Circuit boards were soldered, sheets of metal sawed methodically, voltage cranked up to a million and of course, many things were set on fire. Red Bull Creation’s call for submissions had been answered. For the alarmingly innovative, the qualifier rules were simple: Assemble a team of four, build an invention which “hacks the past to create the future” while incorporating an Arduino microcontroller, film the process and submit. From there, a panel of self-professed brainiacs would nominate the 10 most creative, most palm-to-the-forehead brilliant teams to come to New York this July, competing in a final hacker showdown.
From coast-to-coast, metal shops and hackerspaces, basement studios and hobby labs lit up with creativity incarnate. And the results were...intimidating. Mining through submissions was no simple feat -- but in the end, 10 teams proved themselves the clear frontrunners. Though this proving ground is far from over.
THE DETAILS UNVEILED (ALMOST)
From July 7 - 10, Red Bull Creation touches down at a top secret hackerspace workshop deep in the heart of Brooklyn; First with a high-pressure test of ingenuity, and then followed by a live spectator event on July 10 in McCarren Park in Brooklyn, NY. On Day 1, each team will receive the definitive build topic. (What's the fun in telling you now?) For the next 72 hours, teams will be thrown smack into the middle of a marathon of high stakes innovation. At the end of Day 3, the three teams with the most mind-blowing of inventions will not only be the proud new owners of tools valued up to $10,000 but that same amount in cash will be distributed amongst the winning teams as well.
When gauging the work done by a wild pack of engineers, architects, coders and visual artists, you need a panel of a similar ilk. Which is precisely why these judges were at the helm of the qualifying process.
Starting with Simone Davalos, one of the key components behind the robotic mayhem and destruction of cult hit, Robogames. Flash Hopkins--who instantly gets the award for Coolest Name of the Decade--the Harvard-studied co-founder of Burning Man. Rebel inventor, Hackett; NYU professor and subject of his very own Science Channel show "Stuck With Hackett." And oh right, Glenn Derene, Senior Technology Editor at do-it-yourself go-to resource, Popular Mechanics magazine.
THE FIRST TEN TEAMS
That's right, as of right now, only 10 of the 16 teams are being announced. The other 6? Let's call it something of a Wild Card pulled from an existing talent pool of makers, hackers, and inventors throughout the United States to keep things interesting.
Meanwhile, familiarize yourself with some of the competition:
i3Detroit -- Detroit, MI: In the past, this team of engineers built a car in the shape of a Twinkie that (of course) fires those delicious golden pastries from a built-in Twinkie rocket launcher. Though it was their creation and submission of the "ChronoTune," a digitally-controlled vintage radio that allows you to tune into different points in time that sealed the deal. SkyMall, ya snooze, ya lose on not carrying this one.
Donner Party 2.0 -- Truckee, CA: Perhaps the most ominously-named team in competition, this motley crew of metal artists, skiers and "enginerds" built themselves a 21st century grandfather clock that catapults fireballs from its head -- the number of fireballs corresponding to the hour on the clock. Functionally realistic? Maybe not so much. The perfect gag gift needed to scare the bajeezus out of Grandma? Most definitely.
North Street Labs -- Portsmouth, VA: Donning the name of the hackerspace from whence they came, these four circuitry experts qualified by putting the most work into something that champions the utmost laziness: "The American Dream." You've guessed it: a motorized hammock on wheels.
Innovation Thirst -- Greenville, TX: A festive bunch of mechanical and electrical engineers, these fellas have gone and invented every party's new best friend: "The Pourmaster Pro" -- a robotic kegerator that detects the size of a glass and does the pouring for you. Also birthing the first time "Victor 884 speed controller" and "frosty brew" will ever be used in the same sentence.
1.21 Jigawatts -- Minneapolis, MN: Four Back To The Future obsessives who've reached into a storied tradition and flung it headlong into the 21st century. Their digital-age, GPS-tracked message-in-a-bottle allows anyone in the world to send it a text message that's then broadcasted across all forms of social media. 'Cause nothin' says "I love you and I want you back" like a hash-tagged Twitter post.
hack.rva -- Richmond, VA: If there's one thing these hackers and hobbyists take seriously, it's their Pong. Filed squarely under "How did this not exist?!," this collective's updated the videogame classic and created their own remote-operated live-action version. Ten bucks says a Hollywood exec buys Pong's movie rights within the week.
23B -- Fullerton, CA: Wrapping your head around this team's Creation submission is akin to following a David Lynch plot: there are wires, pitch-perfected, homemade organ pipes and something that sends empty Red Bull cans hurtling through space. Mindboggling? Sure thing. But the execution's impeccable.
Ruination -- Rochester, NY: This crew of engineers, designers and medical scientists have banded together to develop a device crucial to the well-being of our world: An electronic dartboard tethered to bottles of booze that pours you shots upon successful (or not so successful) tosses--either way, you're getting crunked.
Buildface- Brooklyn, NY: Buildface is four guys from Brooklyn who like to build, program, hack, take things apart and put things together. John is a software engineer who programs user interfaces for set-top boxes; Roberto works as an iOS developer making apps for mobile devices; Aidan works in new media education at Cornell and teaches music technology; and Greg is an interactive game developer, and part Jedi.
Harford Hackerspace -- Baltimore, MD: This B-More technologist collective dared to ask the ancient question "What do you get when you cross a General Radio Company Weston Model 891 DC Volts Meter with a hand-crank?" An expertly crafted audio player that plays miniature sound bites when cranked fast enough. Triple-dog-dare you guys to generate "November Rain."
So there you have them. 10 teams aptly equipped to conquer Red Bull Creation. Keep in the know and be on the lookout for more details soon.