The 10 Most Common Hardware Hackathon Projects

Certain DIY projects crop up again and again, at Hackster’s hardware hackathons and beyond. In advance of this weekend’s event at the AWS Loft in New York, here’s a post that I originally put up on our old blog.

If you’re a novice, you can find tons of these projects to use as a starting point for adaptation, or to compare different potential platforms.

On the flipside, if you’re an experienced maker*, think hard before choosing one of these: Is it really the most interesting thing you can build? Can you put a new spin on it? Stand out with something radically new?

Here are our top frequently-submitted projects, with ideas to refresh them:

Baby monitor: Older children may get jealous when there’s a new face in the family. Make a teenager monitor! Include a breathalyzer and smoke detector, plus GPS tracking. Make it beep loudly and call you when it’s removed. The others will be so jealous of your kid’s awesome tech.

Pet feeder: Put that feral spark back into your pet! Launch the food across the room. Use facial recognition to aim it at your evil cousin Timmy! (…Don’t test this on the judges, we are not liable, etc.)

Wearable help alert system: When I need help, it’s serious business. Don’t just call the police… call the Ninja Turtles. Light the Batsignal. Summon magical powers so I can fight danger like the Maker incarnation of She-Ra.

Weather display: Earth weather is so predictable… What’s it like on Mars? Will Curiosity have to take the bus today?

Home notification hub: Tweets, news, locations, whatever. Tell me when Santa is coming. Tell me when the compost is gettin’ smelly. Tell me when my landlady Wanda looks at rent prices, so I can send her a fruit basket.

Smart coffee machine or Kegerator: Who doesn’t love a fresh drink at the optimal temperature? Ah, but must we deny ourselves that variety which is the very essence of life? Try picking a different temperature every time — Earl Grey slushie! — or randomly injecting a delicious new flavor.

Mailbox detector: I don’t need to know when more bills are on the way. Alert me when Cute James next door is getting his mail ;)

Bike alarm: Sure, I can lock up my bike, but who will stop thieves from running off… with my heart? Build a heartbeat monitor that alerts you when you’re in danger of falling in love. Add speech recognition to detect interests you might share — adventure, fast cars, petty theft…

Cat toy: Cats are happy to sit in cardboard boxes and knock stuff off tables. Instead, make a toy for your pet tarantula! Make some little jumpy ‘bots and let Spidey chase them. Bonus: aim the jumpers at Timmy.

If your team picks any of these, dress it up with a pretty enclosure, or re-use familiar technology in an unaddressed context. Even simple circuits have millions of uses, just waiting to be imagined…

Here are a few of my favorite weird hacks, from Hack to the Future and beyond:

*Of course, hackathons are for exploration and learning, and sometimes you’ll build something simple just to try out new tech. These projects are common because they’re useful. And they’re stepping stones to more complex work. We applaud all those who have built these and other hacks — to create anything is to take an idea and make it real, and that is super rad!

DIY robots, music, EEG, wearables, languages. FIRST alumna. Hardware Nerd @hacksterio. She/her

DIY robots, music, EEG, wearables, languages. FIRST alumna. Hardware Nerd @hacksterio. She/her