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Student Competition Badge Bears Custom Silicon

[Daniel Valuch] shared a fun and record-setting conference badge story (Slovak, translated) with us. He was one of the organizers for the “ZENIT in electronics” event, which is an annual Slovakian national competition for students. During the competition, students are assigned a letter+number code for the purpose of result submission anonymity, and organizers are always on the lookout for a fun way to assign these codes – this time, they did it with custom silicon!

It just so happened that [Peter]one of [Daniel]’s colleagues, was at the time working for Onsemi who were doing a tapeout and had some free space on their test chips. Of course, they didn’t have to think twice. When it was a student’s turn to draw their identification number, instead of a slip of paper, they received a SOIC-16 package with custom silicon bonded to it. Then, they had to solder it to their competition badge – which was, of course, a PCB. Each chip was individually laser-trimmed to contain the student’s number, and that number could then be decoded using a multimeter – or a reasonably sharp eye.

There’s way more to this competition story than just the badge, but the custom silicon part of it sure caught our eyes. Who knows, maybe next year stars will align again and we’ll see custom silicon on one of the hacker conference badges. After all, things have been advancing rapidly on that front – for instance, since the Skywater PDK project’s inception in 2020, there’s been several successful runs already, and if you’d like to learn more, you could check the HackChat we’ve had this year, and this Remoticon 2020 workshop!


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