Ben will be “Looping the Lake” electrically!

Ben Nelson

Ben Nelson may be just a little bit obsessed with electric vehicles. Over the years he’s built an electric car and electric motorcycle, and he’s even got an electric riding lawnmower. He wanted to show the power of electric vehicles, so he decided to have his own “DIY Road Rally” and ride his Vetrix all the way around Lake Michigan.


All way way around the lake!? That’s 1,000 miles with no gasoline. He’ll be charging up a lot, but he knows where, when, and how to charge up.


People often say that electric vehicles are only good for short trips around the city, but Ben aims to prove them wrong. He’s also planning a full-length documentary film about his adventure…


Ben will also be appearing at Maker Faire Milwaukee in a few weeks, and he’ll be sharing what he learned on his trip. If you want to keep up-to-date while he’s out there, check out his blog or follow the journey on Facebook.

Loop the Lake

Here’s a short video of Ben driving away from Milwaukee Makerspace, on his way around Lake Michigan. Good Luck, and see you soon, Ben!

Noah Way!

Noah Way!

A few of us worked on a car for The Power Racing Series and somehow we got it done at 3:15am on Thursday night after about a week of intensive nights cutting wood, and trying to weld metal, and scrounging for batteries. We then took it to Maker Faire Detroit and raced it.

The car is modeled after Noah’s Ark, supposedly dimensionally accurate, scaled down, of course. It runs at 24 volts and uses one 250 watt hub motor meant for a bicycle. It was not fast. It drives like a boat, maybe because it is one.

We didn’t break down until the last few minutes of the Endurance Race when we popped a tire, so we just kept going on the rim. (Our qualifying lap was 40.40 seconds. Also our car is #40. Amazing!)

We built this in about a week, and made a lot of compromises to get it done on time. Originally we were going to use two 250 watt hub motors for the rear wheels, but… compromises.

The good news is you can spin around in a super-tight radius by turning the wheel 90 degrees and then going full throttle. The bad news is, you might puke afterwards.

Anyway, we’d love to see more people build cars for The Power Racing Series event that will be happening at Maker Faire Milwaukee. If you start now, you’ve got 60 days, and since we built this in about 6 days (and rested on the 7th) it should be totally doable.

Remember, you don’t have to be fast if you’re awesome. You do need to go, and stop, and not take it too seriously. If you can do those things, we’ll see you at the races!

All Officers to the Bridge!

Starship Bridge

In preparation for our Artemis Simulator that’s going to be at Maker Faire Milwaukee, we’ve partnered with Betty Brinn Children’s Museum to build a realistic starship bridge. Here’s what we’ve got so far.

Starfleet never produced an episode of How It’s Made, so we’re going to have to do a little guessing along the way when building our bridge. Obviously we still need to install the EPS conduits, Tribble-proof everything, and get the self destruct system up and running. But we’ve got nearly 80 days to get it all done.

Don’t forget to bring your phaser to Maker Faire Milwaukee to check out the final build!

Flaming Lotus is…

Flaming Lotus

Our Power Racing Series team is back for 2015! But, well.. we’re a little smaller. Right now it’s just Ed C. and me (Pete!)

But as you can see from the photo above, we have a body mostly primed. It’s actually been painted a bit more since this photo from two days ago. It’ll be ready to go for Maker Faire Kansas City in (less than) two weeks!

I can hear you saying “Yeah, a body is a great, but where’s the frame, the motors, wheels, controller, brakes, and all that jazz!?”

I present you with this CAD drawing. Everyone knows designing a thing is 95% of building a thing. So we’ve completed 95% of the work… now we have (less than) two weeks left to put it all together. Easy!

CAD Lotus

See you in Kansas City!

Maker Faire, as easy as 123…

Maker Faire Countdown!

Last August Brant asked me to add a countdown to Maker Faire Milwaukee on the MMPIS, so I whipped up some code on a remote server and he got it running on the MMPIS display at the space.

Seeing as planning for this year’s event is in full swing, I figured it was time to start the countdown again. Yes, we are counting the days, and the Call for Makers is now open! Got a project, or something you made, or things you want to show off? Submit it, and share it with the world!

The Turndrawble

The Turndrawble

The Turndrawble is a drawing machine I designed, based loosely on an old vinyl turntable, but instead of playing records, it creates drawings.

The construction was done using stacked layers of wood and acrylic. I wanted to avoid using the typical laser-cut “box” enclosure I usually use. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

The Turndrawble

The Turndrawble is meant to be used to create 12″ circular drawings. One of the knobs controls the platter speed, and the other sweeps the arm in and out. Since it’s a new drawing device, it hasn’t been mastered yet, but we’re working on it!

Here’s a short video showing the turndrawble being operated. I’ll probably have it at some future art events for people to try out and see what they can create with it.

There’s a bunch more info about this thing on the Turndrawble project page on my web site.

QWERTY (and nothing else)

QWERTY Keyboard

I built a QWERTY keyboard that types the letters Q, W, E, R, T and Y, and nothing else. No space, no return, no escape.

It’s a fully-functional USB device, you know, as long as you just want to type words that can be composed with Q, W, E, R, T and Y. (WET, WRY, YET, TRY, there’s a bunch of them!)

I wrote plenty more about this project on my blog, and if you want to read about the history of the QWERTY layout, and its connection to Milwaukee, and why the way we interact with technology is interesting and sometime ridiculous, well… I got that too.

Happy Shiny Bolts


When you buy a bolt, it doesn’t typically have a nice flat head on it. It’s got a bunch of markings, and usually some sort of part number, or something. Here’s a bolt I found on eBay. Look at all those numbers and letters!

Bolt Close-up

Here’s a close-up I shot of a bolt head. What does it all mean? Well, Brant told me that the manufacturers add these markings to help prevent counterfeit parts. He even mentioned that years ago a building was built with some knock-off fasteners and it collapsed causing terrible damage. Terrible!

Well, I brought a bolt to the makerspace because I wanted it to have a nice smooth and shiny top. Bill**2 was kind enough to show me the new metal buffing area, which has a nice belt sander (which we used to remove the lettering) and 6 (yes, six!) buffing wheels of various grit. I used all six to give my bolt a nice clean shine.

Shiny Bolt

Here’s my bolt after removing the letters and buffing it up. I probably could have done a bit more, but this was still a hundred times better than before I started. And yes, it is hooked up to an AT42QT1010 Capacitive Touch Breakout Board and a Teensy.