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In the beginning there were conferences. Over time, as those conferences grew, attendees needed ways to identify each other. This need gave us the conference badge.

No one knows what the first conference badges looked like, but we can be confident that they were relatively simple affairs. Over time paper was put in plastic sleeves, which eventually became information printed on hard plastic. Sometimes that plastic wasn’t even rectangular.

At some point batteries were introduced and things started to get a bit crazy. Today many conference badges are intensely elaborate affairs. Some of the best of them are also certified open source hardware.

The SMD Challenge


Image: MakersBox under CC BY license.

The SMD Challenge was born from an insight into the human condition, as its creators (explain)[]:

“Making LEDs blink is what people think make Makers happy, but they are wrong. Makers want to be miserable. They like to make mistakes and to have to try things over and over again. That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. This project will make you strong!”

The SMD challenge is a badge you make yourself. This project starts with a relatively easy to solder resistor and LED. It then moves into increasingly tiny resistors and LEDs. Coming in both “Regular Edition” and “Misery Edition,” the SMD challenge is designed to challenge—and break—all but the most determined solderers.

If you do manage to make it all the way to the end (and can document your success), you can enter the prestigious 0201 Club. If you prefer to experience the misery (and success) secondhand, the club also features links showing many of the successful attempts.

FRI3D Badge 2018

Fri3D Badge

Image: Fri3D under CERN OHL 1.2

The badge (nicknamed Ph0xx) for Fri3D Camp 2018 also has the distinction of being the first piece of certified open source hardware from Belgium. Ph0xx is more than a simple conference badge. It features WiFi and Bluetooth (thanks to an ESP32), native USB connectivity, four buttons, two 5x7 LED matrices, a piezo speaker, and an accelerometer.

Since this badge is open source, you can immediately start taking advantage of all of these features. Fri3D even created an app to help you get started by animating the eyes.

The Open Hardware Summit 2018 badge

Open Hardware Summit 2018 Badge

Naturally, the Open Hardware Summit has a badge that is both awesome and certified open source hardware. In addition to WiFi connectivity, the badge features a programmable e-paper display.

At the start of the Summit, that display loaded just the wearer’s name and contact information, but since the badge is open source, it quickly displayed much more. Drew Fustini even provided an overview of the badges at the Summit to help people start hacking:

Demand the best: Open source conference badges

In a world full of good conference badges, open source makes them great. If you are a conference organizer, open sourcing your badges helps make sure that they live on well after the event. If you are a conference attendee, open source badges become a platform for all sorts of future hacking.

Let us know about other great badges in the comments. If you are putting together a badge for an upcoming event, don’t forget to certify it as open source!

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