Robotics Module Challenge: Build Robot, Win Prizes

Brand new today, we’re going to go all in with the Robotics Module Challenge! This is the newest part of the 2018 Hackaday Prize which is only six weeks old, and already we’ve seen almost six hundred incredible entries. But a new challenge means a fresh start and a perfect time for you to begin your entry.

This is your call to build a module that can be used in robotics projects across the world. Twenty module designs will be awarded $1,000 and and chance at the five top prizes including the $50,000 grand prize!

Robotics is the kitchen sink of the world of electronics. You have to deal with motors, sensors, spinny lidar doohickies, computer vision, mechatronics, and unexpected prototyping issues accounting for the coefficient of friction of 3D printed parts. Robotics is where you show your skills, and this is your chance to show the world what you’ve got.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some more ways to skip around the hard parts? That is the Robotics Module Challenge in a nutshell. We want to see great modular Open Hardware designs that can be used by roboticists all over the world. This might be a motor controller, a chassis or limb design system, a sensor network scheme, a communications system, data collection and delivery — basically anything related to robotics. Build a prototype that shows how your module is used and document all the info needed to incorporate and riff on your design in other robot builds.

Start your entry now and show us your take on a great bit of Open Hardware.

Continue reading “Robotics Module Challenge: Build Robot, Win Prizes”

A Victrola For The 21st century

We’ve lost something tangible in our listening to music, as we made the move from physical media through MP3 players to streaming services on our mobile devices. A 12″ vinyl disc may be slightly cumbersome, but there is an undeniable experience to pulling it from the sleeve and placing it on the turntable. Would you like to recreate that? [Castvee8] would, because he’s created a 21st-century version of a wind-up gramophone, complete with a turntable and horn.

Under the hood is an Arduino-controlled MP3 player, while on the surface is a 3D-printed turntable and horn. On the turntable is placed a CD, and a lead screw moves the horn across it during play to simulate the effect of a real turntable. An Arduino motor controller shield drives the turntable and lead screw, and at the end of each song, the horn is automatically returned to the start of the CD as if it were a record.

The effect is purely aesthetic but should make for an unusual talking point if nothing else. Surprisingly this project is not the first of its type, in the past, we’ve shown you another one that played a real CD in the place of the record on the turntable.

Yellow Robot Wheels Rolling Out

Small wheeled robots are great for exploring robotics and it’s easier than ever to get started, thanks to growing availability and affordability of basic components. One such component is a small motorized wheel assembly commonly shown when searching for “robot wheel”: a small DC motor mounted in a gearbox to drive a single plastic wheel (inevitably yellow) on which a thin rubber tire has been mounted for traction. Many projects have employed these little motor + gearbox + wheel modules, such as these three entries for 2018 Hackaday Prize:

BoxBotics takes the idea of an affordable entry point and runs with it: build robot chassis for these wheels out of cardboard boxes. (Maybe even the exact box that shipped the yellow wheels.) Cardboard is cheap and easy to work with, making cardboard projects approachable to any creative mind. There will be an audience for something like a Nintendo Labo for robotics, and maybe BoxBotics will grow into that offering.

Cing also intends to make a friendly entry point for robotics and they offer a different chassis solution. Instead of cardboard, they use a circuit board. The yellow gearbox is mounted directly to the main circuit board making it into the physical spine, along with its copper traces serving as the spinal cord of the robot. While less amenable to mechanical creativity than BoxBotics, Cing’s swappable modules might be a better fit for those interested in exploring electronics.

ROS Starter Robot caters to those who wish to go far beyond simple “make it move” level of robot intelligence. It aims to lower the barrier to enter the world of ROS (robot operating system) which has historically been the domain of very capable (but also very expensive) research-oriented robots. This project could become the bridge for aspiring roboticists who wish to grow beyond hobbyist level software but can’t justify the cost typical of research level hardware.

All three of these projects take the same simple motorized wheel and build very different ideas on top of them. This is exactly the diversity of ideas we want to motivate with the Hackaday Prize and we hope to see great progress on all prize contestants in the month ahead.

Neon Display for a Vacuum Tube Calculator

When it comes to vintage displays, everyone gravitates to Nixies. These tubes look great, but you’re dealing with a certain aesthetic with these vintage numeric tubes. There is another option. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [castvee8] is making seven-segment displays out of vintage neon lamps. It looks great, and it’s the basis of an all-vacuum tube calculator.

The core of this build are a few tiny NE-2 neon bulbs. These are the same type of bulbs you’ll find in old indicators, and require somewhere around 100 volts to fire. These bulbs are then installed in a 3D-printed frame, giving [castvee] a real seven-segment display, a plus or minus sign, and an equals sign. It’s the beginnings of a calculator, right there.

One of the recent updates to this project is controlling these displays with modern logic. That might be a bit of a misnomer, because [castvee] is using diode steering and a TTL chip to cycle through the numbers 1 to 4. The actual code to do this is running on a microcontroller, though, so that might get a pass. This is just a test, though, and the real project looks to be an all-vacuum calculator. The project is still in its early stages, but there are still months to go in the Hackaday Prize, and we can’t wait to see what comes out of this project.

Friday Hack Chat: All About The Hackaday Prize

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking all about the Hackaday Prize. Our guests for this week’s Hack Chat are Alberto Molina and Elecia White.

Elecia White was a Hackaday Prize judge in 2015 and 2016, and she’ll be discussing what makes a standout entry from a judging perspective. Elecia is an embedded software engineer at Logical Elegance, Inc., author of Making Embedded Systems, and host of the podcast.

Alberto Molina won the Grand Prize of the 2016 Hackaday Prize with Dtto, an Open Source, self-reconfiguring rescue robot that Alberto is continuing to develop.  Alberto is an Electronic engineer who wants to design the next generation of robots and he will share his insights on putting together a fantastic entry for your project.

The Hackaday Prize is the greatest hardware competition ever. It’s the Academy Awards of Open Hardware (and will remain so until we get a cease and desist). The Hackaday Prize is a competition where thousands of hardware hackers, makers, and artists compete to build a better future.

The Hackaday Prize is in its fifth year in 2018, and the theme this year is Build Hope. We’re challenging everyone to put your ideas and creativity to use and Build Something That Matters. Do this, and you’ll be in the running for the Grand Prize of $50,000. In total we’re giving away $200,000 in total cash prizes to build hardware, something no other hardware competition can match.

Also on board for this Hack Chat, like all Hack Chats, will be Stephen Tranovich, Technical Community Leader at Steven has been working hard on the logistics for the Prize this year, and will field any and all questions about entering the 2018 Hackaday Prize.

In this Hack Chat, we’ll be discussing how the Prize is judged, the new challenges for the 2018 Hackaday Prize, the achievements the winners of the Hackaday Prize have already seen, and of course, your questions. We know there’s a lot of interest in the Hackaday Prize, and we want you to ask what’s on your mind. If you have a question, just add it to the Hack Chat event page as a comment, and we’ll answer it.


Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hack Chat group messaging. This week it’s going down at the usual time, on noon, Pacific, Friday, March 23rd  Want to know what time this is happening in your neck of the woods? Have a countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Hackaday Links: March 18, 2018

Oh, boy. You know what’s happening next weekend? The Midwest RepRap Festival. The greatest 3D printing festival on the planet is going down next Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon in beautiful Goshen, Indiana. Why should you go? Check this one out. To recap from last year, E3D released a new extruder, open source filaments will be a thing, true color filament printing in CMYKW is awesome, and we got the world’s first look at the infinite build volume printer. This year, The Part Daddy, a 20-foot-tall delta bot will be there once again. It’s awesome and you should come.

We launched the 2018 Hackaday Prize this week. Why should you care? Because we’re giving away $200,000 in prizes. There are five challenges: the Open Hardware Design Challenge, Robotics Module, Power Harvesting, Human-Computer Interface, and Musical Instrument Challenge. That last one is something I’m especially interested in for one very specific reason. This is a guitorgan.

Building a computer soon? Buy your SSD now. Someone fell asleep on the e-stop at a Samsung fab, and now 3.5% of global NAND production for March has been lost.

Need to put an Arduino in the cloud? Here’s a shield for that. It’s a shield for SIMCom’s SIM7000-series module, providing LTE for a microcontroller. Why would you ever need this? Because 2G is dead, for various values of ‘dead’. 3G is eventually going to go the same way.

A bridge collapsed in Florida this week. A pedestrian walkway at Florida International University collapsed this week, killing several. The engineering efforts are still underway to determine the cause of the accident, but some guy from Canukistan posted a pair of informative videos discussing I-beams and pre-tensioned concrete. It’s going to be months until the fault (and responsibility) will be determined, but until then we have the best footage yet of this collapse. It’s dash cam footage from a truck that rolled up to the red light just before the collapse. This is one that’s going to go down in engineering history along with the Hyatt Regency collapse.

Need to test your app? Here’s a delta robot designed for phones. You would be shocked at how popular this robot is.

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 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!