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!

Powered Up for Maker Faire!

Lotusaurus Wrecks

Whew! We had quite a weekend! Somehow we managed to cram both Lotusaurus Wrecks and Iron Rose into the back of a minivan and haul them to Maker Faire Detroit. Luckily a second car followed us with all the tools and batteries.

It was a wonderful weekend of racing tiny electric cars. What’s that? You don’t know about the Power Racing Series? We take those Power Wheels cars that you buy for your kids, get them for free or super-cheap from craigslist, and then rebuild them as electric race cars for adults… for less that $500. Yes, it’s a little ridiculous, but it’s also a lot of real engineering. Some of these cars will impress the crap out of you!

So how did we do? Well, the cars held up, even through a few crashes, so that’s good. Audrey drove Lotusaurus Wrecks to victory in one race, and Iron Rose proved a dedicated mid-fielder throughout the weekend. All in all, it was pretty awesome.

Iron Rose

Note: We know you want to see this crazy racing yourself… well, you’re in luck! We’ll be holding a race at Maker Faire Milwaukee happening September 27th & 28th, 2014. Join us for the madness!

KC Maker Faire, here we come!

Lotusaurus Wrecks

Audrey has been working her butt off on Lotusaurus Wrecks, with help along the way from Tom, Ed, Tiffany, and other members, to get ready for the Power Racing Series event happening at Maker Faire KC this weekend.

But wait, that’s not all! There’s still a good chance Tiffany’s car “Iron Rose” will be ready to roll at the races as well. I mean, it’s not done right now, but as of typing this we still have nearly 24 hours to finish the build. I guess we can test it during qualifying. ;)

So yeah, if you’re in Kansas City for Maker Faire this weekend, stop by the pits and say “Hi” to us, and wish us luck, and award us some Moxie points… We always need more Moxie points!

#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!