Author Archives: Chelsea Moll

The 2018 Hackaday Prize

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Sophi Kravitz is a huge fan of SparkFun, ever since she got to spend two weeks as a hacker in residence in 2013. Currently now Director of Product at Supplyframe (Hackaday’s parent company), she is still hacking hardware whenever possible.

Our community is incredibly talented, and our planet needs smart technical solutions more than ever, so we invited Sophi to tell us more about how you can enter to win the Hackaday Prize and, you know, save the world while you’re at it.

The Hackaday Prize, the hardware hackers' Academy Awards, has just launched. Not only can you compete to be one of 100 talented individuals taking home a piece of the $200,000 prize pool, but the coolest projects also run a chance of being featured on Hackaday!

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Meet your 2018 judges.

The 16 Celebrity Judges are big names in the hardware engineering industries. Among our judges is Sherry Huss, who co-founded Maker Faire, and who I consider to be the original Maker-in-Chief. Under her leadership, makers everywhere were given a voice and a place to show their work. Other notable judges include Lauren McCarthy, a computer scientist who invented p5, and Kwabena Agyeman, FPGA engineer and creator of the CMUcam.

All 16 judges have experience running companies, creating startups, and engineering ambitious projects. Together, they will decide who will win the 2018 Hackaday Prize.

The Theme

In 2018, we’re faced with problems that can be solved, fully or partially, with technology. With everything going on in the world, hope is needed now more than ever. So we decided to give this year’s Hackaday Prize the theme of Building Hope. We chose five challenges for this year’s prize based on the issues we know our community can help with.

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The Challenges

We’re starting with an Open Hardware Design challenge. This first round allows everyone to explore their ability to plan an incredible project, followed by four prototyping rounds. We think that you, the open hardware community, can create something truly impressive - something that instigates change in the world - with the challenges that follow: Robotics, Power Harvesting, Human-computer Interface, and the Musical Instrument.

About Hackaday Prize

In 2014 we launched The Hackaday Prize for the first time to our smart, talented, enthusiastic community of engineers, scientists, designers, and creatives everywhere. Over 600 projects were created, and the winner, SatNOGS, now has a foundation where they are continuing the work they started here.

In 2017, we had 1,100 incredible entries and a huge global community that supported the Hackaday Prize. The winner of the Hackaday Prize was Alex Williams, with an underwater explorer robot.SparkFun’s own Pete Dokter was a Hackaday Prize judge in both 2015 and 2016!

2015’s Hackaday Prize winner, the Eyedrivomatic, directly impacted the lives of many with limited mobility.

2016’s winner was Dtto, a search and rescue robot, an open source project that is continuing to be worked on. Over the past four years the Hackaday Prize has given away $1 million to open hardware projects making change in the world.

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Learn more about the 2018 Hackaday Prize

All of us at Hackaday are excited to be a part of this effort for the 5th year. Join us in creating a better, brighter, and more fun world.

Check out our super entertaining video (with surprise guest)!

We challenge you to come up with something special, and enter it in this year’s Hackaday Prize.

Enter here!

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Making Better Connected Devices with the Minds Behind Helium

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

This is a guest post by Helium Systems, Inc., creators of the Atom Prototyping Module, Element Access Point, and other IoT parts.

In early March, SparkFun and Helium partnered up to bring better connected IoT devices to a wider world by offering individual parts and kits on the SparkFun website. But who is Helium? What do they do? Why did they decide to create this line of products? These questions and more are answered today! Take a seat, and find out more about the up-and-comers of the Internet of Things movement.

What need did you see in the market?

In June 2013, Amir Haleem and Sean Fanning (of Napster fame) were trying to solve a problem with sensor data. The specific question was, “How do we count the number of people walking past a store window in real time?” Wiring up a sensor to count people wasn’t the hard part. Getting the data back to the Internet in a reliable, inexpensive way, however, proved to be complex. The likely connection options at the time - WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular - were not a fit due to client connection limitations, range, and cost for a data plan. They realized this was a big problem, and soon after Helium was founded with a mission to help developers and enterprises solve the connectivity problem for sensor-based applications.

Helium Ethernet Starter Kit (Arduino)


How did you approach prototyping?

When starting a new project, always start with the nebulous ideas: “How do I find ‘X’ ?”, or “How do I get this data?”. It often turns out that getting the data in a single instance is not very difficult, but the continuous monitoring is much harder. Answering the initial “how” will help users source the hardware required, and then prototype development can begin.

Finding a reference point for a prototype involves slightly more digging around the web and reading. Look through open source projects for guidance, and if that fails, dig into the whitepapers.

What were major points of success or benchmarks in the building of the company/product?

For us to be successful, our platform needs to perform better than existing wireless protocols for our target use cases and customers. Early on we proved that our wireless and security implementation - embodied in compact hardware modules - was superior to existing LPWAN alternatives, and we continue to extend our capabilities in this area with each new release.

But Helium is not just an optimized connectivity layer. Our platform also simplifies IoT projects by providing a complete, cloud-based infrastructure to manage delivery and security of device data once it’s captured and transmitted from the edge. Our main mechanism here is Helium Channels. They automate the process of wiring up hardware-authenticated connections to major cloud providers at scale. When this feature was rolled out, the user feedback was extremely positive and we knew we had solved a hard problem.

For company milestones, we’ve been able to partner with numerous investors who believe in our vision like Khosla Ventures, GV, and Firstmark Capital. To date, we’ve raised over $34.5MM in funding from them and other top-tier institutions.

Helium Ethernet Starter Kit (Raspberry Pi)


What do you hope your users are able to achieve by using your product?

Helium’s users - from Fortune 500 enterprises down to hobbyist developers - rely on our platform as an essential, stable piece of infrastructure for their IoT strategy and projects. Companies and developers using Helium hardware and software realize faster time to deployment and a lower barrier to entry when developing sensing applications. And once in production, they achieve a higher level of reliability than competing offerings.

Helium Atom Prototyping Module


Any extraordinarily cool use cases you can share?

Wallo uses Helium in their product to create community monitoring and control systems. Their first product deployment will control home access and gates. Along with Helium, they are using Raspberry Pis and the Google Cloud IoT platform. We recently did a webinar with them covering their application in depth.

Smart agriculture is another area where users are testing and deploying Helium. The team at Twilio recently built an application to monitor and alert based on a home garden, and similar systems are being explored on Helium by amazing organizations like Code for Africa.

On the enterprise side, in-field product monitoring and building management are two of the areas where Helium is being deployed successfully. To monitor product state in the field, a Helium module is built into a sensor that transmits telemetry data (e.g. fill level and location) back to a cloud application that then automates deliveries of new stock and improves customer experience. For building management, organizations like WeWork have seen success capturing real-time environmental and space utilization data for use in internal and customer facing applications.

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Surprise friendos, it’s a caption contest!

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

We’re gonna be honest; our original blog post fell through at the last minute – but our scheduling pain is your prize-winning gain! It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these (like over a year?), but we haven’t forgotten how. Have you? HERE IT IS:

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It’s not our fault Shawn’s face is made for caption contests.

Here are the classic caption contest rules, in case you did forget:

  • Leave your funniest clean caption to the photo in the comments section below. We reserve the right to delete captions that we deem inappropriate. We’re not too stingy, but try to keep it moderately PG-13.
  • Captions submitted any other way besides in the comment section will not be accepted! That means do not use the feedback form, though you may really, really want to.
  • Captions will be accepted from the moment this post goes live until 11:59 p.m. Mountain Time on Monday, March 5.
  • A crack team of humor experts will pick the winner, we will announce it on this post next Tuesday and contact the winner directly.

Sure sure sure, but what’s your incentive? Oh, just one of these GIANT TACTILE SWITCHES. Honestly, we need to give some away so we stop playing with them and do our jobs. Help us do our jobs.

NovelKeys Big Switch - Tactile


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Get Ready, it’s VALEN-TIME.

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

You hate Valentine’s Day? HOW ORIGINAL. We at SparkFun love Valentine’s Day, if for no other reason than it is an extremely DIY-friendly occasion. There is probably someone around you who would delight in a handmade gift that says, “I love you so much I made a thing out of smaller things, just for you.” And if you are a person with no one to give such a gift…well, we love you, so that’s something!

We love you so much, in fact, that we’ve taken some of the last-minute guesswork out of the holiday and compiled some of our favorite DIYs you can whip up to impress any loved one.

Make your No. 1 person some love pizza, a light-up card or a plush critter — or help them wear your heart on their sleeve.

Soft Circuits: LED Feelings Pizza

Here we will learn how to say how you feel with pizza. Electric pizza.

Light-Up Valentine Cards

Light up your love with paper circuits - no soldering required!

Heartbeat Straight Jacket

An EL project that displays one person's heartbeat on another person's costume.

Light-Up Plush

Craft a light-up plush with LilyPad LEDs controlled by pressing a button and sliding a switch in the creature's hands.

Want to be a little less thematically obvious? Whip up a marquee bag that spells out your favorite conversation heart message (hello, “fax me”), some heated earmuffs to keep their sweet-nothings-receptacles warm, or a light-up crown or bracelet, just to show off.

Marquee Party Bag

This tutorial provides everything you need to know to make your own Marquee Party Bag!

Fairy LED Bracelet

Light up the world - and your wrist - with this quick and easy rechargeable firefly LED bracelet.

LED Crystal Goddess Crown

Follow this tutorial to make your own Crystal Goddess Crown with LEDs!

DIY Heated Earmuffs

Embedded with heating pads and four Neopixel rings, these earmuffs do more than your average winter accessory to keep you warm while still looking good.

Still not quite right? What about a texting box of chocolates, a compliment generator, some infinity-mirror heart shoes (because your love is INFINITE) or a fancy box that counts the ways you love them? Because we have all that, too.

At this point we’ve hopefully: (a) given you some excellent ideas, and you’re already off and making or (b) at least proven that we really do love Valentine’s Day around here.

And if, by some tragic miracle, we haven’t managed to find the perfect DIY gesture of love for your valentine, there is one gift that never fails…

ESP8266 Powered Propane Poofer

March 15, 2016

Learn how Nick Poole built a WiFi controlled fire-cannon using the ESP8266 Thing Dev Board!

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