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Hackday Prize 2017 Recap

Sam Sattel


Hackday Prize 2017 Recap: EAGLE Helps Bring an Innovative Idea to the Surface

Hackday Prize 2017 has come and gone. This year we saw a variety of innovative projects that focused on creating positive social change in the world. The question on everyone’s mind – how can we harness the power of engineering and design to solve real human problems? Many engineers rose to the challenge, leveraging their talents in hardware design, mechanical design, electronics design, and programming to create some fantastic work.

Grand Prize: Open Source Underwater Glider

The Grand Prize winner was an open source underwater glider made by Alex Williams from Essex, UK. Alex saw an opportunity to create an alternative underwater monitoring device that wasn’t limited by range and runtime. His goal was to make a glider that could be a sea for weeks or months at a time.

Developing a glider with these capabilities would provide a way to monitor underwater environmental conditions via marine surveying, temperature monitoring, and gas level analysis. To make this happen, Alex’s glider was split into four sections:

Buoyancy Engine

The glider can move up/down in the water with a buoyancy engine built from a series of syringe tubes tied to a servo motor. By taking water into the device, the glider becomes heavier than the surrounding water and descends. When the glider needs to ascend it simply releases all of the water stored in its syringes, making it more buoyant than the surrounding water.

Pitch/Roll Control

The center mass of the device features a lithium-ion battery pack and steel rods. This functions as both a power source and a way to control pitch/roll. A stepper motor is connected to a metal rod, which pushes the battery pack back and forth in its enclosed chamber. This shifts the glider’s center of mass and affects the glider’s pitch.

There’s also a secondary motor within the unit that tilts the battery to the left or right. This shifts the center of mass left or right, allowing the glider to move left or right.

Communications System

Communications are handled through a custom designed control board that’s tethered to a Fathom-S interface board. This system allows the glider to be operated and even programming underwater with a tethered connection.

Depth Monitoring

The glider includes a pressure sensor and timer, which provides two configurations for controlling and monitoring depth. The pressure sensor can be configured to toggle gliding states after a predetermined depth is reached.

All of these systems fit together in the glider’s system diagram as shown below:

PCB Design

Alex designed the glider’s custom control board in the free version of Autodesk EAGLE. This board connects to a serial output from the Fathom-S which can handle a connection of over 600+ meters. By using the built-in accelerometer, pressure sensor monitor, compass, and GPS the control board can be programmed in autopiloting software like Pixhawk.

To have his board manufactured, Alex used OSH Park, our favorite Purple PCB Pirates! With their Super Swift Service, he was able to have his design manufactured and delivered to the UK within a week.

Below you’ll see images of both the schematic diagram and PCB layout that Alex designed in EAGLE. This is an open source project, and anyone can download these designs from Alex’s development and design Dropbox.


Congratulations to Alex on his amazing design! This open source glider will allow hobbyists around the world to engage in underwater exploration at a fraction of the cost of other commercial solutions.

Second Place: Open Source IoT Patient Monitor


We’re all familiar with the rising costs of modern medical care. Even something as simple as monitoring vital signs can require thousands of dollars in equipment. Ashwin K Whitchurch from Bengaluru, India wanted to make a low-cost patient monitor that was financially realistic for developing countries.

Traditional medical equipment often includes proprietary technology that isn’t interoperable with other platforms. To solve this problem, Ashwin decided to use a Raspberry Pi for his IoT patient monitor would allow it to connect with other platforms and share data easily.

The schematic two-layer PCB for his HealthyPi was designed in the free version of Autodesk EAGLE. You can download these files freely here.

Third Place: Vein Detection System


People suffering from chronic diseases are often responsible for self-administering their medications. Take for example hemophilia, which requires a needle injection into a blood vessel. To perform this process, a blood vessel first has to be located, and then properly punctured with a needle. Learning how to locate and puncture a vessel successfully is often a painful trial and error-prone for first-time users.

To solve this problem, a team of brilliant engineering minds came together to create a device that illuminates veins with IR light. This image can then be captured in several ways including:

  • With a Raspberry Pi camera system
  • With a modified webcam
  • With a handheld version that can be used on a smartphone

Compared to a traditional vein detection system that costs approximately $4k, this device only costs $100 and offers similar capabilities. With this handheld vein monitoring system, people can easily learn how to administer their medication without the traditional trial and error process.


(Image source)

Fourth Place: Adaptive Guitar


Disabled individuals face many obstacles just trying to make do with life’s everyday tasks. But what about pursuing personal passions like music? Joe, an electronics design consultant in North Carolina, developed an adaptive guitar that allows a user to play with only one arm and foot.

Joe’s inspiration came from a friend who lost motor nerve in her left arm after a skiing accident. Her limited mobility left her without any way to enjoy one of her favorite passions, playing guitar. By developing an adaptive guitar, Joe’s friend was able to enjoy her craft thanks to three components:

  • Pick Bridge. This device mounts over the guitar’s sound hole and rotates back and forth with rubber picks on the guitar strings.
  • Actuator Module. This device is mechanically linked to the pick bridge and includes a 3-position linear solenoid actuator, heat sink, actuator control, and drive circuitry.
  • Foot Controller. The entire system is controlled by a foot controller, which includes six pressure-sensitive sensors. When a sensor is pressed with the foot, it tells the actuator module to strum a set of strings on the guitar.

Check out the video below which shows Joe’s device in action to help his friend enjoy her musical passions. Wow!

Fifth Place & Best Product: Braille Smartphone Keypad


Ever wonder how a visually impaired person might use a smartphone? Today’s options are limited. Braille software on smartphones is often too slow and provides zero physical feedback for typing. For many visually impaired people, the only option is to rely on a phone with physical keys and Braille buttons.

To make smartphone use more accessible for the visually impaired, Vijay from Bangalore, India designed a Braille smartphone keyboard, the Tipo. This keyboard provides a tactile interface that can be connected to any smartphone via USB. It includes six buttons that operate on the Braille typewriter system. By pressing a combination of these buttons together, the user can enter specific letters on their smartphone.

The design is 3D printable and can be easily programmed via an Atmel microcontroller. Check out the Tipo: Braille Smartphone Keypad in the video below.

Open Source Change

We’re proud to have been the electronics design tool of choice for the Hackaday Prize 2017 Grand Prize winner! Designing open-source electronics and software open up an entire world of possibilities for the human experienced. And it all starts with one great idea. From underwater gliders to Braille keyboards, this year’s winners are a true testament to how engineers can make this world a better place.

It all starts with an idea. Bring your design with the free version of Autodesk EAGLE. Download it now!

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