For years I’ve looked forward to seeing each new unofficial hardware badge that comes out of the #Badgelife powerhouse known as AND!XOR. A mix of new and interesting components, alternate-reality game, and memes, you never know what they’re going to throw down.
A bubble pack landed on my desk on Thursday with the newest offering, the AND!XOR electronic badge built for DEF CON 29, happening this weekend as a hybrid in-person and online conference. While each previous year upped the ante on complexity and manufacturing magic tricks, it’s no surprise considering the uncertainty of both the global pandemic and global chip shortage that they took a different tack. What we have here is a badge hacking puzzle that challenges you to just figure out how to put the thing together!
The boards themselves are obviously the “After Dark” treatment of OSH Park (and sure enough, their logo is on the back of the board). The iconic treatment uses black substrate (the board itself), clear solder mask to let the copper traces show through, ENIG plating for golden pads, and white solder mask.
Hackaday Alum Sarah Petkus has been on a long quest to build an awesome robot with a lot of personality lovingly known as Noodle (check out her Hackaday Supercon talk on the adorable quadruped). For DC26 she decided to throw a con inside the con for Noodle and this is the badge.
Anyone following Sarah’s work knows that her art is on point and here is a great example. Look at the solder mask on front and rear and you’ll notice the lettering is mirrored. This gives it the appearance that this is a design you can see through the board. The bold use of patches of silk screen and gold-plated copper deliver her aesthetic boldly and make you just want to stare at the design. There is a little squiggle through the C on the front that is a superb touch! Driven by an ATmega328 and a CR2032, there are 10 LEDs on the back that flash for a backlight effect.
From a cockroach filled with LEDs, to an impressively dense 576 RGB LED display, and even a hunk of carpet, our final installment of the unofficial hardware badges at DEF CON 26 are beyond impressive. I tried to see every badge and speak to every badge maker this year. So far we’ve covered a ton…
At Hackaday, we’re constantly impressed by the skill and technique that goes into soldering up some homebrew creations. We’re not just talking about hand-soldering 80-pin QFNs without a stencil, either: there are people building charlieplexed LED arrays out of bare copper wire, and using Kynar wire for mechanical stability. There are some very, very talented people out there, and they all work in the medium of wire, heat, and flux.
The kit in question was an SMD Challenge Kit put together my MakersBox, and consisted of a small PCB, an SOIC-8 ATtiny, and a LED and resistor for 1206, 0805, 0603, 0402, and 0201 sizes. The contest is done in rounds. Six challengers compete at a time, and everyone is given 35 minutes to complete the kit.
Friend of Hackaday, Drew Fustini, came to our Breakfast at DEF CON meetup sporting a name badge of his own design. The E-Paper Badge uses a Teensy LC to drive a 2.15″ E-Paper display. The row of capacitive touch buttons to the left allow the image to be changed, and he just happened to have the Jolly Wrencher in the gallery of choices for this picture.
This badge gets me really excited for this year’s Open Hardware Summit which is at MIT on September 27th. This year’s badge is a collaborative effort between a group on Hackaday.io! It’s basically Drew’s badge on steroids, and he told me the experience of working with a team has been really positive. It seems each time the group hits a hard problem or a pile of work that needs to be done, someone on the team grabs it and runs with it. It’s a great example of both certified open hardware and team development.
I tried my best to see every badge and speak with every badge maker at DEF CON 26. One thing’s for sure, seeing them all was absolutely impossible this year, but I came close. Check out the great badges shown off in volume 1 and in volume 2 of this series. The game is afoot…
Hi! My name is Nisha, and I made a party bangle for my friend, Miki, to take with her to DefCon25. It was my first fully-formed electronics project and it posed some interesting challenges due to its unusual form factor. You can read about my experiences with that project here.
Soon after DefCon25, I was approached by r00tkillah to make over a 100 of something similar for the DC503 party at DefCon26. The plan was to combine the power of the BMD-300 SoC by Rigado used in the Wagon Badge from the previous year with my Neopixel bangle form factor. We would call it “The Banglet” and it was going to be awesome.
In passive mode, the banglet’s LEDs light up when detecting nearby Bluetooth devices. The number of LEDs that are lit correspond to the number of BT devices detected and their colors are based on each device’s mac address.
Last week, tens of thousands of people headed home from Vegas, fresh out of this year’s DEF CON. This was a great year for DEF CON, especially when it comes to hardware. This was the year independent badges took over, thanks to a small community of people dedicated to creating small-run hardware, puzzles, and PCB art for thousands of conference-goers. This is badgelife, a demoscene of hardware, and this is just the beginning. It’s only going to get bigger from here on out.
Although badgelife may seem like a bunch of hardware engineers sitting behind a pick and place machine for a weekend’s worth of lulz, this is a masterclass of product design and manufacturing. Badgelife is product development, and unlike many other hardware design jobs, the ship date will not slip for any reason. The hardware must be done on time, and if you’re not shipping all the features you promised everyone will be upset. Badgelife is the best experience you’ll ever get in engineering for production, product design, and manufacturing.
Anyone in the hackerspace lately may have noticed our @DC503 #badgelife projects taking shape. If you’re headed to @defcon and want to get your hands on this one, or get one of these around your hands, check out http://503.party . See you in Vegas!