Got contest ideas? Want to help HQ staff?

You may have noticed that we run a lot of contests here on Instructables. Big ones, little ones, sponsored ones, weird ones, helpful ones, and the occasional flop. We like contests, because they reward what many of you would already be doing: making creative things and sharing them with the world.

We run contests for two main reasons: to reward authors with the kinds of prizes that help them to make more cool projects, and to give sponsors an opportunity to foment authentic customer experiences. The best contests combine the two with an awesome theme and even awesomer prizes.

Since we started running contests, we’ve given away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of prizes. Prizes ship out much faster than they used to (it helps that interns aren’t running the shipping room), and we’re pushing our limits to see how many engaging and awesome contests we can run at once. This year alone, we’ve run about 20 contests with prizes totaling ~$25,000. We’ve got more in the works, too.

This is where we need your help! If you’ve got contest theme ideas, I’d love to hear them. If you have prize ideas, leave ‘em in the comments.

And, if you or your business want to sponsor a contest of your very own, send me a PM.

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Right now, I am willing to fully back any home & garden contest, with sponsorship / prize donations including a $200.00 cash voucher, good for all product's within any store that I own, which there are many.

The contest I would like to hold, would be a greenhouse gardening contest, to see who could create the best staged greenhouse structure, using the most unique and inexpensive alternatives, as apposed to expensive fancy quick solutions.

The challenge come's to be, in the choosing of the structure itself, which would be done by the contest holder's, and in a randomized manner, such as they do on TV show's, such as Iron Chef, where they have no idea, what they will be cooking!

Mr_o_uk3 years ago
How about a "flat pack" contest. Where you either have to make something that is made from a flat pack (like the ikea hacks) or where you have to make something that is flat packable...
wilgubeast (author)  Mr_o_uk3 years ago
We're actually working on one of those right now. Details should be forthcoming once we get all our sponsorship ducks in a row.
Any news on this one? I have an idea...
Kiteman Mr_o_uk2 years ago
Whatever it is, I'd make it and write it, just hold off on hitting the publish button until there is more news.
...and once they're in a row, you can knock them down...
Kiteman Mr_o_uk3 years ago
Oh, I can see a lot of creative potential in that one.

If they got Ikea to sponsor it, there could be a special prize for hacking an Ikea product.
Pyrotechnics contest! Anything that burns pretty!
ASCAS2 years ago
How about a "Bluetooth Speaker" contest! :3 Bluetooth speakers are quite a trend these days. "Listen to Music Without Wires"

Here's an image :D Sorry I'm not that good in photo-text-editing :||
bertwert2 years ago
A programming contest (any language) would be awesome!
Kayak Kid2 years ago
A pumpkin contest! With everything pumpkin!
Kayak Kid2 years ago
A pumpkin contest next fall would be awesome! Everything Pumpkin
lighter than air contest or one with balloons, blimps and zeppelins (lead-free)
Mr. Noack2 years ago
An Ugly Christmas sweater project is the perfect match for instructables. It's an extremely popular phenomenon at Christmas. It would draw a sleigh full of traffic to the site and it's an easy DIY project to help get people involved in project documentation. Prizes could be anything,

My ugly sweater won me $5000 last year at a local radio station. I'm waiting to post it on instructables.
Lei_Kei2 years ago
How about burgers?
bertwert2 years ago
Why not a python programming contest?
thegrendel2 years ago
I had posted these suggestions in the wrong place (sorry).

* Invent a Board Game contest
* Tabletop Game Using Magnets contest
* Vintage Vacuum Tube Electronics contest
* Build a Short Wave Receiver contest
* Creative Vegan Recipe contest
* Kaleidoscope contest
* Paper airplane contest
BrittLiv2 years ago
How about a steampunk contest? I have seen Horatius.Steam and Admiral Aaron Ravensdale at the maker faire and their stuff is beyond awesome. I know there was a challenge a few years back and a vintage contest recently, but a proper contest would be great.
That's cool, but brace yourself for arguments about the definition of "Steampunk".
Aren't there arguments after every contest? ;-) The definition could be defined in the contest rules. I've been poking around the steampunk community the last few days and it would be great to convince more of them to post on instructables.
It sounds good - I'd put together something slightly more formal and send it to Wade via PM.
Thank you! I keep my fingers crossed.
I watched a lot of movies recently like Pacific Rim etc. and this came to my mind. How about a contest like 'As seen in movie contest'?
wilgubeast (author)  Tarun Upadhyaya3 years ago
With the success of the game.life contests over the past couple of years, it's about time we went straight for the movies. Halloween is probably your first chance for a movie-inspired prop, costume, or themed decoration. After that, we're looking at early 2014 for an "As Seen In" contest or similar.
That will be awesome :)
Kiteman3 years ago
I think I mentioned this elsewhere, but what about an "Assisted Living" or "Independent Living" contest?

Prosthetics, mobility, grip-assist, Swiss Army walking sticks...
Mr_o_uk3 years ago
Maybe a pub contest for the British amongst us (a bar contest for the rest)! Could be drink inventions -cocktails, brewing etc; furniture -bar stools, garden benches; pub tricks; glasses -decorated or different shapes; themes - names and decorations...
Kiteman Mr_o_uk3 years ago
(Damn, I could have saved my latest project!)
wilgubeast (author)  Mr_o_uk3 years ago
You just solved a sticky problem for us: how to get great cocktail/beverage recipes, homebrew projects, fancy glasses, and pub paraphernalia.

In what season do you think something like this would perform best?
We like our pubs all year round, but for different reasons.

Summer is in the beer garden, soaking up the sun and having beer festivals.

Winter is tucked up inside by the fire playing board games.
Kiteman Mr_o_uk3 years ago
Autumn is beer-festival season, after the harvests.
Kiteman3 years ago
Remember the 30s video contest (Forbes? 3 or 4 years ago?)? That was fun, and video technology has leapt on since then.

Blechmen3 years ago
I would love to see a contest evolved around graphic design, and artists use their skills to show how they make their best designs.
HollyMann3 years ago
Thought of another one - SHOES - people are obsessed with them - I think a contest related to shoes would work. :)
How about a "fail" competition Ive lots of projects that have failed for some reason, got too difficult, not sure where to go next, lost interest, blew up, caught fire, dog ate it, and of course the classic ipod wont fit in the dock i just made.
we often learn a great deal from our failures, It might motivate me to have another go, and its always good to have a fresh set of eyes on a problem. And its always fun to just point and laugh.
Good idea. I recently posted a failed project (Keeping Snails Away from a Vegetable Garden) and suggested 'Failed Projects' as a new category.
One of the aspects of learning-by-doing is that after a failure (but likewise after success) lessons become clear. From this perspective I think it is good practice to address suggestions for 'next generation designs' or generally speaking 'improvements' in any Instructable. See for example this 'Door-stopper with easy catch-and-release function'.
BrittLiv3 years ago
How about a pun contest? Btw. thanks a lot for the play contest!
wilgubeast (author)  BrittLiv3 years ago
If we can work out a way to make a pun contest successful, we'll try it. Punny projects are difficult to discover through keyword searches, and the barrier to entry is surprisingly high if you're not already sitting on a great pun project idea.
Mr_o_uk3 years ago
How about a 'bath' contest. Could include bath toys for kids, home made smellys, bath furniture, shower curtains, waterproof electronics. All sorts.
Mr_o_uk Mr_o_uk3 years ago
It could be 'bath room' rather than 'bath'. That way you could do a series of contests based on the rooms in a house.
wilgubeast (author)  Mr_o_uk3 years ago
We tried doing unusual uses in the kitchen/bathroom a couple of years ago, but reframing it as projects for the xxxxroom would probably (definitely) get more people to participate. We're running a home remedies contest that should catch the homemade smellys along with tick removal (always fun, ask Brad Paisley), sunburn relief, acne treatments, etc., but I suspect that your idea would generate a lot of cool projects. Added to our brainstorming list!
Wouldn't it be great to have a dessert contest or a curry contest!?
wilgubeast (author)  Muhaiminah Faiz3 years ago
I think you'll be pleased with this summer's contests. After Chinese food wraps, we've got another geographic cooking challenge for another large country in Asia. Hint: it's technically a subcontinent. And desserts are bound to come around again.
Thanks! that's a great news :)
786Ayesha3 years ago
How about a Magnat contest?
wilgubeast (author)  786Ayesha3 years ago
That's a good idea, provided you mean magnets. If you mean magnates, we'll probably have trouble getting any of them to participate.
They'd make useful sponsors...
Ooops ;( mistyped. yes it is Magnet contest.
Goodhart3 years ago
How about a contest centered around a branch of science: chemistry makes, robotic you already do, astrophysics makes (star gazing, etc), biology makes, geology makes, weather makes, etc. ?
+1 for chemistry!
Kiteman makendo3 years ago
Home* Laboratory contest? Prizes could be things like dataloggers, complex glassware, magnetic stirrers, microscopes etc. Maybe three top prizes, one for each main branch of science.

* "Home" would mean "not at work or school", and include fieldwork, datahandling, data visualisation etc.
wilgubeast (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
Working on this one right now! In the meantime, marvel at this DIY gel electrophoresis chamber: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/labs/gel/build_gel_box.pdf
Kiteman3 years ago
How about an "I Made It!" challenge?

Members post slideshows of the results of following other folks' instructables, and get prizes for number of projects followed, number of channels covered (weighted, so making two dozen different muffins from one member's recipes would not be as likely to win as one dozen completely different projects), number of different author's projects followed, quality of photography etc.

Or maybe an "I Improved It" challenge, where entrants take an existing project and make it, somehow, better.
wilgubeast (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
Yes. We want to do that. We'll be running something sorta-kinda similar in the fall: an "I could make that" contest themed around making DIY versions of cool stuff from sous vide controllers to designer shoes to furniture.

I'd like for us to run an "I made it" contest that makes use of the much-ballyhooed-but-as-yet-nonexistent "I made it" feature where members can show off their versions of other people's projects. (We've been waiting for a couple of years now, but it's in the queue.)
Haha, just how long is that queue? (Rounded to three significant figures...)
wilgubeast (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
Yes. If I say any more, Gregg will change my username to something unpleasant for violating the dev code of omerta.
Kiteman3 years ago
Scarecrow contest!
Kiteman Kiteman3 years ago
(See my more detailed PM)
Mr_o_uk3 years ago
Will be a little late for me, but a wedding contest would be good. The amount of work and craft that some people put in is incredible. I don't know what prizes would correspond though as the entries could be food (cake) to paper (invites) to automotive (wedding cars) to sewing (dress). It could be quite varied!
We've actually been talking about this one! We had one a few years ago and it did well. I hope we'll have one in the next year. :)
I'm getting married this weekend, and have published most of my wedding related stuff already, so too late for me... Although I do have one more to write up. Maybe I should save it!!!!
wilgubeast (author)  Mr_o_uk3 years ago
Since you're unlikely to get married again for our contest next year (perhaps a vow renewal??), you may want to hold onto that last one if you think it's a winner.
Could you post a full list of prior contests?
do you know this link? http://www.instructables.com/tag/type-contest/
Jessy posted it a few days ago
That's great! Can the link be added under 'previous contest' on the main contest page so that people know there have been many contests done in the past?
wilgubeast (author)  annahowardshaw3 years ago
BrittLiv is on it. That's the URL that goes to all of the contests that were created using our current contest system. The old, forum-based contests can still be found in the forums.
Are the weekly contests still going?
Were do you find them on the home page?
wilgubeast (author)  Zaphod Beetlebrox3 years ago
We've cut out weekly challenges because they are a nightmare to create and moderate. Instead, we've started running shorter contests with "everybody wins something" prizing structures using the main contest format. I know, I know, they're not really the same, and those weekly challenges were a lot of fun. But the work:fun ratio was weighted heavily toward the former.
I think there should be some contests that were like the weekly ones, were a specific material is used rather than a theme.
OK they are located under the contests tab though?
I like having a greater chance in the shorter contest, instead of one in like 500.
wilgubeast (author)  annahowardshaw3 years ago
That was my inspiration for this. (I selfishly wanted comment updates as they came in without responding to every comment thread under your topic.)
-Hex Nuts
-Batman Accessories
-Wind Power
I know that green contest is going but how about a contest centered only around Bamboo, just like the one we already had for cardboard.
I know that green contest is going but how about a contest centered only around Bamboo, just like the one we already had for cardboard.
I think it would be really fun to have a miniature contest! they're fun to make and cute, besides instructables could have a number of amazing miniature ibles! :)
besides- I think, crochet contest, cross stitching contest, art contest would also be fun!
Kiteman3 years ago
How about a "pro-am" contest? Pro members collaborate with a non-pro member to produce a project, with prizes coming in pairs.
wilgubeast (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
We have not developed our collaboration tool to the point that it's ready to be the linchpin feature in a contest. But that's a great idea.
How about contests in different categories from past instructables regardless of the published date that didnt win but were very close?
HHmmm when was the last time you had a summer grilling contest? And to make it different ,Why not separate it into say 3 different parts ? Say Grilling technique , Type of food , And food preparation.Maybe you could split the prizes up differently that way and give people the ability to cast there vote into each category? That way it could attract more voters and maybe get more people to enter the contest .......
wilgubeast (author)  coolbeansbaby683 years ago
We've got grilling slated for later this summer. Depending on budget/sponsors, we'll see what we can do about splitting into categories. Technique, food, and equipment might make for a balanced partition. Otherwise, it'll be a grilling free-for-all which should be pretty fun, too.
Sure either way .
probably been done before, but how bout a soup contest? or salad or making use of low tech things, like making stuff from old books, cassettes, broken furniture, anything that isnt useful anymore
wilgubeast (author)  beardedantihero3 years ago
We'll save soups and stews for the colder months, and we're running a reuse/sustainability contest through mid-June.

We may need to break reuse into a contest of its very own if upcycling broken stuff doesn't feel like it fits into the Sustainability contest.
Actually that is a good idea . I see that there is a reuse channel in the living category .You would think that with this economy the way that it is that this reuse channel would attract more people and ilible and views . Maybe that channel needs to be brought more to the forefront ? Maybe we could channel some more contests to that area ?
Some themes that com to mind:
Time savers (to make time for all those other projects and contests)
Dolls / Action Figures
Anything Nerdy / Geeky
Lighter Than Air

As for prizes:
I like the Instructables personalised prizes like Leathermans and such.
3Dprinting, laser cutting and CNC vouchers would be cool.
Prizes could also be project results, a number of projects on Instructables would make great prizes. Possibly artworks, personalised figures... ( a kind of "gift exchange meets contest")
Here's the link to the Vintage Contest:

It's open May 20-27, and we're giving away prizes from Crosley Radio. :D
wilgubeast (author)  masynmachien3 years ago
Good ideas! (We've got a Vintage contest coming up in late May. And a perfect storm of 3D printing vouchers and toys in June/July.)

I don't know that we could stop running nerd-focused contests, as HQ staff is a nerdy place full of nerdy nerds who geek out over lunch on topics as varied as: commuter hovercraft, drinkable meals, butchery, video games, Real Genius (1985), sous vide, and pipe dreams about what we'll make in our fancy new Pier 9 digs on the Embarcadero. 

We've done sci-fi contests, so a fantasy contest just makes sense. ATtiny is a possibility, though final say rests with the great and powerful randofo.

Do our previous Toys contests hit the dolls/action figures theme? Or is there sufficient momentum behind figurines as a contest all to themselves?

Every few months or so, we kick around the notion of giving away finished projects as prizes. The lawyers don't like it (they're the Mikey of contest ideas), but the bigger issues are production, quality control, and shipping. Not to mention the fact that some people prefer a more versatile prize than, say, an Arduino-controlled drum kit. We believe that people are capable of making their own versions at home. We'll try to give away the tools to make them rather than the things themselves. (Plus, making things on a schedule is hard. Follow randofo for the next several weeks to see him do it with Radioshack projects.)
Thanks for the feedback!

I must admit dolls/action figures might be to much of a niche theme. And they do fit in the Toys theme.

You're also very right making things on a schedule is hard. I do know that from experience :-)
How about a contest for design/redesign lessons that align to the new national science standards (called the next generation science standards)?

Or a green cleaning challenge - keeping things clean without harsh chemicals?

Or a Lego robotics challenge, most creative thing you can do with a Lego mind storm base?

wilgubeast (author)  CitizenScientist3 years ago
Design/redesign for the NGSS sounds interesting. I'm working on connecting Instructables with academic researchers looking at STEM education, and this could make for a great fit. (And the NGSS look like they might fit in nicely with the UK design standards.) PM me with some details of what you'd like to see.

Green cleaning will probably be lumped into a bigger green contest, or maybe the Home Remedies contest we'll run later this summer.

We can't obligate people to purchase a MindStorm base just to participate in a contest. Though I'm sure it'd help us to bring LEGO aboard as a prize provider or sponsor if we could. We try to capture these projects with the National Robotics Week contests, as that means Vex, FIRST, and FIRST LEGO League participants can, erm, participate.
Lego-related contests sound awesome..
We're working on it! :D
Hasn't National Robotics Week already passed this year? Please tell me there will still be a robots contest. I like the idea of winning Lego Mindstorms.

I saw that there will be a drone contest, but in order to qualify as one, the robot has to autonomously move around, right? The robot I'm planning is standing in one place.
wilgubeast (author)  BrittLiv3 years ago
We missed the NRW bus this year because we didn't have our act together on the business end of things. We'll certainly have a series of electronics contests of various flavors, but a robots-only contest is not on the calendar until we get a sponsor.

(For folks who are not already mid-robot, the prizes we can afford without a sponsor would not motivate them to build and document a project. Mindstorms are awesome, but they're pricey.)

Robots are kind of our core constituency around here. There'll be ample opportunities to show off your robot and potentially win prizes with it, and we'll run a robot contest before too long.