troopersbadge Hackable Conference Badge Boasts a Nixie Tube

Jeffrey Gough created 210 interactive, hackable badges for the TROOPERS IT security conference, featuring nixie tubes built in!

Each conference attendee starts on zero. As they unlock achievements at the con – like sending postcards to their families, meeting the speakers, unlocking the secret in the badge, attending my SMT soldering workshop, etc, attendees level-up. Those who reached the highest levels were entered into a prize draw to win hacker goodies. I designed this levelling-up concept to connect with the central themes of the TROOPERS conference – personal progression, education, and becoming better IT security professionals. Florian did an amazing job of weaving the badge and the game concept into the very fabric of the conference.

The badge hangs around the neck from a CAT5 cable, rocking the network security image. Red for the speakers, green for everyone else. Here I am wearing the bare, prototype PCB. Have you any idea how difficult it is to find 750mm CAT5 cables? It’s quite difficult.

As well as being the LANyard (sorry) the cable functions as the power switch, levelling-up mechanism, programming interface and debug output (and attack vector for intrepid hardware hackers!). When an attendee unlocked an achievement, he took his badge to the information desk where one of the organising staff would plug in a special dongle to update his score. The dongle is simply a TI Launchpad (MSP430G2231) with a CAT5 cable soldered on, running some custom firmware to transmit a magic byte over SPI to the badge.

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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