Competitive Soldering Gets Heated at Hackaday Superconference

The Hackaday Superconference is in full swing, and in addition to the greatest hardware hackers, a great gathering of tinkerers, awesome talks, badge hacking, and so much more, we’ve also got competitive soldering. This year, we’re making soldering competitive with the SMD Solder Challenge. It began Friday morning as hackers go heat to head, hand soldering frustratingly tiny parts.

The rules are simple: you’re given a light, a magnifying glass, some solder, wick, flux, and the standard Hakko soldering iron (with the standard tip). The task is to solder up our own special version of the SMD Challenge Kit from MakersBox that includes an SOIC8 ATtiny85 to drive LED/resistor pairs in 1206, 0805, 0603, 0402, and 0201 packages. Scoring is based on time, completion, functionality, neatness, and solder joint quality. May the steadiest hands and sharpest eyes win.

Already, we’ve gone through a few heats of the SMD Soldering Challenge where six hackers sit down, are given five minutes of inspection time, and then whip out their irons. All of this is run by our very own [Al Williams], who serves as the ultimate arbiter of what good soldering is. It’s an amazing competition, and if you don’t think 0201 packages are hand-solderable, you haven’t seen the attendees at the Hackaday Supercon. The top times, by the way, are between 20-30 minutes to complete the entire challenge, with [Sprite_tm] currently at the top of the leaderboard.

You can check out all the talks from the Hackaday Superconference over on our live stream, where we’ll (eventually) be announcing the winners of the SMD Soldering Challenge and the winners of the badge hacking competition later on. Don’t miss the announcement of the winner of the 2018 Hackaday Prize later on this evening!

Competitive Surface Mount Soldering Comes to Supercon

Who will show the best soldering skills at the Hackaday Superconference next week? We have a little — in fact, a very little — challenge for you: solder surface mount components down to a tiny 0201 package. This is the SMD Soldering Challenge and successfully finishing the board at all shows off the best of hand soldering skills, but during the weekend we’ll also keep a running leader board.

Ballpoint pen for scale

For the event we’re using the SMD Challenge board by MakersBox which utilizes a SOIC8 ATtiny85 to drive LED/resistor pairs in 1206, 0805, 0603, 0402, and 0201 packages. There will be a 5 minute inspection time at the start of the heat to open the kit, get familiar with the board, and confirm that you have all of the components and tools you need. We suggest not sneezing while placing that 0201 part down on the board — there is a spare set of 0201 parts only in the kit so you might get one extra chance with the smallest parts if you need it, but replacements will not be provided for parts lost during the heat.

There will be eight heats of six people participating so make sure you get signed up as soon as you get to Supercon. You can only compete once and you must use our soldering iron and solder. We will also have magnifiers, tweezers, flux, and desoldering braid on hand. You can bring reasonable tools and other support materials; Supercon staff running the challenge are the arbiters of “reasonable” in this case.

Scoring is based on time, completion, functionality (of the circuits you attempted to complete), neatness, and solder joint quality. If the top score is a tie, the fastest time across all the heats will be the winner. The official rules are on the event page so take a moment to look them over.

Don’t think it is going to be easy. Here’s a quote from the SMD Challenge board project page:

Be warned that trying to hand solder a 0201 package, which is just slightly larger than a grain of sand, may be considered evidence of insanity and get you committed to bad places by your loved ones and/or arch nemesis

The real prize is the bragging rights of being the Hackaday soldering virtuoso. Do you have what it takes? Someone reading this right now will be. But the first step is to show up at the Hackaday Superconference. See you there and good luck!

Breakfast at DEF CON — The Greatest Illicit Meetup of All

Every year we host Breakfast at DEF CON on the Sunday morning of the largest hacker conference in the United States. I think it’s a brilliant time to have a meetup — almost nobody is out partying on Sunday morning, and coffee and donuts is a perfect way to get your system running again after too much excess from Saturday evening.

This year marks our fourth Breakfast and we thought this time it would be completely legit. Before we’ve just picked a random coffee shop and showed up unannounced. But this year we synced up with some of our friends running the Hardware Hacking Village and they were cool with us using the space. Where we ran afoul was trying to wheel in coffee and pastries for 100+ people. The casino was having none it.

But to their credit, we were forbidden from bringing the food into the conference center, not into the greater casino. We ended up squatting in a restaurant seating area that wasn’t open until 5pm. The awesome Hackaday Community rolled with the venue change, and a fantastic time was had by all! For what it’s worth, this ended up being the best space for a Breakfast yet! There was plenty of room with many tables, and we had no problem filling all of the space.

Tindie and Hackaday were sponsors of the SMD Challenge this year (a timed soldering challenge going all the way down to 0201 packages that was also judged for quality). Jasmine announced the winner live at the meetup, that’s the image at the top of this article. I thought the award the Solder Skills Village made for the Most Dropped Parts was pretty epic. It’s a round pendant with a piece of carpet and a bunch of components that was on display during the meetup.

The number one piece of hardware people brought with them was badges. Since we’re doing in-depth badge coverage I won’t go into that here. But I’d like to mention that for the second year in a row, Brian McEvoy brought some epic hardware. Last year it was an OpenSCAD controller demo, this year it’s a custom mechanical keyboard design system.

Taking wide shots of crowds is frowned upon at DEF CON so what follows are posed shots. I made sure to ask all involved before snapping the image. DC27 is a long way away, I’m hoping to see many of these awesome folks much sooner than that when Supercon gets going this November.