Machining the ultimate hackathon prize

Added: 3rd June 2019 by Jane Street

Jane Street is sponsoring this year’s MakeMIT hackathon, and we wanted to create a prize for the winners that would do justice to the maker spirit of the competition. As makers ourselves – it’s not unusual to find a “software” engineer here who hacks on FPGAs or who has a CNC machine at home – it felt natural to get our hands dirty.

We decided to build mechanical 68-key keyboards with Brown Cherry MX switches in a custom-machined walnut case finished, on the bottom, with a laser-engraved brass plate. (“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth going overboard to do it well.”) Although Browns don’t get much love, they’re quiet enough to use at the office.
While everyone’s endgame keyboard is different, we still hope the winners appreciate these.

How it’s made

If you took the keyboard apart, you’d find three main pieces: the wood case; the controller board, which wires the keys together and contains the actual firmware for driving the keyboard; and a machine-cut brass plate – like a piece of robotic swiss cheese – that the switches are mounted to. (On the bottom, there’s another brass plate for decoration.)