1st Annual SparkFun Electronics Soldering Competition!

Soldering Competition held April 28th, 2012 Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids, Longmont CO 80501

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Calling all Swift and Speedy Solderers! In a couple of months, we here at SparkFun Electronics will be hosting our inaugural soldering competition! On April 28th, we will be gathering at Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids in Longmont for a day of furiously fast soldering antics!

For awhile now we've had the idea of getting out in the community and spreading the joy of electronics assembly.  Something similar to our soldering booth at Maker Faires past, but with an added edge of competition! We saw the NYC Resistor hackerspace host a similar contest back in 2008 and decided that we should find out who has the quickest iron in the old west!

We wanted to do something away from SparkFun HQ and Oskar Blues turned out to be that perfect place. They have kindly given us their support and will be providing us with access to their large back patio area for the competition. Note: this will take place OUTSIDE. There is an awning for keeping out the elements, and we will do our best to provide wind breaks in the event of foul weather.  This event will happen rain or shine, with the exception of a tornado, hurricane or similar act of Mother Nature.

The competition will go like this - Up to 100 contestants will be competing in 4 heats of 25, starting at high noon on Saturday, April 28th. From the 4 heats we will take the 16 fastest times and move those skilled few into our Sweet 16 round.  From the sweet 16 will emerge the 8 fastest times. Those Elite 8 will then compete in the final round to determine who walks away with Gold, Silver, and Bronze! Medalist will also receive prizes for their great work!

For each round of the competition contestants will be soldering up a specified kit available on our website:

First round (4 heats of 25) - Simon PTH Kit

This kit is considered a beginners kit, it is simple in design and features all PTH (plated through hole) soldering.

Second Round (Sweet 16) - BigTime Watch Kit

This is a slightly more advanced kit, includes PTH and SMD (surface mount device) soldering. Contestants will only be timed on completing the soldering portion of this kit.  Physical assembly will not be taken into consideration for final time. For the Final Round (Elite 8) we will be keeping the product a secret. You can expect a much more complex design incorporating a good deal of both PTH and SMD soldering.

We will also be featuring a Kids' Heat for the first 25 kids (under 12) who sign up the day of the event.  This will be a one heat event, awarding gold silver and bronze as well.  This mini event is separate from the main competition, however a kid can participate in both if he/she is signed up for the main competition and meets the requirements for the kids heat. The Kids' Heat will feature a simple beginners kit with all PTH components.

All contestants will be able to take home whatever they build up, so if you make it all the way to the finals you get three sweet kits with the possibility of a medal and associated prize! We will also have a soldering iron station set up for those who don't finish their kit in the allotted times. This way you can try to salvage any mistake you might have made in the competition.

This event is more than just your standard run of the mill soldering competition. We encourage everybody and anybody interested in coming out and partaking in the days activities. We will be raffling off prizes throughout the day and will also have some music and entertainment for your enjoyment.  If you plan to attend just as a spectator please register on our EventBrite page to give us a better idea of how many people to expect. We also encourage you to show up to compete even if all 100 spots are reserved in the event that 1 or more contestants don't show. Thank you for your attention and we hope to see you out there!

Contestants, reserve your spot today!!!

Comments 48 comments

  • R0B0T1CS / about 12 years ago / 3

    Call Guinness. It's time they added a section for the hand and re-flow soldering world records. And that means it's also time to track down the world's largest hot-plate :)

  • mceranski / about 12 years ago / 2

    Soldering at a place that serves beer....better bring some band-aids :-)

  • EvilGenius121 / about 12 years ago / 2

    Now- to secretly convince my family to go to Colorado that week... hmmm...

  • Madbodger / about 12 years ago / 1

    Elektor just had a soldering contest, but theirs measured several variables. The contest was to solder 13 zero-ohm resistors in a particular pattern on a prototyping board. They were judged on speed, accuracy, visual quality, and connection quality (i.e. total resistance). They got a bit of a wild card on the last bit, when one person's technique yielded a significantly lower total resistance (32mΩ vs 36-40mΩ).

  • Member #182420 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Dang, if it was on a weekend I would fly out from california to compete :D.

  • Buzzard192 / about 12 years ago / 1

    I think SparkFun should consider getting some of these kits for the final round. Good size and lots of components would help to keep it from being a close tie: LightBall Project can also be found on the KickStarter Page

  • n1ist / about 12 years ago / 1

    For a real smt challenge, look at http://www.delorie.com/pcb/smd-challenge/

    • rsavas / about 12 years ago * / 1

      Soldering a DFN package, with a 0.5mm pitch is a real challenge for me at least!! Or as "Member #120184" says, add some barnacle wires (30AWG solid) to a 0.5mm pitch QFP, is a good measure of soldering skills. Have done this a number of times to hookup a logic analyzer. Did this when I worked for McDATA, out of Broomfield, just down the road from Boulder. Good luck with these, without a microscope or a 10x magnifier. With these skills, you have a real competition. I guess it depends on your skill level. It would be nice to include some quality metrics as speed is well, just one way to measure ability. When I worked a Motorola many years ago, they would not let any tech. perform re-work because of too much product damage. I could not believe how well the girls could re-work a board using only a de-solder bulb. Have fun folks!!


  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVUx0DFtBVo&context=C3215bbdADOEgsToPDskJZaPgP6PFMDAgGXb3R4Byj

    Win ? ;)


  • Tejon / about 12 years ago / 1

    I'm really excited to see the techniques of the first place :D

  • Member #120184 / about 12 years ago / 1

    WTH? No soldering competition is complete without a 25-mil, a j-leg socket, or even trying to solder a wire to a lead...

  • Rat92 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Post videos of the winner, I want to see some skillz.

  • saccade / about 12 years ago / 1

    You ought to consider a soldering art show sometime. Consider this piece by master analog wizard Jim Williams (RIP):


  • macpod / about 12 years ago / 1

    Is this a speed-only competition, or does quality count too? It would be neat to break it up into two brackets even.

    • It is judged on speed only. The particular kit being built needs to be 100% functional in order for time to stop. Judges will be monitoring each contestant. A contestant will hand their product to a judge to determine if it is functional, if it is their time is recorded.

      If this is a big success and we do it again in a year or maybe even six months, we might try to incorporate quality as well.

      We will however, be dishing out some side awards for things like: dirtiest board, worst solder joint, safest solderer, most stylish, etc.

    • Sleepwalker3 / about 12 years ago / 1

      Yes, should definitely be a quality competition too, though in the setting it's in (i.e. serving beer), I think speed is perhaps the better choice (allows you to get back to the beer faster!). My old High Reliability Hand Soldering lecturer would be turning in his grave at a 'speed contest' for soldering, he used to drum it into us that when he was doing high reliability hand soldering at NASA, to NASA HRHS standards, that it took at least 20 minutes of joint preparation to do one joint! I guess if you set those standards people would have a good excuse to sit around for much longer and perhaps have another drink ...or 10 ;)


  • And how many hurricanes does Colorado get in an average year?

    • Erik-Sparkfun / about 12 years ago / 1

      Between 0 and 500.

      • bbotany / about 12 years ago / 1

        I think you wanted "from 0 to 500" (inclusive range, as opposed to the exclusive "between"), after all, it would be foolish to exclude the possibility of 500 hurricanes. Particularly with the apparent increases in atmospheric energy content.

        • Erik-Sparkfun / about 12 years ago / 1

          Yeah, I realized this after I posted it, unfortunately, but was too lazy to go back and edit it. Then again, given the following definition:

          Hurricane: A wind with a speed greater than 64 knots (74 miles per hour; 119 kilometers per hour per hour), according to the Beaufort scale.

          I'd say that we probably DO get at least 1 hurricane per year.

  • Cerebral_Knievel1 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Just admit it, All this is just a clever Rouse to get a bunch of Parts cranked out with free labor isn't it?


    I'm a craft brewer myself and have enjoyed many a can OB when we used to sell it out of warehouse. We've Gotten too big to sell other peoples beer and sold that contract to our current distributor. I ruined a perfectly good hobby of homebrewing by going pro, so that's why I give nice people like y'all my play money now. Now if only I could figure out how to measure PH electronically for that Big CIP system we've been fooling with.

  • DigiC / about 12 years ago / 1

    i'm trying to think of a drinking game that would be safe and be related to soldering...

  • chibiace / about 12 years ago / 1

    11,600km is abit far for me im afraid. looks awesome, i hope everybody has a great time.

  • Ichbinjoe / about 12 years ago / 1

    Nice idea. I live in Ohio...... Could be an issue. But none the less good idea.

  • sgrace / about 12 years ago / 1

    This is great! I live a couple miles away from Oskar Blues.

  • braddo_99 / about 12 years ago / 1

    For the prizes, you should give away something other than the kits for the contest - the winners will have already practiced on those and so will probably already have them. Just saying.

    • There will be prizes associated with Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists. Both for the main competition and for the kids' heat. We are in the process of finalizing that right now. Stay tuned to the product page for updates on prizes!

      • Yvan256 / about 12 years ago / 1

        First place gets a Terminator. Second place gets a Borg. Third place gets a Dalek.

  • swestcott / about 12 years ago / 1

    this is very cool I wish it was closer I would so be there my first job was QC and rework

  • “Awesome post, Bob! Hope to see and update on the winners!”

    • On the importance of punctuation

      What was probably intended: "Awesome post, Bob! Hope to see and update on the winners!"

      What I read: "Awesome post! Bob Hope to see an update on the winners!

      • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

        And since Bob Hope died in 2004, the second version makes even less sense. Although the involvement of a ghostly or zombie Bob Hope would be a potentially interesting turn of events...;)

        • Maybe the dead can see the future? Or maybe he will raise to give an awesome performance and hand out trophies? Only time will tell...

          Or maybe I meant "In order to see an update, you must perform an act involving bobbing and someone named Hope."

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