Challenge Accepted: Automation

Today marks the beginning of the Automation Challenge round for the 2016 Hackaday Prize. We want to see what you can create that automates life. It’s a terrifically fun jumping off point for a project, and done just right, it can score you some amazing prizes.

Technology can make life better and automation is one place that is about to see huge expansion. This is a chance to put your mark on the future by envisioning, prototyping, and explaining your ideas. The animated image at the top of this post is a perfect example of how fun automation builds can be. It’s the part of the Sunday Morning Breakfast Machine which steeps the tea. We covered this Rube-Goldberg like device a few weeks ago. About 1,000 hours went into building a completely automated breakfast machine.

Building something whimsical is fine for entering this round — a lot of discovery happens when having fun with interesting ideas. But there is plenty of room for serious builds as well. Technological development has always included iterating on automation; asking and answering the question of how can we do more with less effort.

AutomationFor instance, you can boil coffee in a pot but then you have to use some filtering technique to sequester the grounds. You can use a French press but that this hasn’t saved you much effort. So someone invented the percolator but you still must watch that you don’t burn your brew. From there we have espresso machines and drip brewers that both regulate how much water is used and at what temperature (in addition to keeping the grounds separate). And now we’re seeing single-unit machines like Nespresso and Keurig which make everything a one-step process, if you’re happy with the pods they sell you. I like to refill my own pods, which lets me choose my own grind. I’d love to see someone automate this entire process of cleaning, grinding, filling and presenting a reusable pod. That would make a great entry and help move more people away from disposable plastic/metal.

All I see when I look around me are ways that life should be more automated, and I bet you have the same proclivity. Now you have a reason to take on the challenge. Automate something and enter it in the Hackaday Prize. Twenty of those entries will be awarded $1,000 and move on to vie for the grand prize of $150,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, plus four other huge top prizes.

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10 thoughts on “Challenge Accepted: Automation

  1. I love your idea to automate the process of reusing pods for a machine like the Nespresso. I have always thought that those machines are a waste, but reusing the pods would make them totally worth it. I might have to do some hard thinking about that.

    1. Cool, can’t wait to see it!

      There are already slicer tools that will separate the top foil from Keurig pods. You dump out the contents into your compost, then recycle the plastic (foil to in some recycling program). It’d like to see Keurig move to shipping coffee bags (like a tea bag but with coffee and using bag material without plastic woven in) that just drop into a reusable strainer. This keeps the single serving convenience but can be composted and doesn’t require plastic waste for every cup.

      Oooh, this gives me another Hackaday Prize Entry idea: Build a machine that automatically makes coffee bags as I’ve just described. That would be epic!

      1. A lot of those tools can also be downloaded from thingiverse and 3d printed. There is also a company that makes eco friendly k cups. Almost like a tea bag with a plastic ring at the top that they say is compostable, paper covers not metal, and the plastic bags they come in is compostable also. They are also half the cost of other k-cups. San Francisco bay coffee.

      2. I was thinking more of a machine that uses those k-cup replacement things that are used for loose coffee and just automate the emptying and filling process. But I will be honest here, I will likely not get past the thinking phase. I don’t have time/space to do something like this at my current moment in life.

      3. One issue with coffee bags is that the grounds will get stale. When K-Cups are made, they’re nitrogen flushed and sealed against oxygen, light, and moisture to preserve freshness.

        Of course, if your machine is grinding and bagging right before brewing, then this becomes a non-issue.

  2. I was thinking of a “spot tracking system” who can follow and always give a good light on a person, without having zillions of light bulbs in our house. Since it’s the first time I’m thinking of joining this kind of event, and with the fact I’m a noob in this, can I make a try without disrupting the challenge ?

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