2015 Hackaday Prize: Build Something That Matters

Last year we challenged you to build the next generation of connected devices. Six months later, the best teams and projects from around the world battled for the greatest prize of all: the respect of their peers and a trip to space. This year, we’re issuing a call to hackers, engineers, makers and startups from all over the world, to focus their creative efforts on nothing less than solving serious issues facing humanity.

Fix the World

thp2015-build-something-that-matters-a6We’ll all be facing a lot of problems in the next few decades, whether they’re from rising costs and consumption of oil, droughts, access to food, demographic shifts in populations, or increasing health care costs. These problems need to be dealt with, and there’s no better time than right now to start working on solutions.

What do we want from you? We want you to identify the greatest problems faced by humanity in the next few years and come up with a solution. This can be anything from better, lower-cost solar power components, inexpensive ultrasound machines, better ways to store drugs, more advanced ways of measuring farm production, or cheaper, more sustainable smartphones to bridge the digital divide. The world is full of problems, but if there’s one thing hackers have taught us, it’s that there are more than enough people willing to find solutions.


If worldwide notoriety isn’t enough personal incentive, Hackaday is back with a huge slate of prizes for those devices that best exemplify solutions to problems that matter.

The Grand Prize is a trip to space on a carrier of your choice or $196,883 (a Monster Group number). Other top prizes include a 90-Watt laser cutter, a builder kit (pcb mill, 3d printer, cnc router, bench lathe), a tour of CERN in Geneva, and a tour of Shenzhen in China.

New this year is the Best Product award. Go the extra mile and show a production-ready device (in addition to supplying three beta test units for judging) and you can score $100,000! The entry is of course still eligible to compete for the Grand prize and other top prizes.

We’re able to pull this off once again thanks to the vision of Supplyframe who managed to unite giants of the electronics industry as sponsors of the 2015 Hackaday Prize. Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, Mouser, and Texas Instruments have all signed on in supporting this mission.

Individuals, Colleges, Hackerspaces, and Startups

If you just don’t want to go-it alone, get your team excited. After all, it was a team that won the Grand Prize last year. SatNOGS transformed the cash-option of $196,418 into a jumpstart for a foundation to carry the project forward. Get the boss on board by touting the notoriety your company will get from showing off their engineering prowess. Or help build your resume by herding your college buddies into some brainstorming session. And the Best Product prize is perfect for Startups who want to show off their builds.


Joining the Judging Panels this year are Akiba (Freaklabs), Pete Dokter (Sparkfun), Heather Knight (Marilyn MonRobot), Ben Krasnow (GoogleX & host of Applied Science on YouTube), Lenore Edman & Windell Oskay (Evil Mad Scientist Labs), and Micah Scott (Scanlime).

Our returning judges are Limor “Ladyada” Fried (Adafruit), Jack Ganssle (Ganssle Group, & The Embedded Muse), Dave Jones (EEVBlog), Ian Lesnet (Dangerous Prototypes), and Elecia White (Logical Elegance).

You can read all of the judge bios and find social media and webpage links for them on our Judges page. We are indebted to these industry experts for sharing their time and talent to make the Hackaday Prize possible.

Tell Everyone

We don’t ask often: please tell everyone you know about the 2015 Hackaday Prize! Social media share icons are just above the image at the top of this post. Submit this page or the prize page (http://hackaday.io/prize) to all your favorite sites. No hacker should get through this day without hearing about #HackadayPrize and we can’t reach total media saturation without your help. Thanks in advance!


Don’t wait, put up an idea right now and tag it with “2015HackadayPrize”. We’re sending out swag for early ideas that help get the ball rolling. And as you flesh out your plans you could score prizes to help build the prototype like PCBs, 3D prints, laser cutting, etc. Make it to the finals and you’ll be looking at the five top prizes we mentioned earlier. A simple idea can change the world.


86 thoughts on “2015 Hackaday Prize: Build Something That Matters

  1. It was interesting watching the entrants for the original Hackaday prize as to how many were actually on this same theme (making the ‘world’ better and not just for yourself).
    So kudos to put it front and centre this time :-)

    1. As I recall the announcement for the first contest had the high bar for winning the grand prize, it had to be something with the potential of being a game changer was clearly stated. I can’t recall the actual text and “game changer” is my characterization of message I received from reading the announcement of the first contest.

    1. I would assume it’s something to do with rules for contests in different countries.

      Here’s the reason anyone in Italy can’t enter: To run a contest in Italy, you need a server in a notary public’s office. If the server goes down, we would be fined a ludicrous amount – 50,000 euros or something for every five minutes the server is down. Quebec is similarly weird, and I don’t know how Tim Horton’s can do the ‘roll up the rim’ contest in the province.

      1. That’s crazy! And this is not the first international contest I’ve seen Italy in a “ban-list”, now I understand.
        By the way, was Italy excluded in 2014 HaD Prize too? Or in smaller contests, like Trinket everyday or sci-fi contest?

          1. I sure hope it wasn’t – I won the trinket contest! :P
            BTW, I’ll enter the prize too; I’m an hacker after all, I’ll figure a way around the rules! Like, if I win the grand prize (spoiler: I won’t), I’ll just move to a civilized country.

          2. I Agree with you, sadly I still wish to partecipate to the contest this year but I’m italian and I can’t. Unfortunately as Brian has reported I cannot be envolved directly. Is there someone (from another country) with a spare working slot for me ? I’d like to help or be involved in something

            mail/message me if you’re interested


          3. Brian, after the ban from last year I pushed the Make in Italy Foundation into fixing this problem. After launching a petition on Change.org, the government published an official note that clarifies Italian law about contests. For a contest like yours, those strict requirements DO NOT APPLY. This is the official text from the government (section 3):

            Basically, we got the government to write this because of the ban from Hackaday. :)
            So there’s no reason for banning Italy anymore. I really hope that you can reopen the contest to our large maker and hacker community (Italy’s the third country for number of FabLabs, and it hosts the largest MakerFaire in the world after SF and NYC). We really want to build something that matters, and the government removed the obstacle. Unban us! :)

      2. The Quebec laws for contests require the people organizing a contest to pay the applicable rights, but also to give bond for the amount of a prize if either it is over 5000$ (CDN), if the total amount of money for the prizes distributed in Quebec is over 20k , the people having the contest don’t have a head office in the province, or they have been found guilty of breaking the law in accordance to making contests. It is easier to find information in french on the subject, but here is an official link , but it seems to be missing a lot of information found in the french version (maybe its just truncated in pieces, I didn’t look further).

        English : http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=3&file=/L_6/L6R6_A.HTM

        French : http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=2&file=/L_6/L6.html

        So, unless you are reaching to just about everybody in our society, international contests usually don’t get to happen here in Quebec, because the requirements are just too much of a hassle, they always “exclude Quebec”

      3. Er, but you’re not running anything in Italy. If a bunch of Italians were smart enough to win I’m sure they would be smart enough to figure out a way to deal with things.

      4. What about Spain ?
        Is there any issue to participate in the contest from Spain ? or a spanish hacker/s to participate on the contest?
        Curious about it too.
        I just mention the contest in some tweet with HackadayPrize hashtag and those were deleted from the list…

        1. Spain’s cool. Send it on in. Here’s the ‘countries banned list’, as of right now: Quebec, Italy, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar (formerly Burma), North Korea, Sudan, Syria.

          Italy is a maybe. Give the lawyers a week or two.

          As far as the tweet getting deleted, there was some argument over if we should use #HackadayPrize or #2015HackadayPrize. That’s our fault that was deleted, but meh, hashtag management

          1. That’s cool too!!
            I know some people in Spain willing to participate in the contest.
            I offer myselft to translate rules or other stuff related to the contest to spanish in case you need it. Thus you will get more participants for sure.

        1. And the $197k prise goes to….

          Gravis, for a method to use Gaffer tape to fix all the trade embargos, press embargo, back lumbagos, arms embargos, and leg embargos of the world.

          Given the inevitable surge in development within any economy under heavy embargo, many fledgeling sub-saharan democratic press companies will surely soon arise.


      1. Hi, I’m the author of the article. I never had an embargo, because I never got an official mail or press material from Hackaday directly. Announcements about the price could be found on different blogs already a day before March 10. The rest was a little bit of journalistic craftsmanship.

    I’m glad you made such a prize and that people will receive funding for their journey. I know things can get costly pretty quickly.
    “This year we want to see that journey.”
    I hope that was the case for the Mooltipass. It’s too bad we didn’t receive a cent from HaD for our many expenses before succeeding on Indiegogo.

  3. I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed with this theme. It’s like when Ludum Dare had “minimalism” as its theme — it added nothing, because minimalism is implied in games that you create single-handedly over a weekend. I think it’s the same with our projects. Everyone of us hopes that our invention will somehow someday make the world a better place (except for the rare real visionaries among us, who hope to destroy it). It’s obvious and implied. So now what we are facing is basically an empty sheet of paper. The most scary thing ever. No theme. No constraints you could work with. And no grounding, to get rid of the most insane and unworkable ideas early. Also remember, that simple soap changed more in the human history and saved more lives, than the moon landing. Mundane, everyday things always have a chance of greater impact, even though it’s hard to judge them as revolutionary at the beginning.

      1. Could you please state what was the theme?
        After reading the rules, it seems like someone can enter in the competition either with a Dark Matter processor or a Cow Washing machine, or whatever.

        Sorry for pressing, by mistake, the “Report comment” instead of the “Reply” button.

          1. [deshipu] didn’t look over your shoulder, [Alexander Merz] found your idea on blogs a day before you even thought of it. Fear not, [Gravis] is on his way over to your house with duct tape.

        1. The rules say: “The purpose of the Contest is to encourage Participants to come up with a project that helps to solve a problem faced by a large number of people.”

          If you read that carefully, you will notice several things:

          * The problem that your project has to solve has to be faced by a large number of people.
          * It doesn’t have to be a particularly big, urgent or important problem.
          * Your project doesn’t have to solve it for all those people. It’s enough if it solves it, say, for you.
          * While the website suggests pollution, food and energy, the rules don’t actually limit you that way.

          Furthermore, the Stage 2 mentions rating criteria: “(1) completion of entry requirements, (2) quality of submission as benchmarked against a sample created by the Hackaday team, and (3) the project’s “cool factor” or how appealing, innovative and generally cool the project is.”

          Again, no mention of importance of the problem or the effectiveness of solving it.

          Now, at Stage 3 you have seven evenly weighted criteria:

          1. How “Open” is the design?
          2. “Wow” factor: is the entry innovative, is the build impressive?
          3. Does the entry address a wide-ranging problem?
          4. Is the project reproducible and could the work be extended for other uses?
          5. Is the entry innovative?
          6. Is the entry usable in the real world?
          7. Will others want to continue perfecting on this well-documented idea?

          Note that it still doesn’t mention importance of the problem or effectiveness of solving it. Point 3 only requires that the problem is common. Point 6 kinda grounds you a little, requiring that your solution is usable, but again doesn’t say anything about applicability of your solution to the wide population — only the problem has to be common.

          Finals use the same criteria, so nothing changes. Maybe the organizers could clarify if I’m wrong anywhere?

  4. You are being asked to login because fake@fake.com is used by an account you are not logged into now.
    By logging in you’ll post the following comment to 2015 Hackaday Prize: Build Something that Matters:

    I think it’s kind of sad that (like last time) a cash prize is offered in lieu of a space prize if the winner wants. It basically guarantees that no one will ever take the space prize, because the space trip can’t be shared.

    All else equal, an individual will not be able to compete with a team because they can’t put in the man hours and don’t have multiple specialties. So, the second a cash prize (which can be shared) is offered, you’ve basically told any individual (especially any individual who is passionate about winning a trip to space) that they’re going to be sitting at the kids table while bigger teams actually compete.

    Marketing-wise, since the contest is a promotion, you’ve kinda shot yourselves in the foot too. “Guy wins trip into space” is a story that would spread around the world multiple times over. It’s a big story before the contest. It’s a big story when someone wins. It’s a big story to interview the winner and have him/her talk about how excited they are to go to space. It’s a big story before and during his actual flight. It’s a big story after to have a “How was it” interview. The guy will do an AMA “My design to change the world won a contest and I got to go to space as my prize. AMA!”. This versus, “Some nerds won some money for a thing that’s difficult to explain”… which is why no other media gave a shit about the Hackaday prize last year.

    Too… someone who can spend a year trying to win a prize is probably not all that wealthy, and it would be hard to turn down $200,000 for a very brief vacation. So even if an individual did win, they’d probably be hard to then choose to spend $200,000 on a flight.

    So for all those reasons, it’s a virtual certainty that no one will ever go to space, and no individual will win. It’ll be bigger teams playing. Might as well not dangle the carrot of “A Trip To Space” when you’ve all but mathematically eliminated it by the design of the contest.

    … That said, on the flip side, since you’ve encouraged bigger teams to build, the actual entries are also somewhat guaranteed to be better and more developed.

      1. I suspected as much. It’s just, like I said, sad, because that has mostly negative consequences to the nature of the contest. I want to see a nerd go to space for building crap in his basement. That’s… the dream for all of us.

        Many contests I see having words that go something like “Prize not redeemable for cash” or something like that but that’s probably a jurisdictional thing too.

        I presume as well that the prize must have an equivalent cash prize, you can’t just say “The winner gets an all expense trip paid to low earth orbit, or $13.37 in cash.”? :P

        I suppose this all hinges on “winners” not having to declare taxes on the value of the winnings? Else, Hackaday could just choose to give any stranger any amount they want, for any reason they want. Call it a “competition” instead of a “contest” if the latter has special legal meaning.

        Or, something like, Hackaday makes a donation to the agency that’ll do the flight, who will then fly the person for free, and Hackaday just decides who competes. Or, set up a Hackaday charitable foundation to do it. Etc etc.

        Seems like there has to be some way of hacking a legal solution out of the various legal frameworks. I’m sure all contest competitors would be fine knowing they were not directly legally entitled to any winnings.

        Perhaps I’m wrong, but, it seems that if you ran this contest for 50 years, 0/50 winners would ever go to space. It’s probably not possible to win alone, and it’s probably not sensible to spend $200k on a vacation if you do. Supposing you rephrase the prize choice as “You just won $200,000. Would you like to spend all of it on 1 trip to space, or would you like to pay off your school debt/mortgage, take a world tour, buy a Ferrari, save your uncle who needed surgery from bankruptcy… etc?” Since pretty much no one except the already-rich would ever decide to spend a $200,000 windfall on a spaceflight… it’s kinda like… what’s the point of even mentioning it as the prize?

    1. I’m glad there’s a cash option. I’m 54, and while I’m in pretty good health, I am pretty sure that I would not pass a pre-flight physical that must be required before space flight. What’s more most of the hackers/makers that I know have certainly (like me) spent MUCH MUCH more time in the shop than in the gym.

  5. I suspect I might have a workaround for those wishing to enter from countries that are banned. If we offered an alternative prize of a golden cornflake in those countries, with an unwritten “Gentleman’s agreement” that if the winner is from one of those countries, they can visit HAD towers and exchange their cornflake.

    We have to value the cornflake at a notional 1 Eurocent, or 1 Canadian cent since that will be the liability in Italy or Quebec or whatever. Enter from one of these countries and you don’t win the main prize, just the golden cornflake for *something else*.

    One for the HAD legal team. I’m sure they will have a good legal reason why this won’t work…. but then again, why do we pay them the big bucks… may must be able to work something out.

  6. Are there smaller prizes like last year (top 50 got 1000 USD of components or something?
    ) that was my drive for entering last time because I didn’t think my idea was worth the top prize but it was worth entering as I thought my chances were good for a decent runners up prize!

    1. From the entry round description “You have until mid-August to submit your official entry but there are prizes available for those that share their work early. We’ll be assembling “Hot Lists” to highlight the best work in many different areas. We will also have Community Voting. Both will help your build with prizes that help you spin PCBs and order parts.”

    1. Lol sorry if that sounds a bit harsh. I’m super keen for the prize though!! Thats just my pessimistic opinion on what it will take to significantly improve the way things are.

      1. I have to agree, but thinking about it, in the most sarcastic way, perhaps someone should enter the contest with the “Futurama suicide booth”. (<- joke, but very black humor)

    2. Well, so how do you get better people, politics and a banking system? One way is to improve the ones that we already have. So how can you improve them? One tool that you are going to need for that is a way to measure if a certain change is an improvement or not (preferably even before you actually make that change). If you could come up with such a tool, I’m sure the improvement is just a matter of time.

        1. Or just eats statistics and displays them in a form that is easy to understand by the voters, so that they can work on improving the politics more easily, instead of having to rely on the campaign propaganda.

  7. “serious issues facing humanity”? A good cheap Arduino controlled uranium centrifuge would help solve some of them.

    oh, stop crying, the disassembler nanites will hear you.

  8. Is it me, or does it seem like you guys was doing a Tatooine (Star Wars) reference? If so, how cool would it be for the winning entry was a small-scale solar powered desalination plant? Coastal moisture farming FTW.

  9. Greatest problems the world faces are as always politicians and religion.

    So for a technical solution.. I guess it’s an arduino controlled trapdoor in front of the places those gather?

  10. Perhaps it’s just me, but I can’t help but feel that taking a personal trip to space for making something to ‘solve serious issues facing humanity’ would be a bit inappropriate. I think it would send a much better message if the winner(s) took the prize money instead and put it toward the development and distribution of their product. Ideally every last cent! One thing the world really needs is more people who will sacrifice their own good fortune to improve the fortunes of others.

    1. Thats exactly what the grand prize winners, SatNOGs, did last year. They setup a non-profit foundation and put the money into it to drive the project forward. Great bunch of guys and exactly what we wanted from the first year winners!

  11. Damn, I really need to study material science and figure out to make P-type and N-type using just carbon. That way, instead of trying to shove the carbon in the ground, we could make something useful out of it like electronic devices (Carbonics). Add in carbon nano-tubes and diamond-based substrates, we would be able to use air itself as a source of building material while reducing air pollution. Or am I crazy?

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