Mike Szczys is the managing editor of the popular blog Hackaday.com.

MSP430 launchpad

Way back in 2010 I was lucky enough to get an early look at the MSP430 LaunchPad. What a game changer; spend enough time looking at the sidewalk and you'll surely gather the coinage necessary to order one -- just $4.30 at the time. The reason I liked it so much was that it encouraged bare-metal programming for embedded beginners.

Of course, since then we've seen the and TM4C and SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3200 LaunchPad kits released and I love those even more because the ARM chips are the mega-play land to the MSP430's single swing set.

So why am I reminiscing on the LaunchPad lines? I believe they’re an amazing resource for learning to program embedded systems. 

I run a blog called Hackaday.com. If you’ve ever read it, you know it’s the gold-standard of entertainment for Engineers and Engineering Enthusiasts. For almost 10 years, we've been celebrating hackers who spend their free time not on the sofa, but in the basement learning and perfecting new skills. If you have the interest and determination, you can ascend to wizardly-levels of engineering skills with a little bit of help from your online friends.

One engineer with one idea can change the world.

The ability to do this with hardware is a very new one. The compilers used to cost more than my car and the hardware costs were nothing to sneeze at either. Now you can spend more on a meal than on the dev board... and an IDE comes packaged in the deal. We need to support the trend of making high-level hardware development achievable for an increasingly wide range of people. The Hackaday Prize is trying to do just that.

We're awarding a trip into space and hundreds of others prizes to hackers who post meaningful examples of open hardware.

The challenge is to build the next generation of connected devices -- tweeting receipt printers and refrigerators that include a browser are so 5-years ago. Let's take the technology we have right now and build hardware worthy of The Jetsons.

We want you to take that favorite hardware of yours and lock yourself in your lair for a few nights, build something awesome, then write about how you did it.

By sharing the design, you give others an example to learn from, or to improve upon.

Open design like this allows users to see how data is harvested, what is being done with that data, and then lowers the bar for late-comers to add their own devices to a connected world so the know-how isn't exclusive to a single ecosystem.

The great thing is, you can build any type of connected device for this. A clever example of how connected devices should work is what we (Hackaday and our fellow engineers) are most interested in seeing. Lock onto the right implementation and you could be the creator of an idea that moves the world.

You have until August 20th, 2014 to register your seed idea (but we're already giving out shirts, stickers, patches, etc. just for posting your concept). After 8/20 our panel of awesome judges will start eliminating entries to award the top prizes: a trip into space, industrial grade mill and 3d printer, a trip to Akihabara, team skydiving, and 50 grab bags of electronics valued at about a $1k.

What are you waiting for? You build the future. You claim the Hackaday Prize.

Psst... The official MSP430 blog just shared a coupon code for 35% the new MSP430 FRAM LaunchPad.