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Hackerspace Challenge 2011


A major electronic component distributor suddenly realized that there is a huge market in the hackers and DIY community and founded a subcompany called element-14 to deal with those guys.

To get themselfes known they talked to the right people and these people had the right ideas.. and now there is a hackerspace challenge.

Many hackerspaces worldwide were contacted and asked to participate.

Every hackerspace gets USD 900.- in budget free to use and there will be a finale where the 3 winning teams will earn prizes..

The hackerspaces got 6 weeks to design something that has a microcontroller and a portable powersource inside and can be used for education.

This is a kind of competition but i am really not a big fan of competition so i see it as a chance to make the world a better place and contribute to education today.

The EduBuzzer

We will contribute to the project with our own device: the EduBuzzer. Progress, details links aso will be documentated in various places on the Internet, foremost here in the wiki but also at the element-14 community website:

Current status and updates

See also http://hsc2011.soup.io for fresh updates / work in progress.


The documentation of the project is kept in this wiki:

Some of the documentation is primarily relevant internally:

  • Links we might follow
  • Roadmap during the competition
  • the rest of this page


Goals / Features

  • electronic "RAISE YOUR HANDS" mode
    • question from teacher
    • i think i know the answer so i press a button
    • random generator picks who is to answer / can be overridden
    • could be used for statistics on participation, and which kids need more integration based on statistics
    • enable to vote on a topic without raising your hand in front of the class which ultimately leads to a more honest voting behaviour
    • enables vote mechanisms that are hard to do with paper like multiple choices and ratings on preferred solutions as in "I'd like option A but if we don't get enough votes for that, option B would be my second favourite."

    • teams of pupils can be chosen by a random generator this would take the social stress off the teacher as in "i dont want to be in a group with this guy.." "..the computer has chosen ist fair"
    • games would be possible where groups compete and if a group performs better it has to let a member go into another group
    • also the opposite is possible where the best performing group gets new members..
    • if a pupil doesnt know the answer he could "ask the audience" and the kids could press what they think is the right answer..

    • this will probably not be in version 0.1 as it needs a lot of work that is unrealistic to be implemented with the very short deadline of 2 months
    • teacher should be able to have a live on-stage test where the kids can answer questions with multiple choice pushbutton modes
    • multiple choice tests are not very common in europe so we need to spend research on this subject
    • maybe something like the werewolf game
    • the remote choses who is the wolf and the others have to find out who it is by talking to each other on a round based system

    • multiple stations are layed out around the classroom
    • students go from station to station, plug in their ibutton, push a button to put in their solution to the quest presented at this station, go to next station


    • ATMEGA168
    • Radiochip
      • Idea: For prototyping, it might be better to use a ZigBee (e.g. XBee) -> more robust comms, easier firmware, standard compontents. More expensive per device (>40€ per student, probably too much for an average school), but this is just prototyping.
      • Alternative: RFM12, 3-6€ per device, no adhoc-network, probably problems with two devices sending at the same time.
    • 9V battery, later a lipo pack
    • 4 buttons
    • 5 RGB leds
    • iButton reader

    • Arduino
    • Shield
    • USBhub+usbstick for software


  • firmware for the basestation
  • firmware for the edubuzzer
  • dummy edubuzzer emulator for host software development
  • host software portable! maybe QT ? maybe a local server (java?) + webfrontend?
  • HTML/JS webapp running on teacher's laptop (see Frontend)



  • easy to manufacture
  • laser + acryl or similar
  • needs a prototype made from playdoh for production first :)

What are the benefits, what is completely new?

  • realtime statistics for the teacher
  • competition between teachers
  • fair choice by random generator or some clever algorithm instead of the teacher always picking the same guys
  • not being bullied for being a smartass for raising your hand all the time
  • not being bullied for NOT raising your hand very often..

Things to think about in later versions

  • accupack
  • buzzers stick together by magnets so no suitcase is needed
  • all buzzers can be charged at once when together by magnets
  • loader in a suitcase hat can be connected to a walloutlet
  • optional plugable parts (keyboards,mice..)
  • countdown when answering a question
  • optical/accoustic/vibration feedback