The Projects of "Prototype This!"

Presented at DEF CON 17 (2009), Aug. 1, 2009, 2 p.m. (50 minutes)

Designing and building projects is hard. Designing and building projects of things that have never been done before is harder. Designing and building projects of things that have never been done before with the financial and time constraints of TV is ridiculous. For 18 months, Joe Grand and Zoz were co-hosts of Prototype This! on Discovery Channel, an engineering entertainment program that followed the real-life design process of a unique prototype every episode. Comprised of an electrical engineer (Joe), a roboticist (Zoz), a material scientist, and special effects guy, we had the major bases covered. A total of thirteen episodes were produced, each with their share of challenges and drama. Sometimes the prototypes worked, sometimes they didn't. In this mostly visual presentation, we'll go through design details and show never-before-seen pictures and videos related to some of our favorite episodes, including the Traffic Busting Truck, Fire Fighter PyroPack, Virtual Sea Adventure, Waterslide Simulator, and Flying Lifeguard, each of which had to be designed and built in a matter of weeks.


  • Joe Grand / Kingpin as Joe Grand (Kingpin)
    Joe Grand, also known as Kingpin, is an electrical engineer and hardware hacker. He invents things for his company, Grand Idea Studio ( and has had the honor of designing the DEF CON badge for the past four years. Back in the day, he was a member of L0pht Heavy Industries and, more recently, a co-host of Prototype This!, an engineering entertainment program on Discovery Channel. He's also the sole proprietor of Kingpin Empire (, a hacker-inspired project that gives back to the computer underground, technology, and health communities through charitable donations.
  • Zoz
    Zoz is a robotics engineer, software hacker, pyrochemist and inveterate tinkerer. He got his PhD from the Robotic Life group at the MIT Media Lab primarily so he could say "Trust me, I'm a doctor" to other robots. He is a co-founder of Cannytrophic Design ( which operates a hacking and art space in Boston, and invents industrial art pieces with designations like Funkenschnorkel, Luftwerfer and Schallfaust. One of his biggest goals is to restore science and engineering education to pride of place as a top global priority, so when he discovered that this aim could be combined with his love of media whoring he co-hosted Prototype This! for the Discovery Channel. He continues to work in science education television in order to nurture the next generation of hackers.