Jake and the motor stack – the story of the largest motor in PPPRS racing

A long time ago (about 3 years) in a land far far away (my garage) some would be members of a Makerspace decided to build a few Power Wheels cars for the PPPRS race in Detroit.

One of the cars they selected was a plucky dump truck called Big Jake.

Big Jake ready for its 1st race

Big Jake ready for its 1st race

Well the first thing we did was pull out the stock motors (1 and 2) so we could install a surplus motor we had laying around (motor 3).

Jake's Original Motors

Jake’s Original Motors

(Sorry, we didn’t save any pictures of Motor 3)

Too bad this motor burned up – it was an odd motor anywaty, the commutator was a disk not a cylinder and the brushes were triangular – we found this out when we took the burned motor apart, doesn’t everyone take the thinks they break apart?

So we put in motor #4, a starter motor from a small gas engine, and it burned up – noticing a pattern here?

Jakes Motor #4

Jakes Motor #4

I think Fisher Price did as well – a recall about burning motors:


Then we installed a 1000W scooter motor and controller bought on-line and it was… ok.

Jakes 1000W scooter motor

Jakes 1000W scooter motor

We drilled holes in the motor and added a fan so it didn’t burn up.

But it wasn’t power full enough.

Then the big crash between Big Jake and the Yellow Escalade happened. And when the pieces were put back together – Jake N’ Stein was born.

(insert dramatic music here)

And of course such a majestic car need an equally majestic motor – so in went with a 4.5hp winch motor (#5)

4.5HP Winch Motor

4.5HP Winch Motor

Then it melted. So we took the motor from Little Pink Trike and put in on (motor #6) until we could rebuild motor #5 and put it back on (does that make it motor #7?)

Little Pink Trike's Motor

Little Pink Trike’s Motor

And it burned up.

Well we decided this wasn’t working so we did the only reasonable thing: bought a bigger winch motor! (#6/8) and it was good until it burned up.

6HP Winch Motor

6HP Winch Motor

So we re-installed the rebuilt 4.5hp motor (#5 or 9 depending on how you are counting) and added some gear reduction and it was fast until it burned up.

So back went the larger winch motor (#6/10) and added a water cooling system with some vent holes and it worked great, until we forgot to inject the water and siezed the bearings and melted the comutator – and almost got black flagged for being on fire, it was only steam!

So it came to pass, we looked around for the biggest motor we could find (too bad it was in a home brew electric car – 15″ diameter and about 200lbs) and decided to put a slightly smaller one in.

15 inch motor

15 inch motor

So motor 7/11 (lucky numbers right?) is

Jake's new MotorJake’s new Motor

Just how big is Jake N’ Stein’s new motor?

Well is 11″ long, 7.5″ in diameter and weighs around 80 pounds.

But how powerful is it?

Well, it used to haul around 6000 pounds of stuff in a warehouse all day long.

But how may horse power is it?

I don’t know, but Jake runs really nice :-)

5 of Jake's Motors

5 of Jake’s Motors

Custom router spindle for Robbie the Kuka

CustomRouterInPlaceI’ve successfully attached the router bracket I made to a virtual robot model in the programming software.  I followed an example file provided by the software’s developers in Vienna, Austria.  This was actually simpler than I thought, as I already had the design files for the bracket (that’s how I cut them out last week).

The robot in this picture is a different model than ours, but it serves to flesh out the concept and test the software to be sure I know what I’m doing.  Eventually I’d like to have our robot/spindle model integrated into the software as a standard object; that will get rid of the ever-present red imported model in this image.  (When I bring in my custom robot model, that will be in red as well)

tooltip positioningStandard CNC machines usually have 3 axes that run in a straight, linear fashion.  That means you can manually jog the machine to wherever you need it, position the end of the milling bit on your raw material, press “zero-out” and you’re good to go.  Not so here, the precise position of the end of the milling bit relative to the end of the robot arm needs to be measured and entered into the software.

These measurements may take a few days to dial in by making numerous test cuts, but foam is cheap, it doesn’t wear down the milling bits like wood or metal would do…  Stay tuned for actual cutting of foam!


Vote for us in the Hackerspace Challenge!

2013 Hackerspace Challenge!

As we mentioned back in July, Milwaukee Makerspace was selected to take part in the 2013 Hackerspace Challenge put on by RadioShack and Popular Mechanics, and now we can reveal it all, and we’re also asking for your vote!

Head on over to www.popmechnow.com/radioshack, watch the videos, and vote for the best project. I mean, we’re pretty confident you’ll prefer our project, but check out the awesome stuff that the guys from Inspiration Labs did. Hey, it’s got a TARDIS so those guys must be alright! ;)

I know you really want to see the Milwaukee Makerspace Morgifying Marble Manipulation Machine (aka: M6) mark your calendar for October 19th, 2013 because Milwaukee MakerFest will feature the M6 as for you experience in person!

(Oh yeah, we’re also running a Kickstarter Campaign to help make Milwaukee MakerFest ever more awesome. Help us out if you can!)

Milwaukee MakerFest

It’s time we put on a show for the people of Milwaukee. The Makerspace hasn’t had an event like this for about two years now! Shame Shame!

Please click on the logo above to head over to our Kickstarter Campaign.  There you will find out all about this event and the crazy awesome things we have in store for you.  Backing us generously would make us all very very happy, and would greatly enhance our ability to put on a fantastic event for you!

Find out more at www.milwaukeemakerfest.com

Bay View Gallery Night


It seems like just four months since the last Bay View Gallery Night… oh wait, it was!

We’ll once again have a group show, this time titled: More Awesome Things From the Makerspace, which is our way of saying “come check out all the crazy things we do!”

It’s all happening Friday, September 27th, 2013 from 5pm to 10pm. And as always, we’ll have some sort of magical surprise to knock your socks off!

(Or who knows, maybe it’ll be something that gently removes your socks and then carefully places them into the nearest laundry basket…)

Builders Night Out Saves the Day

I brought my co-worker Joe to the Makerspace last night for Builders Night Out.  Joe has a project to share a motor between his meat grinder and sauce maker machines.  (Not at the the same time but to interchange easily.)  The problem is that each machine has a different size shaft.  He needed an adapter that would allow the motor to connect to the sauce maker.

When we got to the space, Jim introduced Joe to Tom.  Joe explained what he was trying to do.  After five minutes, they had brainstormed a solution.  Less than 60 minutes later, we were putting the tools away and Joe had a working solution that was exactly what he wanted.

Joe came to the space simply looking for ideas.  He left with an elegant adapter that met his need and it cost him nothing.  He (and I) was blown away by the whole experience.

I love the Makerspace!  Thanks to Tom and Jim for their excellent help!


In case you were wondering, the initial problem was to fit a flat, stainless steel shaft into a round socket.  The socket will connect to the motor and turn the shaft.  The shaft must fit snugly into the socket and not move.

There are several ways to approach this problem.  Tom, Jim, and Joe came up with a very elegant and simple solution that did not alter any of the parts and could be disassembled if needed.  The solution was to cut a nut in half, machine down the in sides, and then put the pieces of the nut next to the shaft in the socket.  The nut fit perfectly in the socket.  Machining the insides of the nut took less than 60 minutes to do the work.  The finished pieces pit perfectly against the shaft.

I don’t have pictures.  If I get some, I will add to this post.

3D Printed Tardis

Ahhh, Dr. Who. A British classic loved by generations of slightly different characters. My son happens to be one of those people who are fans of the good doctor (I’m warming up). So, when I saw plans for a Tardis on Thingiverse, I knew I had to make it.


I printed the pieces for the Tardis over the last few weeks on our Makerbot Replicator 3D printer, then painted them navy blue.  I still need to add the signs but it is all assembled and looks great.  I’d also like to add some small LEDs inside to make it light up.

The plans for printing the Tardis seem to be one of the better sets on Thingiverse. Printing them on the Makerbot 3D printer is very easy. All you need is the files, and a computer with the MakerWare software connected to the Makerbot with a USB cable (the Makerbot also accepts a SD card but printing directly from a PC is much easier).  The Makerware software turns the drawing files into g-code files that the Makerbot can understand. After MakerWare renders the g-code data it sends it to the printer and Bob’s your uncle.

If you want to print your own Tardis at the Makerspace, the stl files are on the computer in the 3d printing area in the Things folder on the desktop.

The project page on the wiki is here.

Thanks to Joe and Buggs and anyone else who helped me with friendly advice on 3d printing and the Makerbot.



Fix It Milwaukee ReCap

Fix It Milwaukee

On Saturday, August 10th, 2013 Milwaukee Makerspace hosted the first “Fix It Milwaukee” event. We invited the people of Milwaukee to bring in their broken things, and we did our best to fix them.

The idea for the event came from Milwaukee County District Supervisor Jason Haas, and we partnered up with the Milwaukee Area Time Exchange to make it happen. We really didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out great, and we’ve already got members interested in doing it again.

Fix It Milwaukee

So what did we fix? There were lamps, computers, printers, furniture, a bird feeder, musical instruments, gardening tools, zippers, a battery charger, a dog’s chew toy, clothes, and even bikes. (Speaking of bikes, we should also thank Truly Spoken Cycles who sent over Sam, one of their expert bike fixers.)

Did we fix everything? Nope… some things are either too difficult to repair, or made so cheaply that they are not worth repairing, but percentage-wise we did really good, and I’d estimate an 80% success rate for fixing things.

Fix It Milwaukee

Throughout the event we probably saw about 25 people bring in items, and we had about 20 members helping fix things. At few members mentioned that it was a lot of fun troubleshooting things and working in teams to determine the best method of repair, and at least one member picked up a few new skills along the way, which is what we’re all about!

Keep an eye out for our next Fix It Milwaukee event… The more items we can keep out of the landfill, the better!

Power Racing Series – Detroit 2013

Milwaukee Makerspace Racing Team

The Milwaukee Makerspace Racing Team (Pete, Chris, Tony, Sean, and Audrey) took three cars out to Maker Faire Detroit to race against other hackerspaces around the country. How did we do? We did pretty good! And by “pretty good” I mean that we had fun, no one got hurt (too badly) and we returned with plenty of good stories to tell.

Chris on Mr. Fusion

Since Matt W. couldn’t make it, Chris took over Mr. Fusion (our newest car) for the weekend. There were some transmission problems, which we got figured out, but Mr. Fusion failed before the end of the weekend, which we sort of expected. The highlight of the weekend was Chris flipping the car and getting pinned under it. (Well, he might not agree it was the highlight!)

Tony on Jake N Stein

Jake N Stein was driven by Tony and myself, and I think Chris may have take a few laps as well. Jake N Stein did pretty well during the weekend, and only died right before the end of Sunday’s Endurance Race. Jake N Stein is pretty solid right now, though we’ll probably be upgrading the water cooling system for the motor. We did get a warning for “being on fire” that was actually just steam. Luckily it wasn’t 95 degrees in Detroit this year.

Dan on Jake N Stein

Dan (our resident Blacksmith) gave us a call as he just happened to be in Detroit for the weekend, so we recruited him and he ended up driving Jake N Stein during some of the races!

Audrey Fits

This photo shows that Red Lotus was pretty much built for Audrey, and by that I mean, she’s the only one who can sit in it and not have her knees sticking way the hell out.

Audrey on Red Lotus

Even when we forget the right batteries and have to do an emergency battery replacement, it’s no big deal to Audrey. It helps to have a driver that you can fold in half to fit into the car. Oh, the batteries, yeah… we somehow left the small batteries Red Lotus uses in Milwaukee, so we rigged up the big batteries the other cars used, and removed the hood of the car, and attached it to the trunk. I figured we couldn’t leave it off because (1) it’s part of the original body, and you’re supposed to maintain that and (2) the transponder was attached to it. So we zip tied the hood onto the trunk, which worked fine, until…

Sean on Red Lotus

Sean was driving and the hood (and transponder!) fell off. We tried to get Sean into the pits but he just grabbed the hood and did a bunch of laps holding it. It totally worked and gained us a few laps until we had to pit.

The Pits

All in all, the Power Racing Series event in Detroit was awesome. We met a lot of cool people, and worked together as a team to get all the cars functional and keep them functioning for the races.

We’re currently planning to head to the Fort Wayne Regional Maker Faire in September for one more race. We may even try to build a new car by then, because we are crazy.

Sugru Build Night Results

Instructables & Sugru

We had out first Instructables Build Night recently and a few of the members wrote up Instructables showing what they did with the Sugru… here they are:

Thanks to Instructables, Sugru, and everyone who took part in the event. We’ll be hosting another Instructables Build Night in August, so keep an eye on the calendar.