LayerOne Hardware Hacking Village

Go to DEFCON and you’ll stand in line for five hours to get a fancy electronic badge you’ll be showing to your grandchildren some day. Yes, at DEFCON, you buy your hacker cred. LayerOne is not so kind to the technically inept. At LayerOne, you are given a PCB, bag of parts, and are told to earn your hacker cred by soldering tiny QFP and SOT-23 chips by hand. The Hardware Hacking Village at LayerOne was packed with people eagerly assembling their badge, or badges depending on how cool they are.

The badges are designed by [charlie x] of null space labs, one of the many local hackerspaces around the area. The design and construction of these badges were documented on the LayerOne Badge project on, and they’re probably best con badges we’ve ever seen.

There are two badges being distributed around LayerOne. The first is an extremely blinkey badge with a Cypress PSoC4 controlling 22 individually addressable RGB LEDs. Most conference attendees received a bare PCB and a bag of parts – the PCB will get you in the door, but if you want your nerd cred, you’ll have to assemble your own badge.

There are still a few interesting features for this badge, including an ESP8266 module that will listen to UDP packets and drive the LEDs. Yes, a random person on the same WiFi AP can control the LEDs of the entire conference event. The badges can also be chained together with just three wires, but so far no one has done this.

The Speaker and Staff badge, based on a VoCore

The second badge – for speakers and staff – is exceptionally more powerful. It’s a Linux box on a badge with two Ethernet connectors running OpenWRT. For a con badge, it’s incredibly powerful, but this isn’t the most computationally complex badge that has ever been at a LayerOne conference. For last year’s badge, [charlie] put together a badge with an FPGA, SAM7 microcontroller, SD card, and OLED display. They were mining Bitcons on these badges.

The Hardware Hacking Village was loaded up with a dozen or so Metcal soldering irons, binocular microscopes, and enough solder, wick, and flux to allow everyone to solder their badge together. Everyone who attempted it actually completed their badge, and stories of badge hacking competitions at other cons were filled with tales of people sprinkling components on random solder pads. Imagine: a conference where people are technically adept. Amazing.

10 thoughts on “LayerOne Hardware Hacking Village

  1. Solder stencils? 3D Microscrope? Sigh… what luxury..

    I’ve been dabbing my solder paste on with an X-Acto blade, using homemade flux and a 1.75x magnifier CFL lamp to work with the SMD components. I used a “mushed” toothpick wetted with flux to pick up and hold down the smallest parts.

    Not bragging, just lamenting at the luxuries there. :|

    1. the solder stencils you might be able to see are only for the LED’s , the LED’s were pick and placed for about half of the badges. then people hand soldered the rest of the parts, its a fine balance between people spending all day at the conference soldering on lots of parts, or spending an hour or so and then enjoying the fruits of the labour.

      most people are hand soldering one at a time, but can also learn how to stencil and hot plate.

      cut stencils out of mylar with your x-acto blade.

      the solder paste was “home made” too , its a special mix of paste and three types of flux.

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