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?

19 thoughts on “Surviving The Hackaday Prize Party

  1. Awesome, wish I could have made it.. Germany is such an awesome place.
    I know it’s the last thing you guys what to think about after such a huge event, but you guys should throw an event here in Central Florida! Most of your events are on the west coast so it might be a cool change of pace.
    We have a huge community of Hackers here and I am sure you would get a pretty good turnout.

    1. I agree. I was kinda-sorta excited about Hackaday having this huge contest, and the subsequent event…but honestly being half a world away struck me as very strange and ultimately made me not care. I have a hard time being able to justify a few hours’ worth of travel to get somewhere for an event, much less $1200 airplane tickets and 20+ hours of travel. I mean, I guess the winner was originally from Germany, so I guess that makes sense. Perhaps that was the rationale behind it?

      I’d also like to know about events, as you said, not on the west cost. How about some in the midwest? :-)

  2. Thanks for the event, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great people, great setup, great organisation.

    The workshops were a bit … weird. Having signed up for the Moog Workshop, I was hoping for more than being given the synthesizer and some discrete parts with the words, “do something with these parts.” But honestly, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It also ended a bit abruptly, who got to keep his Moog in the end?

    The part where the catering staff practically threw everything and anything off the tables into the trash that wasn’t grabbed quickly enough was weird. That’s usually not how catering behaves, not even here in Germany, it seems like they were hell-bent on keeping a schedule that kept running out of sync. And in the end it didn’t even matter much because, well … I must disagree on calling everything after the prize announcement “a raging party”. The DJ was incredibly uninspired, consequently noone dared to dance out of fear of encouraging him in pursuing his career any further. But it was nice elevator music to go in the background, quite unobtrusive when talking to all the nice and interesting people you can meet at such events. Including the Hackaday staff. So, again: Thank you!

    1. Hey.

      So I have to give my apologies for the moog workshop. I was on crutches for the event so couldn’t get around as easily as I had hoped. If I didn’t get to you to walk you through the basics of modular synthesis then I am terribly sorry.

      I did provide a whole bunch of different exercises to try out with the werkstatt though so I hope you found the leaflets about those and had some fun anyway.

      The aim of the workshop however was for each participant to try and devise the best add-on mod they could with the huge amount of hardware our sponsors provided on the day. So I didn’t want to walk you through everything!

      I do agree it all ended rather quickly, we were having so much fun that we lost track of time! I tried to keep an eye on what everyone was doing. In the end it came down to a choice between the satnogs team who were trying to hook up an ecg shield to the synthesis through improvised sensor pads and the guys using a photo sensor and the arduino uno’s indicator led to pwm all sorts of crazy functions. I will be emailing both teams next week to sort out some sort of prize since we didn’t get a chance to do a proper judging round in all the craziness. Those kitchen staff were insane! Fastest room change ever!

      1. Hey Ben,

        we actually got to talk a little bit, and in no way this was meant to be an insult towards you (especially considering your state). I guess I was just hoping for a more didactic approach, as it was it didn’t feel much like a “workshop”, and more of a “free for all”. There was little I could do beyond the simple examples, and coming with a wee bit of basic synth background there was nothing much I could “learn” from that then. It was fine as it was, though. No worries, it was still a nice experience. Thank you for that. :)

        All in all the whole event felt a bit like two or three events — a workshops/assembly space, lecture (the talk by sprite_tm wouldn’t be out of place at CCC), and an award show (sprinkled with some small Kickstarter sales pitches) — that each would warrant their own day, compressed into one with rough cuts. Interesting experience.

  3. Lets make the Computeum happen for the next big party :)

    (BTW, Kultfabrik area is what has been the Pfanni works (a major producer of premade potato products – today not much more than a Unilever brand) and parts of the former Zündapp factory (a classic motorbike manufactuerer)

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