I was struck by reading our writeup of the Zenit in Electronics contest – an annual event in the Slovak Republic – that it’s kind of like a decathlon for electronic engineers and/or hardware hackers. It’s a contest, in which students compete presumably initially on a local level, and then up to 32 at the national level. There’s a straight-up knowledge test, a complex problem to solve, and then a practical component where the students must actually fabricate a working device themselves, given a schematic and maybe some help. Reading through the past writeups, you get the feeling that it’s both a showcase for the best of the best, but also an encouragement for those new to the art. It’s full-stack hardware hacking, and it looks like a combination of hard work and a lot of fun.
What’s most amazing is that it’s in its 38th year. Think how much electronics, not to mention geopolitics, has changed in the last 40 years. But yet the Zenit competition still lives on. Since it’s mostly volunteer driven, with strong help from the Slovak electronics industry, it has to be a labor of love. What’s astounding to me is that this love has been kept alive for so long.
I think that part of the secret is that, although it’s a national competition, it’s possible to run it with a small yet dedicated crew. It’s certainly a worthwhile endeavor – I can only imagine how many young students’ lives have been impacted by the exposure to microelectronics hacking through the contest. Indeed, it’s telling that the current chairman of the competition, Daniel Valúch, was a competitor himself back in 1994.
I wonder if the people founding Zenit back in 1984 thought of themselves as creating a perpetual electronic engineering contest, or if they just wanted to try it out and it took on a life of its own? Could you start something like this today?
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The Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals Contest wrapped up last week, and our judges have been hard at work sifting through their favorite projects. And this was no easy task – we had 75 entries and so many of them were cool in their own right that all we can say is go check them all out. Really.
But we had to pick winners, not the least because Digi-Key put up three $150 gift certificates. So without further ado, here are the top three projects and as many honorable mentions as you have fingers and toes – if you don’t count your thumbs.
The Prize Winners
Keybon should be a mainstream commercial product. It’s a macro keypad with an OLED screen per key. It talks to an application on your desktop that detects the program that you currently have focused, and adapts the keypress action and the OLED labels to match. It’s a super-slick 3D-printed design to boot. It’s the dream of the Optimus Maximus, but made both DIY and significantly more reasonable as a macro pad. It’s the coolest thing to have on your desk, and it’s a big winner!
On the ridiculous side of keyboards, meet the Cree-board. [Matt] says he got the idea of using beefy COB LEDs as keycaps from the bad pun in the name, but we love the effect when you press down on the otherwise blinding light – they’re so bright that they use your entire meaty finger as a diffuser. Plus, it really does look like a keypad of sunny-side up eggs. It’s wacky, unique, and what’s not to love about that in a macropad?
Finally, [Josh EJ] turned an exercise bike into a wireless gamepad, obliterating the choice between getting fit and getting high scores by enabling both at the same time. An ESP32-turned-Bluetooth-gamepad is the brains, and he documents in detail how he hooked up a homebrew cadence sensor, used the heart-rate pads as buttons, and even added some extra controls on top. Watching clips of him pedaling his heart out in order to push the virtual pedal to the metal in GRID Autosport, we only wish he were screaming “vroooom”. Continue reading “Overwhelmed By Odd Inputs: The Contest Winners And More”→
The 2022 Hackaday Prize continues to hurtle along, with two of the five Challenges already in the rear-view mirror. While we’re naturally excited about every phase of this year’s contest, we’ve got particularly high hopes for what the community can do with this third Challenge: Hack it Back.
It’s a simple formula: find some outdated and disused piece of gear, spruce it up, and keep it out of the landfill. But extending the lifetime of consumer hardware is only one side of the coin, by upgrading and modifying something instead of buying an off-the-shelf replacement, you also turn the mundane into something unique and personal. But of course, we hardly have to explain the benefits to you fine folk — this is the sort of bespoke engineering we see on a nearly daily basis here at Hackaday. The difference now is that there’s cash prizes on the line.
What’s that you say? You aren’t the type to be seduced by shiny new features? Happy to keep things local while others ship it all off to the cloud? You’ll get no complaints from us, and that’s why the Hack it Back Challenge also recognizes repairs that simply put a piece of gear back into service. But don’t be fooled, as fixing something can often be harder than rebuilding it from scratch.
Ready to put your hardware-reviving skills on display? Just head over to Hackaday.io, make a new project page, and get hacking. But don’t wait too long, you’ve only got until July 24th to enter the Hack it Back Challenge and stake your claim on one of the ten $500 awards up for grabs.
Just as the Jedi youngling would have to build their light saber, so is it a rite of passage for a true geek to build their own computer interfaces. And nothing makes a personal computer more personal than a custom keyboard, a bespoke mouse, an omnipotent macropad, a snazzy jog wheel, or a fancy flight yoke.
In this contest, we encourage you to make your strangest, fanciest, flashiest, or most custom computer peripherals, and share that work with all the rest of us. Wired or wireless, weird or wonderful, we want to see it. And Digi-Key is sponsoring this contest to offer three winners an online shopping spree for $150 each at their warehouse! More parts, more projects.
A little over a year ago, we ran a contest that challenged readers to leave the comfort of their PCBs and breadboards. We wanted to see circuits built in three dimensions, with extra points awarded for creativity and artistic flair. Truth be told there was initially some concern that the “Circuit Sculpture” contest was a bit too abstract for the Hackaday community, but the overwhelming number of absolutely gorgeous entries certainly put those doubts to rest.
In a recent video, [Michael Aichlmayr] walks viewers through the creation of his mesmerizing entry Wonderlandscape, which ended up taking honorable mention in the Circuit Sculpture contest for Best Metalworks. Though this is much more than just a simple walk-through of a project. Sure you’ll see how brass bar stock was artfully twisted and wrapped to create a metallic winterscape that looks like it could have come from Bob Ross’s hitherto unknown cyberpunk period, but that’s only half the story.
In the video, [Michael] recalls how he discovered the burgeoning electronic sculpture community, and points to a few exceptional examples that got him hooked on finding the beauty that’s usually hidden inside of a plastic enclosure. Eventually he heard about the Circuit Sculpture contest, and decided it was the perfect opportunity to build something of his own. That’s right, Wonderlandscape is his very first attempt at turning electronics into art.
But the best may be yet to come. [Michael] explains that, due to the time constraints of the contest, he had to use metal stock purchased from the crafts store. But his ultimate goal is actually to melt down salvaged brass and bronze components and make his own wire and rods. We can’t wait to see what he’ll be able to accomplish when he starts working with his own custom made metal, and are eagerly awaiting the future video that he says will go over the techniques he’s been working on.
This story is a great reminder of how stepping out of your comfort zone once and awhile can be a good thing. Entering the contest with no previous experience was a risk to be sure, but [Michael] came out the other side more experienced and with a few new friends in the community. So why not enter our latest contest and see where it takes you?
Back in March, the call went out: take your wiggliest, floppiest, most dimensionally compliant idea, and show us how it would be better if only you could design it around a flexible PCB. We weren’t even looking for a prototype; all we needed was an idea with perhaps a sketch, even one jotted on the legendary envelope or cocktail napkin.
When we remove constraints like that, it’s interesting to see how people respond. We have to say that the breadth of applications for flex PCBs and the creativity shown in designing them into projects was incredible. We saw everything from circuit sculpture to wearables. Some were strictly utilitarian and others were far more creative. In the end we got 70 entries, and with 60 prizes to be awarded, the odds were ever in your favor.
Now that the entries have been evaluated and the winners decided, it’s time to look over the ways you came up with to put a flexible PCB to work. Normally we list all the winners in our contest wrap-ups, but with so many winners we can’t feature everyone. We’ll just call out a few of the real standout projects here, but you really should check the list of winning projects to see the full range of what this call for flexibility brought out in our community.
You can plug in a Raspberry Pi, and you can blink a LED. You can visualize data, and now there’s a contest on Hackaday.io to show off your skills. Right now, we’re opening up the Visualize It With Pi contest on Hackaday.io. The challenge? Visualize data with LED strips and panels. Is that ‘data’ actually just a video of Never Gonna Give You Up? We’ll find out soon enough.
The goal of this contest is to combine a Raspberry Pi and its immense processing power and the blinky goodness of LED strips and panels to visualize and interpret data in novel and artistic ways. We’re looking for animation. clarity, and flamboyant flickering. Want some ideas? Check out the World of Light or the American Constitution Candle. We’re looking for the most blinky you can do with a Pi, and yes, there will be prizes.
Prizes for the best blinky include, of course, more blinky. The best visualizations from a directly connected sensor, data from an Internet Source, and data from an esoteric data source will each receive some Blinkytape. This is a strip of WS2812b LEDs with an ATMega32u4 embedded on the end. Plug a USB power supply into the Blinkytape, and you get a strip of LEDs in whatever color you want with the ability to push animation frames to the chip on the strip. The Grand Prize winner for this contest will also receive Blinkytile Explorers Kit, a Serpentine LED strip, a LED ring, and two meters of ultra thin LED strip.
Let’s Do This!
The requirements for the contest are simple: just use a Raspberry Pi to drive LED strips or panels, post it as a new project on Hackaday.io, and submit the project to the contest. We’re looking for a full description, source, schematics, and photos and videos of the finished version of the project — do everything you can to show off your work! The contest is open right now, and ends at 08:00 Pacific on October 1st. We know you like to blink those LEDs, so get crackin’.