SMD Soldering Challenge

Soldering is a great skill to have. As electronics become smaller and more compact, we hackers have to dive in to the world of microsoldering to get the job finished. If microsoldering sounds like your idea of a good time, have we got the contest for you!

Come to the SSV for the soldering challenge! We have a number of prizes to give away for those who show off their skills. No need to bring anything, all of the tools you need will be provided. Just show up and inquire about the challenge and we will get you set up.

The contest will be run in groups of 6 people. That is, we sit 6 people down at once and everyone starts at the same time. This will happen four times on Friday, and four times on Saturday. When all is said and done, you get to keep the PCB and the bragging rights that come along with it. The contest is using the MakersBox SMD Challenge PCB.

Entry is on a first-come, first-serve basis. We start each sitting promptly at the times on the schedule, with the inspection period starting shortly after. Don’t be late, come early to get a spot at the table! Sign-ups for each sitting start an hour before the sitting happens.

Participants will need to provide a name or handle as well as a method of contact. Name/handle will be used to announce winners (who may remain anonymous if they wish). Contact will be used to inform winners of when, where, and how to pick up their prizes. Contact information will absolutely not be shared with any other parties and will be destroyed after the contest is complete.

Times for the contest will be announced in the schedule.

Thank you to Tindie, Hackaday, and MakersBox for providing the SSV with the challenge PCBs!


  1. Each participant may only compete 1 single time. Participants attempting the challenge multiple times will be disqualified.
  2. You must use at minimum our soldering iron and solder. You are welcome to bring any other tools you may need.
  3. We will provide tools such as: micro-tweezers, flux, eye loupes, wire cutters, and helping hands.
  4. You will be given 5 minutes to open the kit, inspect its contents, review the instructions, and set up the space how you like.
  5. If you have any special requests or requirements, please make them before the start of your 5 minute inspection period.
  6. If the kit is missing parts, please let us know during the 5 minute inspection period!
  7. At the end of the 5 minute inspection period, the official time will begin.
  8. You will be given 35 minutes maximum to complete the challenge PCB. At the end of the time you will be asked to stop and will be graded based on what has been completed.
  9. Any lost parts will not be replaced! We will only make accommodations if the kit you received happened to be missing parts. Take care to keep track of all of your parts and try not to sneeze!
  10. Foul play of any kind against other competitors will result in immediate disqualification.
  11. Entries will be scored on a 1 (worst) to 5 (best) scale in the following topics:
    1. Time.
    2. Completion of PCB; whether or not all of the parts have been soldered down.
    3. Functionality; the completed PCB will be powered on and tested.
      • Note that incomplete PCBs will not be penalized here. If a part is in place but does not function, that will incur a penalty in this category. You are encouraged to power on the PCB before you finish and fix any problems.
    4. Orientation of parts; we’re looking for flatness, center, and alignment.
    5. Quality of joints; fully wetted, proper amount of solder, no spatter, with a smooth and undisturbed joint.
  12. We will NOT be judging on remaining flux residue. We understand that at DEF CON it can be a pain to get it clean. We use No-Clean flux anyway.
  13. We will have prizes for the top 6 scorers.
  14. This is DEF CON, if you manage to impress the judges in one way or another, you may win a special prize.
  15. You can review the datasheets for the kit LED parts below, we will also have paper copies of the important bits on-site: