And the winner is: the Hackmobile, the brainchild of four makers based at Minneapolis’s Hack Factory! The Hackmobile’s designers take home first-place honors and a $10,000 check in the Ultimate Maker Vehicle Challenge, an engineering design contest that challenged makers to design their Ultimate Maker Vehicle out of a 2014 Ford Transit Connect.
[The Hack Factory], for many of us, is our home away from home. The people at this place are a second family and this is where we go to be ourselves and work on our projects.
To win this competition, Jon Atkinson, Michael Freiert, Riley Harrison, and Becca Steffen – long-term members and officers of the Hack Factory – designed an interior for the Transit Connect that turns the panel van into a mobile fabrication vehicle. Packed full of tools and equipment, the Hackmobile is a maker space on four wheels, accessible to makers who want to fabricate just about anything, anywhere, anytime. The design boasts an integrated three-axis CNC base with multiple tool heads. Dubbed “the Fabber,” the CNC machine includes a 3D printer with a heated bed, a small router, a plasma torch for cutting metal, and a 10-watt laser diode for cutting and engraving. In addition to the Fabber, the Hackmobile features an electronics bay, machine tools, a metal brake, and a MIG welder.
To win the Ultimate Vehicle Challenge, the Hack Factory team had to outscore other teams in two rounds of competition. The first challenge was to gather enough votes from the public, on the contest website, to place in the top three. Michael Freiert explains that it was important to not only have a good design, but to let people know about it as well. A video that fellow makers Lee Anderson & Riley Harrison created showed off the Hackmobile’s design and features for all to see and judge.
We were very pleased to get the amount public support we did.
To let their peers and pals know about the project, the team reached out to everyone they know, using email, Facebook, and Twitter. “We talked to people at other maker spaces across the country,” says Freiert. Indeed, the team worked internationally to build excitement for their project. “I have a friend with family in India,” adds Steffen. “They were telling makers there about our project and liked what they saw.”
It was a bit of a nail-biter while the votes were coming in and competitors’ positions shifted almost daily. When the Hackmobile emerged in the top three, the design went to round two during which a committee of expert makers made the final judgment and declared the Hackmobile the winner.
In the end, designing the Hackmobile was about more than the prize money. “We were all really engaged with this project,” says Harrison. “We spent a lot of time on it, and it really meant a lot to us to get attention from people in the maker community. They are the people who mean the most to us.”