2019 Hackaday Prize Begins Right Now

This is the 2019 Hackaday Prize, the worldwide hardware design contest focused on product development. We know you can build a working prototype, and we still want to see you do that. But a great idea should have reach beyond your own workshop. This year’s Hackaday Prize is about taking your product across the finish line, from concept to design for manufacture.

Prizes to Jump Start Your Product

$125,000 and a Supplyframe DesignLab Residency await the Best Product winner. There are five focus categories this year, with the winner of each receiving a $10,000 prize. And to help encourage those early beginnings, we have another $10,000 in seed funding set aside which means up to $500 for each of the top 20 entries who get in and gather those “likes” before June first.

There are a few areas of focus you should have in mind as you work on your products. These are Concept, Design, Production, Benchmark, and Communication. All entries are eligible to receive prizes related to these, and in addition to the $50,000 we mentioned above for the winner in each area, we have another $3,000 for each set aside to recognize an honorable mention.

$200,000 is on the line and the final results will be revealed live on stage at the Hackaday Superconference in November. Your name should be in one of those sealed envelopes!

Why You? And Why the Hackaday Prize

Something amazing happened thirty years ago. A core of very motivated hackers took on the mantle of design, software, and even business skill, to build the computers that thrust us into a new information age. As these machines matured, a wave of software engineers picked up that torch, themselves embracing product and design thinking to accelerate the startup craze to new levels, again changing the world.

Ask yourself where we are right now. What are the hot new startups? The buzz now is all about billion dollar valuation but where is the substance? What we really need are the scrappy hackers who have a flag to plant to change the world. We’ve mistakenly been waiting for software companies to use their special sauce to lead a hardware renaissance, but instead it feels like we’re solving more and more trivial problems — where are the world-changers?

This is the hunger behind the 2019 Hackaday Prize. Three decades later, it is time for Hardware Engineers to be recognized as Innovators and leaders again. This is the call for the hardware community to come together, share knowledge, acquire new skills, and embark on a journey that uses the technological raw materials at our fingertips to invent the solutions that really matter. Make the idea and the execution happen now, and that enormous valuation will follow. Now is the time to change the world, you are the hackers who will do it, and this time around hardware will be leading the charge.

Improvisation, Mentorship, and Your Ability to Do Everything

We know you can build a working prototype of just about anything. But just like the creators of the Commodore, the Sinclair, Amiga, Apple, and Atari, you need to be more than a hardware designer. You need to know your users like you know yourself. You need an eye for industrial design — each of the machines mentioned above are iconic by how they look and not just by how they work. People behind these products knew what they were up against, and chose to make them stand-out designs in terms of performance, price, and how they fit into our lives.

You don’t have every skill necessary to make a great leap forward in every one of these areas — nobody does. But with the right community around you, you will learn some of them and find collaborators for the rest. Throughout the 2019 Hackaday Prize we’ll be pushing everyone to step past where you think your skills end, to learn what makes a product great, what makes it loved by the end user, and what makes it feasible to follow through to the end of the rainbow.

Get in early and take part in Prize demo days. Get matched up with world-class mentors and work with them in a masterclass situation from which everyone can learn. Show off your work and you’ll attract good ideas and good people. This is the Homebrew Computer Club of the new millennium. You’re going to find inspiration (and become the inspiration!) from everyone in the club. You’re going to riff on the breakthroughs of others, and together we’re all going to lead that Hardware Renaissance.

Don’t let this call go unanswered. Start your Hackaday Prize entry right now, and don’t look back.

Finding the Goldilocks Cell Module

If adding a cell modem is dealing with a drama queen of a hardware component, then choosing from among the many types of modules available turns the designer into an electronics Goldilocks. There are endless options for packaging and features all designed to make your life easier (or not!) so you-the-designer needs to have a clear understanding of the forces at work to come to a reasonable decision. How else will Widget D’lux® finally ship? You are still working on Widget D’lux®, aren’t you?

OK, quick recap from last time. Cell modems can be used to add that great feature known as The Internet to your product, which is a necessary part of the Internet of Things, and thus Good. So you’re adding a cell modem! But “adding a cell modem” can mean almost anything. Are you aiming to be Qualcomm and sue Apple build modems from scratch? Probably not. What about sticking a Particle Electron inside to bolt something together quickly? Or talk to Telit and put a bare modem on a board? Unless you’re expecting to need extremely high volume and have a healthy appetite for certification glee, I bet you’ve chosen to get a modem with as many existing certifications as possible, which takes us to where we are today. Go read the previous post if you want a much more elaborate discussion of your modem-packaging options and some of the trade offs involved. Continue reading “Finding the Goldilocks Cell Module”

Will it Sell?

Many of us develop things for one of two purposes: to hack something cool, or to sell something cool. When hacking something cool, your target market is yourself, and you already know you’ve made the sale. If your goal is to sell the thing you are making, then a lot more thought and effort is required. You could develop the coolest product in the world, but if your target market is too small, your price is too high, your lead time is too long, or any of a dozen other factors is not quite right, you’ll be spending a lot of time and effort on what will amount to a huge disappointment. The Hackaday Prize Best Product has many great examples which let us study some of these success factors, so let’s take a look. Continue reading “Will it Sell?”

Testing Six Hundred Fish

fish

That’s the best and most obtuse title you’ll ever see for a Hackaday post, but surprisingly it’s pretty accurate. [Bob] over at the Sector67 hackerspace took part in a 111-day accelerator program in Shenzhen last year to improve his manufacturing skills. He’s just about ready to release his first product, a Bluetooth device that connects to an ice fishing tip-up. The blog for the device recounts the challenges of taking a project from a circuit to a finished product, and illustrates the difference between building something with an Arduino and selling thousands of devices.

The circuit boards for BlueTipz come in panels of eight, but what’s the best way to populate and solder five thousand devices in a reasonably short amount of time? [Bob] hired a few students from the local college to help him out in assembling all these devices. The plastic enclosures were made at a local plastics manufacturer, but the molds were made in China. The manufacturer needed to modify the molds a bit, but after a few days, [Bob] had five thousand enclosures ready to stuff full of electronics.

With the devices assembled, it’s time for programming, and that means building a programmer. [Bob] put all the guts for the device into a plastic box and 3D-printed a mount for the bare BlueTipz board. Put a board on the mount, press a button, and the tech now has a functioning device in his hands.

Besides manufacturing, there’s also a whole lot of testing that went into the design of BlueTipz. Because this is a device for ice fishing—a cold and potentially windy operating environment—[Bob] built a test rig in a freezer. The test rig triggers the device’s sensor, waits two minutes (the amount of time it would take for an ice fisherman to check the tip-up) and resets. They claim the battery life is good for 600 fish, and with this testing rig they were able to verify their calculated battery life with real-world data: without actually catching six hundred fish, of course.

Not only does [Bob] have a good bit of product development under his belt, he was also kind enough to go over the stuff everyday electronic design just doesn’t cover. Developing a product is something you can only learn by doing, and we’re glad [Bob] chose to share his experiences with us.