#TinkerOn, my friends… #TinkerOn

To celebrate the National Day of Making we’re proud to share these great videos we made with the folks at Liquid Wrench for their Tinkernation web site. Big thanks to Tom, Audrey, and Tiffany for being the voice of Milwaukee Makerspace, and to all the other members involved and our pals at Pumping Station: One in Chicago who run the Power Racing Series.

Warning: The videos range from fun to educational to a little ridiculous. Enjoy!

Red Lotus

All the other PPPRS cars got an upgrade post, it’d be a shame if Red Lotus didn’t get one too.

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Before continuing, I should mention my involvement in this little beastie. I kind of got sucked into the Power wheels group at the space straight away: I joined the space in the middle of July, was riding around Baby Burrito for a parade the very next day, and went out to Detroit for my first PPPRS race a week or two later. Naturally, being a tiny little thing myself, I fell in love with this fast little car. (My goodness, I was so green at that Detroit race, there were orange treadmarks all over that course.) Red Lotus tends to eat through tires, but when we tried a new double-tire strategy, we had to cut the body to pieces in order to make more clearance for the wheels (and to use JakeNStein’s/Mr. Fusion’s batteries, but that’s a whole different story.) When we returned from Motor City, there was quite a lot of bodywork to do…

I started off by reconnecting the hood and the doors to the rear with a few screws and strips of aluminum siding. Then paint happened, because why not. After removing the old stencil work with Goof-Off (I had originally tried to paint over the old numbers, but they bled right through my paint), I sprayed on a thin coat of red with a heavy focus on clearing scuffs.

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Once that was dry, I had a field day with some old Testor’s enamel. The door numbers didn’t turn out quite as well as I was hoping for, but painting out the license plate and Makerspace logo made my day instead. Note: silver enamel bleeds through everything you throw at it. It’s best to not fuss about it and just let it do what it wants.

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Then I made a nice thing on the hood with acrylic. I was originally going to try using enamel, but that’s a level I have yet to obtain. The work kept scratching off, so I put a good 3-4 extra coats of sealant on it.

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Along with a fantastic new disc hub which was hand-machined by Tom, Tom, Tony, and a few other great guys (oh, and a mountain of 99 cent tires that hold up much better than anyone could have expected), the whole upgrade ended up quite fierce, I believe. 

The space went out to compete in the Fort Wayne Makerfaire soon after and we had a marvelous time. Got a bit scraped up, but I ain’t even mad. I think it gives the car more character that way. IMG_20130915_153648

After Indiana, we shipped out Red and JakeNStein out to New York for FINALS. However, there were a few fixes we needed to perform beforehand. We took home Red’s bent up left steering knuckle to straighten out and reinforce. Thanks to Dan, Joe, Tony, and Matt for helping me get that done in such a small time frame!

Once we were all fixed up and ready to race, Red Lotus did much better than anticipated. Along with Jake’s 3 silvers in the 25 lap heats and Endurance race, Red Lotus got a silver, a 4th, and a 6th in the 25 lap races, and  another 4th in the enduro. Red even won the Exhibition/for funzies race! All in all, I think we had a marvelous season, and I’m really happy and grateful for all the friends I’ve made and all the wonderful help I’ve received and all the cool stuff I learned. And of course, for the spectacular Milwaukee Makerspace for being the coolest pack of people ever.

Even though I’m sad the season is over, there’s still plenty to do in the off season. One thing is getting a more hefty pair of steering rods in place and putting in some stronger reinforcement for the steering knuckles. The amount of times I’ve had to pit this season from not being able to turn in a particular direction is just too darn high. Another top priority is getting a second motor onto the left rear wheel so the power is a bit more evenly distributed. However, that may make me too light to drive it without continuously drifting, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing…

Mr. Cinderella Fusion

A Pretty Princess

If you’ve seen Mr. Fusion around the space, or at one of the Power Racing Series events this year, you’ve probably wondered what it looked like before we, uh, had our way with it.

It took a bit of digging, but I found an old photo of Mr. Fusion (aka Cinderella) it its original state. Baby blue, pink, and basically a pretty, pretty princess.

Matt W. started the build on this thing, and Chris H took over from there. I ended up doing the body work because I didn’t care for the plain look of it. (We had already removed the Cinderella decal.)

The car was named “Mr. Fusion” due to the vertical motor mount in the back, as a reference to the “Back to the Future” films.

Anyway, this was my attempt to make it look just a little bit more like a DeLorean than a Pontiac. I’ll have a follow-up post detailing more on the body work, and hopefully someone who knows about what’s going on under the hood (and trunk!) can post about that.

PPPRS, We’re coming for you!

PPPRS

We’re just a few weeks out from Maker Faire Kansas City and the first official race of the season for the Power Racing Series.

And for those of you that don’t know, the Power Racing Series (typically abbreviated to “PPPRS”) is a challenge to create a working electric vehicle for less than $500 using open source tools and tech. But we use Power Wheels Cars… yeah, the ones designed for little kids. We rebuild them to hold a full-size adult driver (some of us are even, uh “extra large” as it were) and the add in beefy motors, rechargeable batteries, motor controllers, brakes, sometimes trailer hitches and parachutes, and race ‘em.

We complete against other hackerspaces, like our friends at Pumping Station: One, Sector67, and i3Detroit.

This season we hope to have three cars functional for the races. You may have seen some work on Red Lotus recently. While it was one of our main cars last year, it’s probably the slowest car we have right now, of course speed isn’t everything in the Power Racing Series, and who knows, we may have a few tricks up our collective sleeves by the time the race at Maker Faire Detroit rolls around. ;)

Red Lotus Repairs (Part II)

Power Wheels Repair

We made some good progress last time, but the repairs continue, and this time we got as far as a test drive!

We managed to finish the motor mount, get the chain on, repair the kill switch, and fix a wobbly wheel. We still need to get the new brakes in place, reattach the cooling fan, and see about some replacement wheels. But yes, it is running!

If all goes well we should have it ready by Minne-Faire on April 13th, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (We decided not to drive it there, but instead will put it in the back of a regular old gasoline-powered vehicle, just so the batteries are fresh when we get there. :)

Driving!

Check the video (which is a time lapse of the repairs) and you’ll see a few shots of driving it (note to self: take camera out of time lapse mode when driving!) There’s also a short bit of real-time video at the end showing a first-time guest driver taking it for a spin. (Literally!)

Red Lotus Repairs

Red Lotus Repairs

Tom and I spent some time this past weekend repairing Red Lotus, our #55 Power Wheels Car. Working with Tom is great because I end up learning a ton of new skills, like how to use an angle grinder, and the mill, and some welding tricks. These will all come in handy when the car breaks (and it will break) in the middle of a race.

Besides fixing up the car, we’ve also been building up the team, and it looks like at least two of us will try to make it to Minne-Faire in April for a bit of pre-season racing fun.

Here’s a quick time lapse video of Tom and I doing some repairs.

Boing Boing’d Power Wheels

Remember a month ago when we were racing Red Lotus and Big Jakenstein at Maker Faire Detroit? Well, if you don’t, here’s a nice video for you, which just hit Boing Boing today, which reminded me we never posted this video… So enjoy!

And hey, who else is looking forward to the 2013 Power Racing Series Season? I’ve seen more than a few stock Power Wheels cars around the space lately… just waiting to be transformed into tiny little race cars.

Power Racing Series – Detroit

Power Racing Series

Our story starts with Tom’s build of Red Lotus because he wanted to have a new car for the race at Maker Faire Detroit. Being a master craftsman, he was able to build the car in just one weekend! (Well, mostly.)

My part of the story is that I’ve never been to a real Maker Faire before, and never drove a Power Wheels car (that part is important later) so when I got to the Henry Ford Museum I stopped by the Power Racing Series track so see how the crew from Milwaukee Makerspace was doing. Shortly after that someone asked me if I could drive on Sunday. I said “sure thing!” because I’m a team player and like to help out. If only I’d known what I was in for…

PPPRS - Jason

Saturday’s races included the drag race, moxie race, and some other things. I missed some of it, but ended up helping as a track marshal for a bit. jason g. drove Red Lotus in the drag race and took 3rd place! jason still isn’t sure how that happened, but I think he’s just being modest.

Our other car (Big Jakenstein) won in the first drag race but got pulled later because of an accident due to a stuck throttle. (After some repairs we did run Big Jakenstein after all the races were completed at it was timed doing the fastest lap all weekend. That thing is a beast!)

PPPRS - Sean

On Sunday it was time for the endurance race. This is a 75 minute race with mandatory driver changes every 15 minutes. Sean started and I alternated driving with him. I should note that the first time I ever drove any Power Wheels car was about an hour before the race… So how did we do?

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We were plagued by the chain breaking within the first 5 minutes of the endurance race which required about 10 minutes worth of repairs, which really put us back in laps. The front wheels fell off (or nearly fell off—there is still some debate about the exact degree the wheels fell off) about 1/3 into the race, but we got new wheels from Pumping Station: One, which were larger than the rear wheels, but lasted the rest of the race. Near the end of the race the throttle got a little wiggly, but we were able to complete the entire race. Besides the chain and wheel issues, Red Lotus performed quite well (in my opinion) and we managed to place 7th. I feel like if we hadn’t needed to sit out so many laps in the beginning for repairs we could have done a bit better, but major kudos to Tom for his quick repair job!

Power Racing Series - Chicago

I know you’re saying “Damn! I missed it!” But hey race fans, don’t worry… we still have the finale of the 2012 Power Racing season coming up… This Saturday night, August 4th, 2012 at Evanston Mini Maker Faire, we’ll see if Red Lotus can kick it into high gear and show ‘em Milwaukee knows how to build (and drive) a souped-up kid’s toy car.

(Oh! Be sure to check out the PPPRS video too!)