No welding? No PPPRoblemS!

If you’re not familiar with the Power Racing Series, it’s a challenge to build and race an electric vehicle. You start with a Power Wheels car and transform it into a powerful machine that can transport a human, and oh yeah, you have a budget of only $500. (Pictured above is a car made by some 15 year old kids a few years ago for Maker Faire Detroit!)

You can find super-cheap (and even free) used Power Wheels cars on craigslist, and usually the batteries are dead and there’s no charger, which doesn’t matter, because we replace all that with more powerful motors, batteries, motor controllers, brakes, etc.

One of the goals of the series has been to get high school age kids involved, but some of the skills needed to build a car may be out of reach of your local high school, such as working with metal. Welding equipment may not be available, and mentors may not have metalworking skills, so we wanted to develop a reference vehicle that uses no welding. We chose to mainly work with wood for our build, but check out the “no-weld car” wiki page for some other builds…

Here’s the start of our frame. It’s all wood, glue, and screws. We’ve utilized a torsion box design for strength. So far we’ve only used a saw, drill, and some clamps. No specialty tools that are out of the reach of your common workshop. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to try to make this car super-cheap, and easy to build, so that many teams (of kids and/or adults) could easily build it. As members of a makerspace, we may tend to forget that not everyone has access to the tools and skills we do.

We’re also working on front wheel spindles build using wood and bolts. Yes, you can buy metal spindles for cheap, but a lot of what we are doing is experimenting with materials and geometry, which should provide some valuable lessons along the way, and it should be cheap/easy to modify things, try-test-try again, and see what the outcome is.

You can check out more about this project on the Milwaukee Makerspace wiki. We’ll do our best to add updates as we go. Hopefully this thing will be ready to race in June at Maker Faire Kansas City!

Beginner Arduino Class

Arduino UNO

For the last two semesters I taught college students how to use Arduinos to make art, which was a lot of fun. The class was 2.5 hours long, twice a week for 15 weeks. I wanted to compress much of the basics into a Beginner Arduino Class for the space, and we (mostly) did it.

The class ran for 4 hours, and covered about a dozen examples using various components to get through the concepts of digital input, digital output, analog input, analog output, and covered the Arduino software a bit and the Arduino world, including some example projects for inspiration.

Arduino UNO

I did limit the class to six students, and I supplied all needed parts. All the student had to bring was a computer with the software installed and a free USB port. I wanted everyone to have all the same parts so we could avoid things not working due to different components, which I’ve faced in the past. Overall, I was pleased with the outcome, though we did run out of time. I may have to alter things next time, or just put time limits on certain parts of the class.

I’ll aim for the next class to happen in February, and once enough people get through the Beginner Class I’ll work on an Intermediate Class. If you’re interested in taking the class, add your name to the “Interested Members” list at the bottom of the wiki page.

Bluth Family Stair Car – PPPRS

For the Power Racing Series event at Maker Faire Detroit we decided to rebuild Duck, which was rebuilt from Noah Way, into something new. We decided on the Bluth Family Stair Car because we love Arrested Development and because Jim added it to the list of cars that get extra Moxie points.

stair-car-01

The photo above served as our reference image when we were building the body for the car. We didn’t really make any modifications to the frame of the car, and it remained largely what it was when it raced a Make Faire Kansas City in June.

stair-car-02

Continue reading

PPPRS in KC at MF

Harbor Freight

We went crazy a few days before Maker Faire Kansas City and rebuilt a vehicle for The Power Racing Series. The boat that was a basket turned into a duck…

Of course no PPPRS trip is complete without a stop at Harbor Fright. We bought all the pink tires they had. You know the pink tires, the ones that destroy themselves? Yeah, those pink tires…

Duck Car

Duallies again! Brings back memories of Red Lotus, doesn’t it? But this time we did not destroy any pink tires. We destroyed other things, but we fixed most of them.

Duck Car

Ed was our primary mechanic and handled all of the electrical system stuff and most of the other difficult things. Ed has a lot of experience building cars and other things…

Duck Car

Lori (aka “The Lorry”, aka “The Truck”) has raced before in Kansas City, and it was good to have her back behind the wheel, er, well, handle bars… Unless you count the main drive wheel when we say wheel. Yeah, let’s talk about that bicycle hub motor that runs at 24 volts, and not 36 volts.

Duck Car

Kathy went full-on duck, but can you blame her? About that hub motor… It’s built for 24 volts, but after the controller malfunctioned we switched it out for a 36 volt controller, which would only work with 36 volts attached to it, so we added a third battery and went crazy. Things worked until they didn’t and the motor burned up, even though we kept pouring water all over it. Drat!

Duck Car

Well, that’s the way it goes in the PPPRS, you either taste victory or you smell things burning. We did manage to get within the top five during the Endurance Race, and maybe even hit second place at one point. It’s all a blur really, and honestly we care more about having fun than we do about winning.

See you in Detroit!