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.

PPPRS, We’re coming for you!


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. :)


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.

Red Lotus Build [Time Lapse Video]

This is a time lapse video of “Red Lotus” the Power Wheels race car that Milwaukee Makerspace built for the 2012 Power Racing Series. Tom Gr. did almost all the work (with some help!) His original plan was to do the whole build in one weekend… It took a little longer, but not much.

We’re looking forward to the 2013 season and have already started planning. I’m going to say this right now: Sector67 and i3Detroit, we’re coming for you!