When we set to work on building trophies for the 2012 SysAdmin awards, we knew we wanted to incorporate the cool superhero imagery created by our designer, Maryam, for the program.  We discussed several different ways of bringing her graphics to life: decals, a jigsaw puzzle with different colors of acrylic set into a frame, or even just etching acrylic as a monochrome version of her drawings.  Eventually we decided to try reverse-painting acrylic.  We built a small prototype that worked well, and now we’ve gone full-scale!

We knew it wasn’t enough for the trophy just to look cool, so while designing and testing was underway, we were also working on adding some geek-cred to the trophy.  Our team came up with a great idea: Set the SysAdmin superhero into a base containing an Arduino microcontroller and some other electronics gizmos that would allow winning SysAdmins to hack their trophies.  We tried a few different combinations of equipment and settled on using an Arduino Uno with some LEDs to light the trophy’s logo, an ethernet shield, and a 4×40 character blue display.

The trophy base was designed in Autodesk Inventor, laser-cut from acrylic, and assembled with Pettis joints! For those of you aspiring makers out there, we’ve documented the process in photos below.


The acrylic is covered with transfer paper, the outline is laser-cut, and then the paper is laser-cut with a lower intensity to create our mask.


Sections of transfer paper are peeled back, and then a layer of paint is applied to the exposed acrylic.  More mask is pulled up, and more paint is applied for each color.


This paint layer will result in the glowing orange SA badge worn by our SysAdmin superhero.


The prototype of what will become the acrylic base, housing the Arduino Uno and LCD display.


The smoke-frosted acrylic base is assembled with screws and t-slots, allowing you to take it apart and add more hardware if you’d like.


The award is powered by an Arduino Uno, attached to an ethernet shield and a third custom-built interface shield.


The attached display shows the award and, when attached to a network, its own IP address. The board text and LED color can then be set via HTTP.


The SysAdmin superhero in all of his glory. Want one? Enter the 2012 SysAdmin Awards today.

So what will the award do? At the very least, it will have a nice glow and show the winners’ names on the LCD screen. However, if our winning SysAdmins connect it to their networks, they’ll be able to send commands to it like, ‘change the SA glow color’ or ‘make it blink’ and hack to it send Tweets, emails, Nagios system status, or any recent monitoring alerts to the screen.

Jessica Gadling is an OpenDNS engineer who finds time to work on cool projects like creating our 2012 SysAdmin SysAdmin Awards trophies. It’s not too late to apply to win one of these incredible trophies by sharing your SysAdmins superhero story today. Entries are due July 24 at midnight.

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