A shelf that tells you when you need milk and more ideas from a home hackathon

While lots of people were at brunch on Saturday morning, teams makers were feverishly working on hacking ovens, fridges, and other appliances in hopes of creating a bold new feature you might one day find in your kitchen. Running on very little sleep, over 200 participants were competing in GE FirstBuild’s first Hackathon: Hack the Home challenge to win a $5,000 first-place prize.

At the Louisville, Kentucky microfactory, participants had 24 hours to go from crazy concept to working prototype using 3D printers, laser Cutters, power tools, drills, and other provided tools. One team made a colander that you place on top of a pot, and when the water is boiling, it lowers into the pot, along with your soon-to-be-cooked pasta. The Freshpad fits in your fridge’s shelf and measures the amount of milk, soda, or beer it holds. When you’re at the grocery store, you can pull out your phone, open the app, and check to see if you’re good to go for your morning cereal. A diabolical device, the Shelf Control, pairs with your Fitbit and only grants you access to your calorie-laden goodies if you’ve completed enough steps that day.

Clever as these ideas were, they didn’t win any blue ribbons. First prize went to the Roastes. The five-man team — made up of Rob Lewis, Joshua Longenecker, Ali Faraji-Tajrishi, Nick Dillon, and Rick Suel — turned a GE wall oven into a coffee roaster with an Arduino control. Instead of a $10,000 professional machine, the idea was to create something more affordable for coffee enthusiasts to use to roast about a pound of beans at a time. In second place, winning $3,000, were Nelson Tanquero, Mark Shelton, Michael Large, and Jose Padron. The Fix of Water team altered a GE fridge to dispense filtered water at the sound of your voice. Even if you don’t to talk to your fridge today, you probably will do so in the future. The $1,000 third prize when to Crock Watch; Jason Chodyniecki, Taylor White, Bill Piepmeyer, and Keith White’s Wi-Fi crock pot includes a camera, so you can keep an eye on your meal and use an app to turn it off if you’re running late.

Representatives from 30 sponsors — including Atmel, AT&T, Delta, Renesas, Texas Instruments, and hackster.io — evaluated the projects and determined the winners. If you’re a huge fan of the smart shelves or any of the other projects, you can head over to FirstBuild to vote for your favorite to win the $1,000 community award.

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