This past weekend, hackers, scientists, and makers of all creeds gathered in Pasadena, California at the Supplyframe Design Lab and the Los Angeles College of Music to experience the second annual Hackaday Superconference. The event was organized around a series of talks and workshops on the subject of hardware hacking, with lots of mingling and idea exchanging in between.
Speakers discussed a variety of topics that ranged from hacking for space, bio-inspired design, virtual reality, and more. Interspersed were talks from people who that detailed their personal projects. Ken Shirriff, for example, talked about his work reverse engineering analog and digital chips to discover how they function and how to emulate their code. Bodo Hoenen talked about his work designing a bionic arm for his daughter to assist her physical therapy and increase her mobility. I definitely feel like I’m selling this event short here, because each talk had its own highlights. Rather than listing each one, I can only direct you to Hackaday’s YouTube channel, where all of these talks will be uploaded in the coming weeks.
Of course a few attendees also brought their projects with them. During Saturday’s lightning talks Joshua Vasquez stepped up to the stage to show off his tentacle project, saying that even though he considered himself more of a coder than a hardware hacker he was still able to create something physical and rewarding. Christine Sunu, one of the fellows at BuzzFeed’s Open Lab for Journalism, Technology, and the Arts, also brought along her Starfish Cat. The Starfish Cat is a pretty adorable robot, but I was especially impressed with how Christine created a squishable structure that still maintained its shape. She writes about this project and others for Buzzfeed. And then there were those whose project that weekend was hacking the beautiful badges that Voja Antonic designed for the conference.
Prominent in the Superconference’s programming was the announcement of the Hackaday Prize winners. Hackaday received over a 1000 entries to the contest that responded to the directive “Make something that matters.” With large cash prizes and a residency at stake even the runner up projects featured in a video shown to the audience were quite impressive. Here are the winners:
Alberto Molina Perez won the grand prize, $150,000 and a residency at Supplyframe Design Lab, for his work on DTTO, a modular robotics system. Each module is a relatively simple robot in its own rights, that uses servos, 3D printed parts, magnets and off-the-shelf parts to move like an inchworm
In second place was Leszek Pawlowicz who created a Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) dome that could be made for less than $600. This method of photography allows researchers to get highly detailed images of an object’s surface.
Peter Walsh took third place with a laser cut optics workbench designed to allow people to play around with their own optical experiments at an affordable price. He was inspired by the lab kits of his youth that encouraged kids to take things apart, mix things together just to see what the result would be. This optics workbench offers that same kind of experimental flexibility at a relatively affordable price.
In fourth place was Áron Molnár, a Hungarian teen who worked on a way of using ferrofluid to create a new high accuracy tilt sensor. One judge called it the best practical use of ferrofluid that they’d seen. In his acceptance speech video (he was unable to attend in person), he mentioned that he’d be turning 18 in November and that this was the best birthday present (and this may have gotten some extra-appreciative applause from the crowd).
Finally, Joseph Church of Tropical Labs won fifth place for creating Mechaduino, a stepper motor that offers some of the speed, torque, and accuracy of an industrial stepper motor at a fraction of the cost.