Ten Winners Of The Hackaday Prize Supportive Tech Challenge

Congratulations to the ten projects that have been selected to receive $500, and continue to the finals of the 2021 Hackaday Prize! Each of these are a different take on the Reimagine Supportive Tech Challenge that sought ways to make great hardware ideas work for more people.

Ebooks have made it possible for everyone to have a library in their pocket, and that has included the visually impaired as text-to-speech can read the printed word. But that’s not a complete replacement for reading for yourself and so the Thenar steps in as an affordable, portable braille ebook reader. It leverages a single braille cell on the edge of the device, and a tank-track-style scroll wheel for user input. Complete with a docking station to inductively charge the battery, it’s a high-end reader for those who need an alternative to epaper.

Okay, pop-quiz; how many of us want to have a future involving solar-powered everything? Most of us now have our hands up, but how many of us can set up a high-efficiency solar charge controller ourselves? If this next finalist (pictured at the top) has its way the answer will be just about everyone. The 2.5 kilowatt solar generator in a rugged brief case is packing a whopping 160 (!) 18650 lithium cells. The charging side of the design handles the maximum power-point tracking (MPPT) while the discharging side protects the user with a circuit breaker and all kinds of regulated outputs like 120 V, 24 V, 12 V, and of course all of the USB-C functionality you’d expect from a system like this.

Ten Finalists, Eight Dozen Entries

We cherry-picked two excellent finalists above, but all ten of these are easily worth their own mention (and many have already been individually featured on these pages). Congrats to the folks who will be headed to the finals in October!

It was a tight field of nearly 100 entries for this round, make sure to take some time to check those out and offer kudos in the comment sections of each project. We’re excited to see what comes of the robotics-oriented challenge currently underway!

Reimagine Supportive Tech For The Newest Hackaday Prize Challenge

Beginning right now, the 2021 Hackaday Prize challenges you to Reimagine Supportive Tech. Quite frankly, this is all about shortcuts to success. Can we make it easier for people to learn about science and technology? Can we break down some barriers that keep people from taking up DIY as a hobby (or way of life)? What can we do to build on the experience and skill of one another?

For instance, to get into building your own electronics, you need a huge dedicated electronics lab, right? Of course that’s nonsense, but we only know that because we’ve already been elbow-deep into soldering stations and vacuum tweezers. To the outsider, this looks like an unclimbable mountain. What if I told you that you could build electrics at any desk, and make it easy to store everything away in between hacking sessions? That sounds like a job for [M.Hehr’s] portable workbench & mini lab project. Here’s a blueprint that can take a beginner from zero to solder smoke while having fun along the way.

What about breaking down complex topics into something us newbies can swallow? Radio signals are all around us, but again the barriers to getting into SDR are many and varied. A great bit of supportive tech would be a project that shows simple hardware and shares a virtual machine with the open source software toolchain already set to go. A beginner could pick something like this up and be listening for transponders from airplanes passing by in a matter of hours.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve spent countless joyful hours learning how to do some difficult and fascinating stuff. Share the wealth!  Take an existing hardware concept and make it modular and easy to use. Refine an existing design to make it more approachable for users with any range of mobility challenges. Or pull together a beginner-friendly project to move STEM education forward.

Ten finalists from this round will win $500 and be shuttled onto the final round judging in October for a chance at the $25,000 Hackaday Prize and four other top prizes. Start your project page on Hackaday.io and use the dropdown in the left sidebar to enter it into the 2021 Hackaday Prize.