The lock picking competition wasn't the only hard-fought contest. One of the great features of DEFCON was the number of activities that everyone could participate in. Along with the elite Capture the Flag and Wardriving contests, there were fun and quirky events such as the Coffee Wars and Scavenger Hunt.
Capture the Flag at DEFCON is unlike any you've played at the park. It involves teams of hackers all trying to break into a central server and each other's servers while defending their own. This demands much more skill than any other competition, with the teams competing including some of the best hackers in the world.
The Wardriving competition involved teams tracking Wi-Fi signals while driving and walking around, requiring skills in hacking and tracking. One segment even included lock picking! The Wi-Fi shootout required teams to send and receive WiFi signals over a long distance. The winning team sent a signal that was captured 150 miles away in Utah.
The Robot Warez competition only had two teams, but showed off the power of robotics. The teams had to knock down soda cans with ping pong balls they collected over an obstacle course. The winning team used remote control for their robot and would have lost on points - had the other team had completed the course in time - because the 'bot wasn't fully automated.
The losing team's robot operated completely on software and used a modified paintball gun to shoot the balls, and a camera to detect black circles below the cans in order to aim. It was an impressive robot, but knocked down its last can just after the time ran out.
Another device-oriented contest was the Beverage Cooling Contraption contest. Entries ended up not being contraptions as much as they were baths of super-cool liquids. One team used rubbing alcohol with chunks of dry ice to cool down to about minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit while another team employed liquid nitrogen to get the job done. Everyone who entered was successful in cooling the drinks in a matter of seconds.
One of the most entertaining contests was the Scavenger Hunt. Teams had to complete tasks and find items on a list and receive different point values depending on the task. Some of the challenges included bringing back a live chicken (Figure 5), duct-taping a teammate to a tree by the pool, making a suit of armor out of aluminum cans, or jumping up during a talk and screaming "I'm covered in bees!" and then running out of the room. All the items on the list had comedic value and everyone at the convention would break out in laughter even when reading the list.
Figure 5: One of the many items in the Scavenger Hunt
The Coffee Wars was another fun contest that anyone could compete in. The goal was to make a blend of coffee beans that tasted better than any other. They had a winner based on overall taste and a winner based on the cheapest roast. The judges enjoyed the tasting, but had a few regrets when the caffeine was too much to handle. The most popular contest was Hacker Jeopardy. It involved teams answering a range of silly pop culture and difficult computer junkie questions.
The contests showed the full range of the DEFCON experience. There were high-skill contests as well as light-hearted friendly competitions. People had fun in every contest and sportsmanship was high.