Badges Of 2022: BornHack

While the rest of the world’s hacker camps shut their doors through the pandemic there was one which managed through a combination of careful planning and strict observation of social distancing to keep going. The Danish hacker community gather every August for BornHack, a small and laid-back event in a forest on the isle of Fyn that has us coming back for more every year. They always have an interesting badge thanks to the designs of [Thomas Flummer], and this year looks to be no exception as they’ve dropped some details of the upcoming badge.

In short, it’s a beautifully designed hand-held games console with a colour screen, powered by the ubiquitous-in-the-chip-shortage RP2040 microcontroller. On board are the usual interfaces and a prototyping area plus CircuitPython for easy coding, and we expect it to sprout some addictive and playable gaming action. It’s the sort of PCB that we could imagine coming as a product from the likes of Pimoroni, but for now the only way to get your hands on one is to go to the event. We’ll being you a review when we have one. Meanwhile you can take a look at a previous year’s badge.

The MCH2022 Badge Has Landed!

As spring slowly slides into summer here in Europe where this is being written, the warm weather is a reminder that on the horizon are the summer’s crop of hacker camps. The largest European one this year will be the Dutch MCH2022 near the end of July, and to whet our appetite they’ve made public some details of their badge. And true to the past form of Dutch camps, it’s rather an impressive build.

Since this is another piece of work from badge.team it has the expected ESP32 module, but alongside it on the elegantly-designed PCB there’s an RP2040 and a Lattice ICE40UP5K FPGA. The ESP is there to run the badge team firmware which even includes backwards compatibility with the original SHA2017 badge, the RP2040 ties everything together and provides a multitude of USB peripherals, and the FPGA is there to run user code. From the front, the badge has a Game Boy Advance-style form factor with a large colour TFT screen and the usual joystick and buttons. Other peripherals include a brace of addressable LEDs, a pair of nifty sensors from Bosch, and a 16-bit stereo audio channel that even powers a small onboard mono speaker when no headphones are connected.

The hardware may be slick, but it’s the badge.team firmware that makes this as special as all their previous offerings. It offers the chance to easily write apps either in MicroPython for the ESP32, or as payloads for the FPGA, and what makes it special is that it comes with an online app store from which all the apps can be downloaded. We’re told that it will be able to run a range of emulators out of the box, so we’re really looking forward to seeing the final version at the event. Meanwhile they’ve released a demo video that you can see below the break, and if you’re curious you can take a look at its SHA2017 badge ancestor.

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The 555 Gives The CarolinaCon Badge Life

For the electronic badge enthusiast, these last two years have seen something of a famine. While the pandemic may not be over yet, we’re learning to live with it in 2022, and there’s the prospect of a flush of new badges even if not all events are in-person yet. First to reach us is the Carolinacon Online 2 badge, a fairly simple affair which naturally has us pleased as punch because it incorporates the only chip that’s guaranteed to get you through the semiconductor shortage, an NE555 timer. It’s got everything, a flashing LED, and, well, that’s it because with the best will in the world a 555 is no powerhouse on its own. As a memento and a way to support the event it fits the bill, but it’s fair to say that this is no electronic tour de force.

Carolinacon Online 2 launches on Friday 29th of April, and features a schedule of talks and a set of merch including the badge. If you’re thinking of previous Carolinacon badges, this event has always taken the simple-but-effective route. The version they produced in 2021 for example had a hidden message behind the silkscreen, revealed through clever placement of LEDs controlled by an ATtiny microcontroller.

The SHA2017 Badge Just Keeps On Giving, This Time It’s A Solar Monitor

Regular readers will know that we have covered the world of electronic badges for many years, and nothing pleases us more than seeing an event badge having a life afterwards rather than becoming a piece of e-waste. Thus we were especially pleased to see [Angus Gratton]’s use of a SHA2017 badge as a solar output monitor, over four years after the event.

The SHA badge used an ESP32 as its processor, and paired it with a touch keypad and an e-ink screen. Its then novel approach of having a firmware that could load MicroPython apps laid the groundwork for the successful open source badge.team firmware project, meaning that it remains versatile and useful to this day.

The solar monitor simply grabs time-series information from the database used by his web graphing system and displays it on the e-ink screen in graph form, but the interest apart from the use of the badge in his treatise on MicroPython coding. He makes the point that many of us probably follow unconsciously, writing for full-fat Python and then fixing the parts which either don’t work or use too many resources on its slimmer cousin. Finally he powers the device from an old phone charger, and shares some tips on controlling its tendency to reboot on power spikes.

It’s almost a year ago that we showed you a SHA badge being used as an environmental sensor.

Thanks [Sebastius] for the tip.

Kamehameha!! PCB Badge

PCB Art has surely captivated us over the past few years and we’re ever intrigued with the intricate detail the community puts into their work. We’re no strangers to [Arnov]’s work and he has impressed, yet again, with his Kamehameha PCB badge.

Unfortunately, no 555 timer was used in the making of this project, but don’t let that turn you away. Instead, we have an ATtiny84 microcontroller for implementing the logic to control the LEDs, a MOSFET-based driver for driving current through the LEDs, and, of course, the LEDs to give the “turtle destruction wave” its devastating glow. Pay really close attention to the detail [Arnov] put into the silkscreen as you can see that’s a pretty crucial part of this build.

Aside from marveling at [Arnov]’s work, fans of the OrCAD PCB designing software will learn how to import an image file into their project as [Arnov] walks through that step in his tutorial. He even has some pretty good reflow soldering tips if you’re looking to try your hand at SMD soldering.

Another cool build [Arnov]. Keep it up!

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Peek Behind The Curtains: Conference Badge Design

In the before-times, back when we could have in-person Hackaday Supercons, there was always the problem of the badge. Making a few hundred small electronic thingies, for a smart but broad range of hackers, is tricky. We always want it to do something all on its own, but also ideally to allow enough free range that the motivated badge hacker can make it into something exquisite. Add in the fact that some attendees are hardware types and some are software types, and toss in a price constraint too. Oh, and it has to look good. Tough problem.

Here’s one extreme solution: the badge at the first Supercon. Faced with essentially zero budget and a tight time constraint, the Hackaday team punted — and produced a prototype board, but had tons of parts on hand for everyone to draw from. And the Hackaday crowd delivered. This was the badge that demonstrates what happens if you leave everything open.

Contrast with the 2018 Belgrade and Supercon badges, which were essentially the same except for color. Here, the hardware interface was limited to a 9-pin header, but the badge itself was a fully functional microcomputer, complete with keyboard and screen. Most of the hacks were written in the native BASIC, though a few hearty souls played around with the alternative CP/M system. This was our most software badge.

Our last in-person badge, the 2019 Supercon badge, was free rein for both hardware and software hackers. The whole thing was based on an FPGA, with completely custom gateware written by Sprite_tm running RISC-V, but based loosely on the Z80 architecture. This was probably also the badge with the highest hurdle to hackers, but you all came through with inventive hardware add-ons, but also a team that came through with a custom Linux OS running on this never-before-seen virtual environment, enabled by a hardware SDRAM cartridge hack.

And finally, even before the global supply crisis, even a tight-knit conference like ours could stock-out the world’s supply of a given component. The untold story of the 2016 Belgrade badge is that Voja Antonic bought out the world’s supply of Kingbright 8×8 common-cathode LED matrixes, and had to redesign the board in the last minute to incorporate the common-anode parts too. (Or was it vice-versa?) Lesson learned, the 2016 Supercon badge traded out the LED modules for discrete LEDs. Not gonna stock out on red LEDs.

So that’s a long-winded introduction to Thomas Flummer’s unofficial Remoticon 2 badges. With the parts crisis and a virtual conference, you’re on your own to source the badge. Splitting the freedom vs. in-built functionality problem like Samson, he’s got two boards — one a breadboard and the other fully populated. And like all his badges, they both look great. If you manage to get one made by Remoticon next week, be sure to show it off in the Bring-a-Hack. And if you don’t get it in time, bring it by in person to the 2022 Supercon!

The Hackaday Remoticon 2 Badge: An Exercise In Your Own Ingenuity

The twin challenges of the pandemic and now the semiconductor shortage have been particularly hard on the designers of event badges, as events have been cancelled and uncertain supply issues render their task impossible. When an event goes virtual, how do you even start to produce a badge for it? Make the badge and rely on enough stalwarts buying one? Or maybe produce a badge that’s a fancy take on a prototyping board?

For Hackaday Remoticon 2021, [Thomas Flummer] has produced a novel take on the second option by distributing a badge as a set of KiCAD files that can either be ordered from a PCB fab as a prototyping board or used as the canvas for a PCB to use whatever components are to hand. To demonstrate this, he’s produced an example badge that’s a MicroMod carrier.

So if you’d like to chase the full Remoticon experience with a badge there should still be enough time to order a set of boards, but to design your own electronics you’ll need to get a move on. What you might build upon it is up to you, but if you have an ESP32 module lying around you might wish to consider cloning the SHA2017 badge or its successors with the badge.team platform.

We’ve seen Thomas’ work before more than once on these pages, most notably as the man behind the BornHack badges.