200k to go to space? If not, then the cash seems to be the option you would choose.

    I also can’t imagine being able to pay the taxes on the prize if the trip to space is chosen – ouch!

    1. Not everyone is physically fit for a trip into space. The cash alternative is worth less than the trip itself. And I suspect that your opinion isn’t universally adopted by all. I, for one, think that prizes should be something you are very unlikely to ever buy for yourself (that is one measure of a good gift). I would never buy a trip to space, but I probably take it if I one one.

      1. “prizes should be something you are very unlikely to ever buy for yourself” – This says it. Who cares about cash equivalent of a trip to space? When did a trip to space become such a casual affair that one would think about the market value? This is just an option for those of us who are not so lucky to have the physical fitness to go.

        1. I would take the cash, but mostly because that much money would be a good boost toward our eventual goal of going to space anyways. I’d rather have the money now so I can build my own space travel later, instead of hitching a ride with someone else.
          Especially if the ride is suborbital – that’d be freaking awesome, but not “the most awesome”.

    2. Actually, a trip to space is somewhat more expensive (Virgin Galactic is $250k). Cash alternative is something that’s mandated by the law so that people who are not eligible for the trip are not auto-disqualified (for example – people with disabilities etc.)

    3. Who wouldn’t take the trip to space, money isn’t everytything and its not like going to space is like flying to another country. Not everybody gets to do it.
      It wouldn’t be had without someone whinging I suppose

      1. Even if the cash prize was only $10000, I’d still take it over the “space” trip. You aren’t really going to space anyway. It’s just a brief peek above the atmosphere.

    4. F*** Money!!!! I’d go to space without thinking it twice!

      That said, maybe, with my idea I could win the prize, to bad I’m still not ready to make that idea a reality…. However, a person also needs to think that if her/his idea is a very commerciable one, you could take the money, sell the products and pay for your own trip, ha!

    5. I would so take the trip. I mean, no, I would not buy myself a trip to space for 200k, but if I already had it I would use it instead of cashing it out. It’s SPACE, man. How often are you going to get to go to space? 200k isn’t that much really, it’s not like you’ll be telling the tale of how you won 200k once. But going to space, a nice tale for the rest of your life.

  2. Yes, us judges require cool projects to gawk at. Go make stuff! And if I read the docs correctly, there also are prices for runner ups and generally otherwise cool projects, so don’t let the feeling you’re not gonna go to space anyway stop you from entering something.

    1. A project of this scale is definitely more than 3 months in the making, but someone who’s timing on their project is just right could certainly reap an awesome reward.

      1. Not sure I would hold back…3 months is a long to time to get something going if you think about it. If the contest is “connected devices” then the HW Is pretty obvious. I would expect most of this to then be a SW problem and 3 months in SW is a loooooong time.

      2. For commercial project, the short development cycle is like 6 months working full time with some software people pounding away for the code while you do designing/proto run/testing the hardware. So 3 months – 8 months time frame is actually quite short if you are doing this part time over the evenings and weekend/holidays. The weather is going to be a distraction on free time.

        Given the rules, you are not likely to make final round if you duct tape arduino shields and copy pasting scripts together. The project could be judge on how production ready it is in final round if you are going for the $5k prizes and up.

        Trying to be DFx ready for low cost production assembly for personal projects is a bit painful too. I am in my first proto design/layout cycle right now doing just that.

    2. 3 months from now to get going’d be a bit tricky for anyone doing A-levels or other such exams in the UK (Don’t know about other countries); That’s pretty much slap bang across the exam season, so I can’t really participate. Cool competition none the less.

  3. Tempting… I’ve no chance of winning but I was going to work on my project anyway! The official rules link doesn’t appear to work.

    I dunno but I think I would take the space option. Money comes and money goes, going into space would really be special though.

  4. Oh a trip to space… I have seen this so often, come on this aint nothing special anymore. I propose the frirst prize should be an Arduino implant, this is something for the true hackers among us.

  5. My eyebrows were fucking raised…

    However, in the UK the prize probably counts as self employed income, as the competition requires significant work/skill to win, like writing competitions.

    IIRC a seat on virgin galactic is 250k, so sounds like the better deal if you were thinking of going anyway :-D

    I would like to know if a person can have multiple entries? Can a person crowd fund their design as a product during/after the competition?

  6. Is it possible to enter more than one project per person? This should be clarified in rules. Also, I see slight problems :) if 10 people in a team win $200k, how they are going to split the prize. Or only 1st registered guy/girl in a team gets all?

      1. This is a wonderful theme that hackaday has been encouraging lately. Even the shy solo hacker can go so much further by joining forces with a like-minded ally. You don’t need to be childhood friends. You just need to share the same interest in making stuff.

  7. Okay, time to get dirty and actually Get Serious about something I’ve been blue skying for way too long now.The time to build it is now. I’ll be in this before it’s over! Love it, HackaDay! Love it!

      1. Yeah we were surprised at the legal restrictions in countries worldwide to be honest. Italy and Spain I believe have similar restrictions. We tried to include as many as we can but at a certain point it starts to get prohibitively awkward.

  8. Meh. I was excited for about 30 seconds. Then I realised by “space” they meant high altitude. You know what would be truly awesome? A trip into orbit. :’-(

    I’ll take the money and use some of it for a flight in a military jet to high altitude instead plus a small contribution to a house deposit. It all looks pretty much the same at 70,000 feet or 300,000 feet.

    1. Actually there’s a fundamental difference.

      A high altitude military flight does not qualify you as an astronaut. Whereas a trip on one of the civilian launch carriers at that altitude actually does. So you can add Astronaut to your linked in profile ;-p

      1. Being a passenger on Virgin Galactic also will not qualify you as an astronaut. Being a pilot for them will qualify you as “civilian astronaut”, but not a passenger.

  9. Is there any consideration for a tax gross up in the prize? Whoever wins the top prize is in for an extremely nasty surprise when they do taxes and realize their income is now $250k higher than expected. This will lead to bumping into much higher tax brackets, losing exemptions, etc. and probably cost at least $50k in taxes alone.

      1. It would be pretty bad for someone to get their hopes up about going to space, win the contest, and realize it will cost over $50k. Not complaining at all, in fact I think it’s incredibly generous of Hackaday and Supply Frame. However you need to be aware of the tax consequences for winning such a large prize.

    1. I just read a mature copy of the Official Rules (I expect to receive the final copy for publication at any moment). The Grand Prize does include a % consideration for taxes if the winner chooses a ticket to space rather than the cash option.

  10. I can’t see why anyone with a truly incredible idea would give it away for such a paltry prize. You could patent and produce it for many times that amount of money, if it really is that awesome. Or it will just be a case of whoever has the least bad of the bad or rehashed ideas wins the prize.

      1. This is exactly what’s on my mind right now, I’m wondering how open sourcing my designs will influence the strength of my patent. Anyone have real experience with this?
        I’m seriously considering joining though, I’m working on a solar panel installation cleaning robot and was already planning on opening up the designs (in combination with crowd funding to get the first production run done).
        I’ve been working on this for quite a while now, made a bunch of prototype parts to test certain aspects, evaluate sensors, etc. Can I enter with this project that has already started?

  11. This would be really cool!
    Is there any way to enter this without having to deal with your thoroughly disorganized, painfully slow, and horribly slow projects website? (Seriously, that level of awful is usually reserved for government websites.)

    Also, are there any details of this trip? Is it a *REAL* trip into space, or just a sub-orbital, glorified plane ride?

    1. Sub orbital dude. I.e. Up and down within 15 mins. Keep the cash and become a crazy inventor instead. That’s what I’m going to do. Now that would be life-changing.

  12. Talk about bad timing… I had a project in the works for the contest, but I doubt I’ll be able to finish in time… Not that I would have won anyways, but at least I would have tried, sadly, I just don’t have the time to work on it…

    Oh well, good luck to all who enters! Looking forward to seeing your projects.

  13. Oh my… now it’s time to pick my team like a game of lifeboat. I don’t need $200,000, $50,000 is more than enough to build my sail/solar powered river boat and never pay rent again. The space trip would be awesome, but the freedom of having a live aboard vessel would be truly life changing. OK I’m in.

          1. White Knight was the launch platform for SpaceShip1, so taking a ride on that wouldn’t get you to space. :P

            Of course, it was assumed that by “2014 Grand Prize is a trip into space on a carrier of your choice.”, they really mean Virgin Galactic and possibly XCOR, but if I had *my* choice, I’d take a ride in something that gets me into orbit.

  14. Yay! A HaD competition I can finally enter! (don’t have to do the annoying team thing)

    …and not have a hope in hell of winning anything because just look at the quality of hacks & hackers already out there :(

  15. Not everyone has the same opportunities in this world.

    “Residents of these area are specifically excluded from entry: Italy, Quebec, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, or any jurisdiction where the Prize would be restricted or prohibited by law.”

    My country sucks… What a shame :(

    1. Not really.. It’s just that your country stood up to the international bankers and globalists, and the people who control the U.S. right now don’t like that… (Except for Italy & Quebec WTF?)

      1. Maybe you being fooled by my Exotic name :) but i am Italian and my country is Italy.
        I can understand the particular geopolitical situation of the other areas in the list.

        But Italy and Quebec aren’t in any Black list, last time i checked.

        This is so sad…

  16. The last prize is a bit inspecific:
    “Grab Bag of electronics and components
    ($1000 approximate value each)”

    How do you value a grab bag?

    You’d never buy one for the price of every component or what would be the point? If I go by the prices I’ve paid (usually for very unusual or valuable components) this would be a bag weighing 50+Kg. That would be a pain to send to the other side of the world if someone like me won.

    Seing as ten people will get one of these bags for every smart sole who makes it into the top five, is there any chance of elaboration on what this bag really contains (or were you hoping no one would notice)?

    Actually, I’d probably rather just take a bunch of the Databooks that Supply Frame scan for Datasheet Archive.

  17. much wow
    to the moon

    Ok, the doge reference is kind of done. Like a lot of comments to this post. I mean, shut up if you don’t want to participate. If the first thing you think about when you see a contest is the tax you’re going to pay for the prize, I actually feel a bit sorry for you. Whiners gonna whine, I guess… but still.

    As for the contest: AWESOME! :D

    1. Amen. Quit bitching about free stuff!
      Of course, the more of them who get pissy and leave, the better the chances for the rest of us, so hate on!
      I’m super stoked and I can’t wait to get started!

  18. I wonder if the prize monies would be enough to launch a nanosat. After all, if I go to space I want to stay in space. (Even if the “I” is only an electronic extension of my ego.)

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