Today’s Challenge Is All About Work-From-Home Life

You sure do learn a lot when life suddenly makes it impossible to go into the office and asks that you instead do the same work remotely. Sure, there are the obvious challenges like needing a device to do the work on and an internet connection that’s not going to melt down when family or roommates are trying to Zoom at the same time as you one-on-one with the boss. But there’s way more to it. The Refresh Work-From-Home Life challenge takes this on as the next phase of the Hackaday Prize gets under way this morning.

If the global pandemic caused you to find yourself working from home, I’m sure it’s been quite a ride. Maybe you learned what your spine feels like after hunching over a MacBook in bed for 40 hours. Others discovered that the commute had been silently serving as a power-down sequence for your “work brain” — without it you never stopped thinking about, or more likely worrying about, work. And without that change in venue, it’s far too easy to feel like you were now living at work. So let’s invent the things that can make us productive from home while maintaining physical health and preserving our sanity.

Ten entries in this challenge will be awarded with $500 and ushered into the final round where the grand prize of $25,000 and four other top prizes await. What kind of things are we looking for? The best ideas are the ones we haven’t had yet, but I can spitball a bit to get things rolling.

Mirror with a bracket turns a laptop webcam into an overhead project for Zoom classrooms

Furniture and other infrastructure can be a real sore-spot when not a good fit. We’d love to see your design that uses a single sheet of plywood (I know, those cost a bazillion dollars these days but just go with it) to build an adjustable workspace that fits your chair height and needs. Bonus points for one that folds away at quitting time to reassure you that work is done!

Office interruptions from co-works sometimes feel like a distraction. But without them you might not get your body moving for hours on end… not good for you! Design an assistant that watches for your poor sedentary habits and sasses you until you take some time to stretch your old bones. Or show off the gadgets that make living the digital nomad life easier like the awesome document camera hacks we saw from teachers when classrooms were closed last year.

Show off your proof of concept by starting a project page on Hackaday.io and using the dropdown in the left sidebar to enter it into the 2021 Hackaday Prize. You can continue to update it until judging begins at the end of July.

We’re already living in the future. Working or learning remotely is a big part of that. Let’s bend our homes and our habits to find a better way to do it!

2021 Hackaday Prize: Rethink, Refresh, And Rebuild

The 2021 Hackaday Prize begins right now. Tap into your creativity and build your piece of a better future on the topics of supportive technology, everyday robotics, imaginative displays, and work-from-home innovations.

Now in its eighth year, the Hackaday Prize is a global engineering initiative that seeks out new and interesting uses of electronics and other technologies with an eye toward open source/open hardware and a goal of getting your creations out into the world.

The grand prize winner will receive $25,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab. In addition to top prizes for the second through fifth place winners, 50 finalists will each receive a $500 prize. But you don’t need to win the Hackaday Prize to take something away. This is your calling: spend time working on those abstract ideas and figuring out how they will fit into life tomorrow, next month, or next decade. Whether it changes peoples’ lives or just brings a smile to a few faces, every interesting step forward is an example where people had ideas so crazy they actually worked. Let’s get in on that!

There are five categories to target with your builds. If you have an idea kicking around, you can probably enter it this year.

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New Contest: Reinvented Retro

There are so many ways to make things look awesome by pulling inspiration from great retro hardware. And combining today’s futuristic functionality with yesterday’s lines, colors, and kitsch is the quick path to a winning combination. So why not give it a try and show us what you got? That’s the gist of Hackaday’s Reinvented Retro Contest which begins right now and runs through June.

The is a very cool Roku

This smart TV should help get you thinking in a retro-modern way. You’d never know it wasn’t stock… except when it starts streaming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier via the Roku hidden inside. Fit and finish on this one is spectacular and that woodgrain remote is a piece of artwork!

So what will it be? Keurig in a 1960’s Perculator? Desk lamp in a rotary telephone? GHz oscilloscope where a CRT used to live? Perhaps a Raspberry Pi laptop in a 1990’s form-factor? You get to decide what “Retro” means, just make sure you thoroughly show off the build!

Digi-Key is sponsoring this contest and there are $200 shopping sprees from their warehouse up for grabs for each of three top winners. Make a project page over on Hackaday.io and use the “Submit project to…” dropdown in the left side bar to enter it in the Reinventing Retro Contest.

Winners Of Hackaday’s Data Loggin’ Contest: Bluetooth Gardening, Counting Cups, And Predicting Rainfall

The votes for Hackaday’s Data Loggin’ Contest have been received, saved to SD, pushed out to MQTT, and graphed. Now it’s time to announce the three projects that made the most sense out of life’s random data and earned themselves a $100 gift certificate for Tindie, the Internet’s foremost purveyor of fine hand-crafted artisanal electronics.

First up, and winner of the Data Wizard┬ácategory, is this whole-garden soil moisture monitor by [Joseph Eoff]. You might not realize it from the picture at the top of the page, but lurking underneath the mulch of that lovely garden is more than 20 Bluetooth soil sensors arranged in a grid pattern. All of the data is sucked up by a series of solar powered ESP32 access points, and ultimately ends up on a Raspberry Pi by way of MQTT. Here, custom Python software generates a heatmap that indicates possible trouble spots in the garden. With its easy to understand visualization of what’s happening under the surface, this project perfectly captured the spirit of the category.

Next up is the Nespresso Shield from [Steadman]. This clever gadget literally listens for the telltale sounds of the eponymous coffee maker doing its business to not only estimate your daily consumption, but warn you when the machine is running low on water. The clever non-invasive method of pulling data from a household appliance made this a strong entry for the Creative Genius category.

Last but certainly not least is this comprehensive IoT weather station that uses machine learning to predict rainfall. With crops and livestock at risk from sudden intense storms, [kutluhan_aktar] envisions this device as an early warning for farmers. The documentation on this project, from setting up the GPRS-enabled ESP8266 weather station to creating the web interface and importing all the data into TensorFlow, is absolutely phenomenal. This project serves as a invaluable framework for similar DIY weather detection and prediction systems, which made it the perfect choice for our World Changer category.

There may have only been three winners this time around, but the legendary skill and creativity of the Hackaday community was on full display for this contest. A browse through the rest of the submissions is highly recommended, and we’re sure the creators would love to hear your feedback and suggestions in the comments.

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Winners Of Hackaday’s Earth Day Contest: Solar LIC, Auto-Return Parafoil, & Water Flowmeter

Winners have just been announced for Hackaday’s Earth Day Challenge. We were on the lookout for projects that raise awareness of environmental issues and are happy to celebrate three top winners. Each have won a $200 shopping spree from Digi-Key who sponsored this contest.

Pictured above is the Open Flow Meter by [Eben]. The build includes sensors that are submerged into a river or stream to gauge the speed at which the water is moving. It uses a commodity plumbing flow volume sensor to help reduce costs, adding an Arduino and touch screen for reading the sensors and providing a UI to the user.

High-altitude balloons are used for air quality and weather sensing. To make those sensor packages more reusable, [Hadji Yohan] has been working on a parachute recovery system that automatically returns to a set GPS point. It’s a parafoil with auto-pilot!

Power harvesting is a fascinating and tricky game. To help ease the transition away from batteries, [Jasper Sikken] developed a solar harvesting module that charges a Lithium Ion Capacitor (LIC) from a very small solar panel. Based around a 100 uF 30 F capacitor, it uses an AEM10941 energy harvesting chip which includes Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) to utilize the solar panel as efficiently as possible. The fully charged module can output regulated 2.2 V and is aimed at distributed sensor packages that can be run without any battery at all.

Congratulations to these three top finishers, as well as the b-parasite capacitive soil moisture sensor which was named as a runner up in the contest. There were 72 entries in this challenge so don’t forget to take a look at the entire field, and leave a comment on the ones that catch your eye to let them know we all love seeing details of great builds!

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Earth Day Challenge: A Better Way To Wrangle Water

How far do you have to go for a glass of clean water? Not very? Just go to a sink and turn on the faucet? We would venture to guess that is the case for most Hackaday readers. Maybe you even have a water softener, or a filter on your tap to make your drinking water even more palatable and free of heavy metal.

In Ethiopia and many other countries, people do not have access to clean, flowing water and must walk several kilometers to fetch it from somewhere that does. And they’re not doing this on paved roads, either — these women are cutting treacherous paths across mountains and through muddy, rocky terrain that make wheeled transport nearly impossible. How do you comfortably lug around 25 kg (~55 lbs) worth of sloshing water? You don’t, unless you have [Anteneh Gashaw]’s ingenious jerrycan.

As you can see in the video below, the current crop of jerrycans are just big plastic jugs that have to be carried on top of the head or the shoulder, both of which are bad for bodies. [Anteneh]’s can evenly distributes the weight by wrapping it completely around the person carrying it and suspending it from both shoulders like a beer-and-peanuts vendor’s carrying case. Basically, it’s a PVC inner tube with shoulder straps. Simple, cheap, and effective = absolute genius in our book. Ideally, everyone would have free access to clean water, both cold and hot. Until that time, [Anteneh]’s entry into our Earth Day Challenge is a great workaround that will no doubt save a lot of spines.

Potable water may be closer than you think. Build a portable potability predictor and you might not have to travel so far.

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New Contest: Data Loggin’

What are we gonna’ do with all this data? Let’s make it something fun! That’s the point of the just-launched Data Loggin’ contest. Do something clever to automatically log a data set and display it in an interesting way. Three winners will each receive a $100 Tindie gift certificate for showing off an awesome project.

One year of baby sleep patterns encoded by @Lagomorpho in a knitted blanket.

Data logging is often an afterthought when working on a project, but the way you collect and store data can have a big effect on the end project. Just ask Tesla who are looking at a multi-thousand-dollar repair process for failing eMMC from too much logging. Oops. Should you log to an SD card? Internet? Stone tablets? (Yes please, we actually really want to see that for this contest.) Make sure to share those details so your project can be a template for others to learn from in the future.

Next, consider Schrodinger’s dataset: if the data is never used does it actually exist? Grab some attention with how you use this data. That automatic donut slicer you built can be used to slice up a tasty pie-chart of the minutes you spent on the elliptical this week. Your energy consumption can be plotted if you connect that OpenCV meter reader up to your favorite cloud service to visualize the data or a NodeRED dashboard if you’d rather keep things local. You could also make some of that data permanent, like this blanket that encoded baby’s sleep patterns in the colors.

You probably already have something harvesting data. Here’s the excuse you need to do something silly (or serious) with that data. Tells us about it by publishing a project page on Hackaday.io and don’t forget to use that “Submit Project To” menu to add it to the Data Loggin’ contest.