The Cutting Edge of Engineering Gathers at Hackaday’s Superconference 2018

Maker News Technology
The Cutting Edge of Engineering Gathers at Hackaday’s Superconference 2018

This past weekend in sunny Pasadena, CA, engineers and hardware hackers amassed for the 4th annual Hackaday Superconference. The three-day event comprises presentations, workshops, and perhaps most popularly, opportunity for intelligent and inspiring conversation. With around 400 attendees and 43 speakers this year, the gathering provides a nice mix of in-the-know intimacy with ample opportunity to meet new people.

I made my way to the event on Saturday morning to see it all in person, and had a blast. Here are my photos and notes.

Attendees check in at the Los Angeles College of Music before the morning kickoff.
Previous standout badges adorn the wall in the LACM entrance.
The #Badgelife concept has become a key part of the Supercon, with a large portion of the workshop space dedicated to letting people set up the high-tech badges that they receive with their attendance.
Lots of great event badges from events and years gone by.
A packed crowd awaits the opening remarks.
Many familiar faces in attendance — Alasdair Allan (center) and Clarissa Redwine (right) stand on the sidelines before the show starts. Alasdair mentioned that this is the one event that he goes to on his own, without any presentations or workshops.
All of the event’s presentations are streamed live — you can find them here.
Hackaday’s Sophi Kraviz and Mike Szczys fire up the crowd as the show begins.
Ex-Make editor David Scheltema reminded me that the mingling was the best part of the event (and that I could catch the talks later, as they’re all recorded).
Szczys shows me the 2018 badge up close. It’s basically a small computer hanging from your neck.
Another friendly face, Becky Button flew in from Virginia for the Supercon, even after losing her backpack and computer to a car break-in.
The keynote presentation from Bill Gross provided some exceptionally insightful points in high-tech entrepreneurship.
The workshop and hacking space, located under a long tent in the back alley, started the day tidy and organized. It wouldn’t remain this way.
Two attendees do some on-the-fly custom badge tweaks.
Signage of the layout for the event.
Microsoft engineer (and Make: contributor) Kitty Yeung would present later in the day about needed advancements in textile manufacturing.
Estefannie brought the latest iteration of the sound-reactive, light-up Daft Punk helmet she’s built.
Chris Gammell listens to a presentation as he fine tunes his own for the following day.
The presentation from Kelly Ziqi Peng about diffractive optics captured the essence of the event perfectly — a topic so advanced and specific that most people there could only follow a portion of it, but so curious and cutting edge that she kept the seats full for the duration of her talk. Fascinating stuff.
Evil Mad Scientist’s Lenore Edman and Maker Faire creator Sherry Huss catch up.
Kevin Walseth, from event sponsor Digikey, would take 3rd place in the SMD soldering challenge.
Part of the mingling of the event meant finding any space you could to go through materials. These two were working on updating phones with a custom app.
And here, Crowd Supply’s Darrell Rossman shows off some of their new hardware to Alex Glow and friend.
Note to all: John Park is always a joy to chat with.
The scene from outside the back alley, looking in.
Superconference volunteer Kim tries her hand at the SMD soldering challenge.
The smallest components on the SMD challenge board are downright diabolical. Get them all done and the board glows brightly.
As the afternoon progressed, the back space became more and more popular.
Estefannie shows a project to Drew Fustini and friend while waiting for the next presentation to begin.
Kitty Yeung takes the stage.
The final Saturday presentation was one I was told to not miss, and for good reason — Jeroen “Sprite” Domburg reviewed his printer cartridge hacking efforts, allowing a bare cartridge to print specific images as it’s manually dragged over items.
The hacked cartridge can even scan items to match their color.
As well as be used to create a wider pattern, even if just crudely.
The mascot of this year’s Hackaday Prize, a big-headed version of Nikola Tesla, pounds the drums as the 2018 winner presentation begins.
After a lengthy review of the contest and announcements for the runner-ups, Szcycs returns to the stage to announce the grand prize winner….
…Dexter, the open-source robot arm takes the $50,000 first-place prize.
The Dexter team is nothing but smiles with their trophy and an extra $50,000 in their pocket.
During dinner, project makers displayed some of their work — including custom vacuum-tube making
Toying with high-voltage electricity. This continued late into the night, with various boards being put to the stress test.
Any good event needs the right mix of hand cleaners in the bathroom.
Another project maker, Marcel Van Kervinck shows off his Gigatron microcomputer.
Those badge hackers never slowed down.
And the hardware collaborating continued late into the night.
Esteffanie shows the innards of her Daft Punk helmet to John Park.
Kitty explains the martian-like basalt fabric to Cedric and Cheng.
This contraption from SYN Shop in Las Vegas cranks out 30,000 volts to blast platters high into the sky.
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Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

View more articles by Mike Senese
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