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!

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!

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!

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!