2018 Hackaday Prize: Build Hope. Design the Future.

Today the 2018 Hackaday Prize begins with a roar. This is our global engineering initiative with huge prizes for those hackers, designers, and engineers who want to use their skill and energy to build something that matters. This year, we challenge you to Build Hope. Show the world the amazing ways technology enriches humanity, and that its benefits can be shared by all.

There is over $200,000 in cash prizes headed to the most interesting hardware builds of the year. With plenty of room for great ideas, the top 100 entries will each receive a $1,000 cash prize and continue the build to final judging. The top five entries will be awarded a $50,000 Grand Prize, and $20,000, $15,000, $10,000, and $5,000 for 2nd through 5th places. We even have some additional seed funding set aside to help early entries to get started.

What is Building Hope?

It feels like there is a steady drumbeat of doom and gloom surrounding technology these days. We hear this foretold in many ways, things like robots rising up to enslave humanity, artificial intelligence and big data being used to manipulate people, and quantum computing on the horizon that will invalidate cryptographic security. Our challenge? Get in there and show the incredible good that technology can do in the world.

Design something that shows the benefits of using knowledge and creativity to solve a problem. Be the shining light that proves our future is full of hope because smart people care about what happens in the world and to the people who live here. It is our responsibility as those who understand powerful technologies to show the best ways they can be used to build up humanity. This is your chance.

Build Hope. Design the Future.

Five Challenges to Choose From

We have five challenge categories to choose from in the 2018 Hackaday Prize. The top twenty entries from each category will receive $1,000 and continue work in order to compete for the top prizes.

2018 Hackaday Prize Challenges

Open Hardware Design Challenge:

This is the challenge you should enter right now. Choose a challenge facing the world today and design the best plan possible for the boldest solution you can envision.

Over the years we’ve seen thousands of Hackaday Prize entries that take on farming, transportation, pollution, safety, scientific research, education, and assistive technologies like custom prosthetics, innovative wheelchairs, and braille interfaces for smartphones. There’s plenty in the world that needs solving and you have the talent to do it!

Robotics Module Challenge:

Build a module that makes it easier to put together advanced robots. Show your designs for the parts that others can build on.

Power Harvesting Challenge:

Build a module that harvests ambient power. Show how we can reduce or remove batteries from more devices.

Human Computer Interface Challenge:

Build an innovative interface for humans to talk to machines or machines to talk to humans. Break down more barriers to make devices more intuitive and natural to use.

Musical Instrument Challenge:

Be creative with this round and build a module, interface, or full instrument that evolves or goes far beyond modern music instrumentation.

Seed Funding For Early Entries

Itching to build something? Get a boost on your material budget by securing a bit of seed funding. Enter your design in the first challenge and pack it with as much information as possible. Each “like” that you get from the Hackaday.io community translates to $1 in seed funding. We have $4000 set aside with a max of $200 per entry. You can follow progress by checking the leaderboard on the Hackaday Prize page.

2018 Hackaday Prize Celebrity Judges

Incredible Judges

The Hackaday Prize has something really special in the judges that volunteer their time and talent to review the 100 finalists. They are accomplished engineers working, researching, and forging ahead to new frontiers in technology. Learn more about the judges on the Hackaday Prize page.

Get Started at World Create Day

This coming Saturday is Hackaday World Create Day, and the perfect time to get started with your Hackaday Prize entry. Stop by a meetup in your area (or host your own) and put your heads together and pick the design challenge you want to work on. We love seeing collaborative entries and this is a great chance to build your engineering dream team.

Five Years of Amazing Engineering

Thousands of entries have been submitted to the Hackaday Prize over the years. Founded in 2014 by Supplyframe CEO Steve Flagg, the Hackaday Prize is now in its fifth year. The challenges change each year, but the goal remains the same: to Build Something That Matters. We are consistently amazed both by the quality of the solutions, and the uncovering of new and interesting problems targeted by the entries.

Studying earth’s oceans is increasingly important be it due to climate change or pollution. Alex Williams was awarded the 2017 Hackaday Prize for his Open Source Underwater Glider, a suite of sensors built into a cleverly low-power underwater autonomous vehicle. In 2016, Alberto Molina took the top spot for DTTO, a modular robotics system made up of multiple single-hinge segments that can reorient themselves. A team working toward an eye-controlled electric wheelchair placed first in 2015 for Eyedriveomatic — a solution that improved life for two of the team members with Motor Neuron Disease, (also called ALS). And the recipients of the first Hackaday Prize were recognized for their team’s development of a network of satellite ground stations (SatNOGS) which anyone can build, add to the network, and share time on to communicate with satellites as they make their orbit. This is an important tool to make low-cost research for things like Cubesats possible, and the network has been growing ever since.

If you feel the need for more inspiration, take a few minutes to look over the Hackaday Prize hall of fame of all of the top finishers through the years.

These are impressive ideas that began with the basic question of how can we do better? A simple idea can change the world but only if you share that idea and work to make it grow. Enter yours in the Hackaday Prize now!

50 thoughts on “2018 Hackaday Prize: Build Hope. Design the Future.

  1. Would be interested in a followup article about how the prior four winners (and runners up) have been able to use the prize and possibly recognition to “build something that matters”. Unclear what that exactly means though?

    1. At a guess, I’d say that it means to build something that has a lasting and positive impact on society.

      Many of the entered projects take their best shot at doing exactly that.

      And note that the HAD prize has only been going on for a couple of years (2018 is the 5th?), and they have been finding their way during that time. For example, IIRC the 1st prize was to build something “connected”, and was a single prize, which probably excluded a fair chunk of the community. The newer prizes are more flexible and embrace a wider scope.

      Some might view it worthless because it hasn’t made a notable impact, but note that they only have to have high impact *once* for this to be an outstanding success and worth the rest of the money.

      The experiment is ongoing.

      (And the cynic in me notes that the prize gives HAD a steady supply of projects for articles for 3/4 of the year, and promotes the HAD brand and hacker community in a positive way. If the site takes in $14K/month in revenue, then the prize pays for itself.)

      Footnote: The Satnogs project (https://satnogs.org/), the 2014 prize winner, is ongoing and making a positive impact on society, albeit a small one.

      1. “At a guess, I’d say that it means to build something that has a lasting and positive impact on society.”

        Same problem as bug bounties. More money the honest way, or the big business way? The feel goods of giving away the cure for all cancers, or the feeling really really bad of selling it on the market. ;-)

      2. Not suggesting that the prize winners have not had any impact, just curious if there has been any followup on them and runners up since then is all. I have not really followed this competition in detail.

    2. The most powerful impact will be seen IMO as a long term effect, by creating a strong community of future makers and entrepreneurs.

      These hackaday.com and hackaday.io webpages are the seeds that will grow into the today’s and tomorrow’s elite technologists & creators.

      1. This is my view as well. I often look at all of the new tools that have become available over the last 10 or so years. In about 15-20 years the kids who had access to free or inexpensive software tools and affordable electronics and fabrication hardware will be at the age where they’ll be running engineering departments. This is a really exciting thought.

        Hackaday Prize is one way to help encourage that. Show what we can do because we want to and we think it’s important and we are role models and provide a roadmap for others to do so themselves.

    1. Your comment is quite insightful. The obvious implication of the words in the post is that there is nothing at all pessimistic or cynical happening in tech, but rather, pessimistic cynicism is currently a popular conversation subject. A joke would seem to elevate the conversation, unfortunately.

      But ultimately talking is not actually technology, even when we do in on the internet. The technology itself doesn’t seem to have changed in an obvious way from last year. “Silicon Valley” was trying to make money, not make the world a better place, in the same way in the past year as the year before. Did they use PR words about how virtuous they are? Sure, of course. But PR not being literally true does not imply that people trying to make the world a better place have failed, actually it doesn’t even seem to notice if they did anything or not! lol Or even if they exist, or who they are… sad really, since at hackaday there is probably one of them sitting in the HTTP request to your left or right.

      Luckily the quest to be known as Virtuous can benefit efforts to make the world a better place through the hackaday prize, and that remains true even if everybody involved only care about signaling! That’s the power of competition, and prizes. The judges only get their Virtue Points if they pick virtuous winners, so the loop eventually closes in a positive way.

  2. While a handful of the judges are familiar, I have personally used some of Kawbena’s quality code in the form of Parallax Propeller Objects. I was unaware that he’s now working for Planet Labs. Pretty cool!

    1. The Open Hardware Design Challenge (right now) could be considered an open entry round. The challenge is to show a the best design process possible but doesn’t have a theme constraint beyond that. 20 entries will go onto the finals and for finals judging you will need to build a prototype.

    1. Yeah, I’m hoping this doesn’t continue for too long. Pretty annoying, especially since it doesn’t remember your choice to skip it (or even that you’ve already seen it).

    1. They used all the popular weird continuous HTML blahblah instead of just using a traditional user interface.

      If you’re using a regular browser with javascript turned on, and not some sort of “accessible” this for sub-citizens, then you could hold the mouse over a picture and the picture disappears and it says some words about the person. So you still don’t get to see a person’s picture next to their bio, you get to see their bio next to somebody else’s picture.

      Hackaday is big business but they still use wordpress, they don’t have web programmers, so there is not really much they could hope to do to get a quality user interface.

  3. “…As a condition of participation in the Contest, Participant grants Sponsor, its affiliates, subsidiaries, agents, and advertising partners, a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, adapt, modify, publish, distribute, publicly perform, create a derivative work from, and publicly display, in any and all media (now known or later developed), submissions (including, without limitation, videos) (1) for the purposes of reviewing, assessing, testing, and evaluating the submission in connection with the Contest; (2) for the purpose of promoting the Project Content and/or the Contest to members of the hackaday.io community or others; and (3) in connection with advertising and promotion for the benefit of Sponsor, the judges and any advertising partners associated with hackaday.io or the Contest. Participant agrees to sign any additional waivers, licenses or releases that Sponsor reasonably requests in order to make use of the rights granted herein.

    1. Shorter:
      1) If it isn’t open source some people can still copy you, so make your project open source so it won’t matter!
      2) You have to let them use your project media in the contest advertisements, because duh.

      In the end those terms only matter to people who want to make something proprietary, and also win design contests for it. It is silly though, why would there be prizes for that? Surely it has to be useful to other people to be worthy of a prize; the sponsors using it would be the minimum possible set of people you’d have to make it useful to. But they’re not doing it for design access, because most designs are open source, so they actually just need you to open source it so that if you win they get more Virtue Points as a sponsor.

    2. Like TGT said above “I think we learned from silicon valley what happens when we try to make the world a better place.”.

      Well, It doesn’t get more silicon-valley than this. A very dirty game masqueraded in benevolence. But if you buy into what they’re selling, don’t cry when they laugh all the way to the bank.

    1. In the case of TI, I’m assuming that 10k other people besides me went to their website and asked for samples for use in their design, and they realized they weren’t going to get a lot of sales just a lot of disgruntled people who don’t like being solicited to ask for samples on the website and then told “no.” I get the impression the only reason they even have an “independent designer” field in the sample request form is so flag you as a “no.”

      On the engineering side they are really friendly to independents, they have good driver libraries with good licenses, most of their stuff works in gcc, etc. But the business side doesn’t seem to feel the same way.

      Mouser probably can’t afford sponsorships because they lose so much money upgrading everybody’s shipping to 2 day, even though that screws up the delivery timing for some customers who don’t have a dedicated shipping department.

    2. “The Hackaday Prize
      Official Rules

      NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL NATIONAL, FEDERAL, STATE, PROVINCIAL, LOCAL, AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

      SPONSOR. The Contest is sponsored by Supply Frame, Inc. (“Sponsor”), 61 S Fair Oaks Ave Suite 200, Pasadena, CA 91105.

      ELIGIBILITY. Subject to the additional restrictions below, The Hackaday Prize (the “Contest”) is open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia…”

      Supply Frame “…still supporting…” the Hackaday Prize? Supply Frame owns Hackaday!

  4. …….nope, not this time. I will no longer give away my full projects for free, just to see unuseful stuff being forcefully worshiped.
    That smart kiddo, Errin Robot Girl, with her automatic environment cleaning robots gathering trash, she deserves the grand prise but hey…. the Kyoto treaty is no longer politically correct…

  5. There’s a genuine chance that this spurs someone to come up with something of actual importance at some point, something that goes on to make a real difference in people’s lives. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure the odds of that are less than me winning the lottery seven times in a row; so until evidence to the contrary, I’m staying firmly at “meh…”

  6. The best way to crush spirits is to set the bar so high, it can’t even be objectively measured. Building a competition around the concept of hope doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, even if I give marketing latitude for huffing their own kool-aid. Hack-a-day, what needs to happen for your team to take it down a notch or two?

  7. Shute. I had an idea for a project this year. But it’s just for fun and bling, with a sparkle on energy harvesting on top of it to fuel that fun. Nobody actually needs it and it definately would not help in inspiring any hope… Ah, well, guess i’ll have to work on it without getting any fame or glory, as usual…

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