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My view of instructables contests. Answered

First of all, let it be known that I love instructables, and while not a huge user (I really don't have much time now for projects)- I really do like the site. But I don't like contests, for this one reason.

The majority of the winners for contests can already afford the prize to the contest. 

Really- The winner for the shopbot challenge is a voice controlled storage container? Great! Except to make the project it only costs about $3000 dollars. Which most people do not have to spend on one project. Same for most projects- the winner is usually a person who builds this huge, elaborate project which can cost thousands of dollars and requires an insane amount of special tools (really, does everyone think we all have $50,000 laser cutters, a CNC, AND a 3d printer???). Would it be that hard to run a contest where the total amount spent cannot exceed, say $100, excluding tools? This would cover most of the user base, and allow people with not much experience or money to enter a contest with a shot at winning. 



6 years ago

I won the Holiday gift Challenge by building an oak sled.. I did this with a rotary sander, miter saw and a cordless drill and that is not all, I do not have a workshop.. I did the entire project in the living room of my one bedroom apartment! I even bent the ski's on my kitchen stove in my pasta pot... All materials were bought in one trip to Home Depot (as I do not even have a car to pick stuff up with)...

While the contest winner you mention probably spent a lot the prize was also huge not only in cost but in size. I am sure they took that into concideration in choosing a winner. I know I did not even enter the contest because I would have no where to put such a huge peice of equipment. And his instructable could cost thousands if you bought all the parts new but by looking at what he did I could see many alternative ways to accomplish the same instructable with salvaged and found parts. It may take longer and may not look as polished but it can be done... Before Arduino people would use serial and parallel ports to send signals to devices, programming is harder but it can be done.

I am entering the "Make it Real" contest, I do not own a laser cutter or cnc or a 3d printer but I am using parts made by all three... How? Shapeways.com and Ponoko.com .. I design, they print.. easy...

With a little innovation you do not need a lot of tools or special equipment.

The expensive projects aren't just made for the heck of it, they are generally posted by people documenting a project they would have made anyway.

There are a lot of prize-winning entries that are made with little more than love and scraps (I won one with borrowed glass-ware, years ago).

Just, basically, I think there should be more promotion of hackerspaces and clubs and getting them the tools they need, as well as students and schools.

Hmm.. brings up an interesting concept- maybe instructables could help out hackerspaces somehow? Know there isnt one probably within 500 miles of me, but it might be an idea..

And us individuals that are close to pennyless and in the boondocks where hardly another techie can be found are left to flounder on our own (hmmm, something smells fishy about that).

This is what you're looking for:

There already is - I haven't got the reference to hand, but I'm sure I've seen topics offering support to hackerspaces.


6 years ago

I hear you, and see what you mean - having access to high-end tools lowers the barrier to making something truly awesome. That's why we don't give just one prize - we give some pretty sweet tools away to runners-up to improve their chances of being able to do something amazing for their next project.

We've also given away big prizes to a wide variety of winners, including a high school student and an artist collective that was around before the word "hackerspace" was cool. :) And I know of several folks from hackerspaces who have won first prizes in some of our big contests.

I'd suggest that you start by focusing on the smaller-scale contests, including the weekly contests. They're usually quite doable if you hit on the right idea, execute well, and take a great picture of the final product.

people win contests because they follow the rules, photos are sharp and clear (and original) and for some reason the judges like macro shots.
If you can do all of this in a simple "think outside the box" way then your atleast going to get a robot shirt.

Unless the contest is cash-limited where is the problem? Contests are defined by rules.


Most of the cooking contest entries require very little money, the amirigumi contest projects couldn't possibly cost much unless you accessorize with diamonds, the green/recycle contests are a challenge to re-use and therefore generally attract inexpensive projects. You get the idea.

The Weekly Challenges are probably the best place for a beginner to have a good chance at winning. There are generally 5-50 entries, and it has to be something that can be put together in a matter of days.

I like the contests because it is a good place to view a lot of new 'ibles and to have your own project viewed.

Yes, but I was thinking more along the lines of electronics..
Forgot about the Weekly challenges, but they are wonderful and generally are pretty inexpensive, but have a really short timeframe. Basically, could they do a longer weekly challenge?? It would be perfect.
Also, this isn't just me posting because I am mad about not winning. I don't really try to win these things.. My projects usually don't coincide with the topic anyways. I wrote because I have seen people angry and know that most of the students on here, who could really use the tools provided, don't win, or have a very good chance at winning against the more hardcore users.