Unofficial Badges Get Official Recognition at DEF CON: Badge Life Contest

Badge·Life (noun): the art of spending too much time, energy, money, and creativity to design and produce amazing custom electronics and get them into the hands of those who appreciate incredible craftsmanship.

Brand new to DEF CON 26 is the Badge Life Contest to celebrate the creativity and ingenuity that gets poured into a custom badge.

For years, #BadgeLife has been flying under the radar at DEF CON. A growing movement of creative designers have put in late nights, emptied pocket books, and agonized over production, shipping, lanyards, boxes, batteries, programming woes, and every other kind of problem you can image to bring hundreds of unofficial badges to the conference. These aren’t a secret, the whole point is to wear blinky badges, often loaded with cryptographic puzzles and wireless interactivity, around your neck. For many, acquiring an awesome badge is a must-do to make their con a successful one. But DEF CON hasn’t officially recognized BadgeLife, until now.

If you’re a badge creator, you should show off your badge as part of the contest. It’s an opportunity to let more people see all the details that make each badge a work of art. During the con, most people will only see badges as they walk past them in the hallway. For the contest, all badges will be on display in the Hardware Hacking Village during the weekend to provide a close look for everyone.

The judging panel for this is an incredible slate of talented and well-known people from the hardware community. It doesn’t look like those names have been made public yet, but I’m honored and humbled to be among them. Help kick this inaugural year of the Badge Life Contest off right. You can submit your badge information now and deliver one badge (which will be returned to you) for display by 5 pm PDT on Friday 8/10.

Thinking Inside The (Cardboard) Box With Nintendo Labo Hacks

Cardboard is one of the easiest ways to build something physical, far easier than the 3D printing and laser cutting we usually write about here. So when Nintendo released their Labo line of cardboard accessories, it doesn’t take a genius to predict the official product would be followed by a ton of user creations. Nintendo were smart enough to provide not only an internet forum for this creativity to gather, they also hold contests to highlight some of the best works.

The most impressive projects in the winner’s circle combined the one-of-a-kind cardboard creations with custom software written using Toy-Con Garage, the visual software development environment built into the Nintendo Switch console. Access to the garage is granted after a user runs through Nintendo Labo’s “Discover” activities, which walk the user behind the scenes of how their purchased Labo accessories work. This learning and discovery process thus also serves as an introductory programming tutorial, teaching its user how to create software to light up their custom cardboard creations.

It’s pretty cool that Nintendo opened up a bit of the mechanism behind Labo activities for users to create their own, but this is only a tiny subset of Nintendo Switch functionality. We have different hacks for different folks. Some of us enjoy reverse engineering details of how those little Joy-Cons work. Others hack up something to avoid a game puzzle that’s more frustrating than fun. And then there are those who are not satisfied until they have broken completely outside the sandbox.

[via Engadget]

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Hot Camera Contest: Build A Battery Powered Thermal Camera

Here’s a challenge for all you hardware hackers out there. Peter Jansen has opened up the Hot Camera Contest on to use a thermal imaging camera in a battery-powered project.

The challenge here is simple. Use a Flir Lepton thermal imaging camera module in a battery-powered configuration. There’s a catch, though: this is a project to use the Lepton in radiometric mode, where the camera spits out an actual temperature value for each pixel. Yes, this is a documented feature in the Flir Lepton module, but so far very few people are using it, and no one has done it with a small, battery-powered device.

The rules for this challenge are to use the Flir Lepton 2.5 in radiometric mode using either the Raspberry Pi Zero W or ESP32. Any software in this challenge must spit out absolute temperature values in a text format, and there must be a demonstration of putting the Flir Lepton into low-power mode. There are two challenges here, one for the Raspi and one for the ESP32; and winner will be named for each.

Getting More from a Fascinating Sensor

The Flir Lepton is a tiny little thermal camera that’s been available to the Maker community for some time now, first through GroupGets and now through Sparkfun. For a pair of Benjamins, the specs are very impressive: the Lepton has a resolution of 60×80 pixels and everything is can be read over an SPI port. The Lepton gives any project thermal imaging, and the PureThermal board turns the Lepton into a USB device.

Peter Jansen is the creator of the Open Source Science Tricorder (yes, it’s a tricorder) which took Fourth Prize in the 2014 Hackaday Prize. You can understand how he became interested in portable, and we’re sure whatever project he has in mind for this battery-powered Flir will be awesome.

This really is a great example of what the community is capable of. The goal here is to create useful Open Source drivers for some very interesting hardware, and there’s some prizes to sweeten the pot. Peter has a $125 Sparkfun gift card on offer for each of the two winners. And the challenge of solving a tricky problem and making designs easier for others is a powerful motivator. Who doesn’t like a challenge?

Hackaday Links: February 11, 2018

Are you a student? Are you part of a hackerspace? We have a contest going on right now where you can win a fancy new Prusa i3 MK3. The Repairs You Can Print contest is a challenge to do something useful with that machine that spits out tugboats. We’re looking for functional repairs of items around your house, office, or garage. Did you repair something with a 3D printer? Then you too can get in on the action! Enter now! Check out the entries!

You may know Flite Test as the group who do everything surrounding remote control flight (mostly fixed wings, a nice counter to the quadification of the hobby over the last few years). Flite Test designs and sells airplanes made out of Dollar Tree foam board, they have yearly, bi-coastal meetups, and they’re all-around awesome dudes. Now, they want to build the Disneyland of RC flight. [Josh Bixler], the face of Flite Test and a guy who has a plane named after him, wants to buy a golf course and turn it into the world’s best RC flying park, with a ~2000 foot grass strip for general aviation. We’re looking at their crowdfunding campaign, and it looks promising it might be funded by the time this goes live.

A while ago, [Peter Jansen], the guy who built a tricorder and a laser-cut CT scanner, made a magnetic camera. This Hall Effect camera is a camera for magnetism instead of light. Now, this camera has been fully built and vastly improved. He’s capturing ‘frames’ of magnetism in a spinning fan at 2000 Hz (or FPS, terminology kind of breaks down here), and it’s beautiful.

Oh thank God we can finally buy GPUs again. Try buying them with Bitcoin.

In the last few years, CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, has expanded. Originally, this was one of the treaties that banned the import or export of rhino horn, but recently this expanded to the export of rosewood thanks to increased demand in China for rosewood furniture. The laws of unintended consequences kicked into effect, and importing anything made out of rosewood is now a mess of permits and inspections at the border, including musical instruments. Travelling orchestras, for example, are at risk of having their string section confiscated because of rosewood tuning pegs. Cooler minds may now be prevailing, and there’s some hope the regulations may be changed during the next meeting of the CITES convention next year.

As noted a few months ago, there was a possibility of Broadcom buying Qualcomm for one… hundred… Billion dollarsThis offer was rejected, with Qualcomm saying the offer wasn’t high enough. Broadcom fired back with an offer of $82 per share, or $121B. This offer was rejected this week.

Need some EMC testing? [Zach]’s got your back. He’s reserved some time in a 10m EMC chamber for testing NeuroBytes this week. If you have an Open Source project that needs a pre-test scan for unintentional radiator, you can get in on the action. This is just a pre-test, you’re not getting certification, and you’re not going to test anything with radios, and you need to ship [Zach] your stuff. But still, free test time. Woo.

Hackaday Links: January 28, 2018

In case you haven’t heard, we have a 3D printing contest going on right now. It’s the Repairs You Can Print Contest. The idea is simple: show off how you repaired something with a 3D printer. Prizes include $100 in Tindie credit, and as a special prize for students and organizations (think hackerspaces), we’re giving away a few Prusa i3 MK3 printers.

[Drygol] has made a name for himself repairing various ‘home’ computers over the years, and this time he’s back showing off the mods and refurbishments he’s made to a pile of Amiga 500s. This time, he’s installing some new RAM chips, fixing some Guru Meditations by fiddling with the pins on a PLCC, adding a built-in modulator, installing a dual Kickstart ROM, and installing a Gotek floppy adapter. It’s awesome work that puts all the modern conveniences into this classic computer.

Here’s an FPGA IoT Controller. It’s a Cyclone IV and a WiFi module stuffed into something resembling an Arduino Mega. Here’s the question: what is this for? There are two reasons you would use an FPGA, either doing something really fast, or doing something so weird normal microcontrollers just won’t cut it. I don’t know if there is any application of IoT that overlaps with FPGAs. Can you think of something? I can’t.

Tide pods are flammable.

You know what’s cool? Sparklecon. It’s a party filled with a hundred pounds of LEGO, a computer recycling company, a plasmatorium, and a hackerspace, tucked away in an industrial park in Fullerton, California. It’s completely chill, and a party for our type of people — those who like bonfires, hammer Jenga, beer, and disassembling fluorescent lamps for high voltage transformers.

A few shoutouts for Sparklecon. The 23b Hackerspace is, I guess, the main host here, or at least the anchor. Across the alley is NUCC, the National Upcycled Computing Collective. They’re a nonprofit that takes old servers and such, refurbishes them, and connects them to projects like Folding@Home and SETI@Home. This actually performs a service for scientists, because every moron is mining Bitcoin and Etherium now, vastly reducing the computational capabilities of these distributed computing projects. Thanks, OSH Park, for buying every kind of specialty pizza at Pizza Hut. I would highly encourage everyone to go to Sparklecon next year. This is the fifth year, and it’s getting bigger and better every time.

Win Big Prizes With Repairs You Can Print

Another month, another contest, and this time we’re looking for the best 3D printed repairs you’ve built.

The Repairs You Can Print Contest on is a challenge to show off the real reason you bought a 3D printer. We want to see replacement parts, improved functionality, or a tool or jig that made a tough repair a snap. Think of this as the opposite of printing low poly Pokemon or Fallout armor. This is a contest to demonstrate the most utilitarian uses of a 3D printer. Whether you fixed your refrigerator, luggage, jet engine, vacuum cleaner, bike headlight, or anything else, we want to see how you did it!

The top twenty projects in the Repairs You Can Print contest will be rewarded with $100 in Tindie credit. That’s a Benjamin to spend on parts, upgrades, and components to take your next project to the next level!

Students and Organizations Can Win Big

The Best Student and Best Organization will win a Prusa i3 MK3!

This contest is open to everyone, but we’re also looking for the best projects to come from students and hackerspaces. We’ll be giving away two amazing 3D printers to the best Student entry and best Organization entry. These two top projects will be awarded an Original Prusa i3 MK3 with the Quad Material upgrade kit. This is one of the finest 3D printers you can buy right now, and we’re giving these away to the best student, hackerspaces, robotics club, or tool lending library.

If you have a project in mind, head on over to and create a project demonstrating your 3D printed repair!

What is This Contest All About?

This contest is all about Repairs You Can Print, but what does that actually mean? Instead of printing Pokemon or plastic baubles on your desktop CNC machine, we’re looking for replacement parts. We’re looking for commercial, off the shelf items that were broken, but repaired with the help of a 3D printer. Is your repair good enough to show off as part of the contest? Yes! That’s the point, we want to see the clever repair jobs that people often don’t spend much time talking about because they just work.

Need some examples? Sure thing.

A while back, [Elliot Williams], one of the fantastic Hackaday Editors, had a broken vacuum cleaner. The wheels were crap, but luckily they were designed as a single part that snaps into a swivel socket. Over six or so years, the original wheels in this vacuum gave out, but a replacement part was quickly printed and stuffed into the socket. The new wheels have been going strong for a year now. That’s an entire year of use for a vacuum for five cents worth of plastic and an hour’s worth of printing time.

Need another example? My suitcase was apparently dragged behind a luggage cart for miles at either ORD or PHL. When it arrived on the baggage carousel, one wheel was shredded, and the wheel mount was ground down to almost the axle. The rest of the bag was still good, and I just removed the old wheel, salvaged the bearings, and printed a new wheel out of PLA. This suitcase has now traveled 60,000 miles with a 3D printed wheel, and it’s only now looking worse for wear.

How To Get In On The Action

We’re looking for the best repairs, jigs, and tools you’ve ever printed. To get started, head on over to, create a new project, and document your repair. The Repairs You Can Print contest will run from Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 through 12 PM PST Tuesday, February 20th, 2018. Here’s a handy count down timer for ‘ya.

Coin Cell Challenge: Use Coin Cell, Win Prizes

Today, we’re calling all hackers to do the most with a single coin cell. It’s the Coin Cell Challenge, and we’re looking for everything from the most low-power electronics to a supernova in a button cell battery.

Electronics are sucking down fewer and fewer amps every year. Low power is the future, and we’re wondering how far we can push the capabilities of those tiny discs full of power. The Coin Cell Challenge is your chance to plumb the depths of what can be done with the humble coin cell.

This is a contest, and as with the tradition of the Open 7400 Logic Competition and the recent Flashing Light Prize, we want to see what the community can come up with. The idea is simple: do something cool with a single coin cell and you’ll secure your fifteen minutes of fame and win a prize.

Three Challenges

To kick this contest off, we’re opening up three challenges to all contenders to the world heavyweight champion of button cell exploits. The first, the Lifetime Award, will go to whoever can run something interesting the longest amount of time on a coin cell. The Supernova Award is the opposite – what is the most exciting thing you can do with a button cell battery, lifetime be damned? The Heavy Lifting Award will go to the project that is the most unbelievable. If you think you can’t do that with a coin cell battery — lifting a piano or starting a car, for example — odds are you probably can. We want to see it.

Prizes and Rules

All Hackaday hardware hacking challenges need prizes, and for this one, we’re rolling out the red carpet. We’re offering up cash prizes for the top coin cell hacks. There are three $500 USD cash prizes, one for each winner of the Lifetime, Supernova, and Heavy Lifting awards. We’re not stopping there, because the top twenty builds overall will each receive $100 in Tindie credit, where the winners can cash in on some artisanal electronics sold by the people who design them.

What do you have to do to get in on this action? First, you need to build something. This something must be powered by nothing more than a single coin cell battery and must include some type of electronics. We also want this to be Open Source, and you’ll need to start a project on The full rules are available over here, but don’t wait — the deadline for entry is January 8th, 2018.

We’re excited to see what the community comes up with, and who will find a production coin cell that’s the size of a dinner plate. This is going to be a great contest with overheating coin cells and tiny bits of metal flying across the room. This is going to be a contest filled with blinkies and wireless devices that run for far, far too long. Someone is going to misread the rules and tape together a meter tall pile of coin cells. It’s going to be awesome, so start your project now.