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!

Baby Burrito… Gone!

Baby Burrito Gone!

There’s no denying we had fun at Maker Faire Milwaukee, but we did have one sour note during the weekend… Our oldest still functional Power Racing Series car disappeared!

We hauled Baby Burrito to the fairgrounds to tool around on during the event, and race it if needed. Tom managed to get a flat tire (!?) and left it somewhere (!?) and the next day when he went back to get it, it was gone. (!?!?!)

Baby Burrito Gone!

Be on the lookout for this slow moving vehicle. Also, it has no brakes, though you can “fire the retro-rockets” to stop it, which involves hitting the reverse button quickly to stop the forward motion.

Baby Burrito Gone!

If you know the whereabouts of Baby Burrito, please let us know. We aren’t out to prosecute anyone, we just want our silly car back.

You may remember it from such events as the South Shore Frolics 2014 parade. (Though you won’t see it in the video, because I was driving it and had the camera on my helmet!)

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!

South Shore Frolics Parade 2014

2014 South Shore Frolics Parade

Why yes, we did take part in the South Shore Frolics Parade this year, though we had a small crew, our small crew is quite dedicated… to having fun!

We managed to build a float to promote Maker Faire Milwaukee, and put Karen on a phone book so she could see where she was going, and we also convinced Chris to put the Makerspace flag on his bike and ride really fast so it would wave in the wind.

Shane let them know who we are this year by carrying the Makerspace banner, with what appeared to be great stoicism. And of course, there were some tiny electric vehicles from the Power Racing Series. Audrey on Lotusaurus Wrecks, Tiffany on Iron Rose, and I piloted the oldest still-running car we have, Baby Burrito. (Tom also tagged along and did some driving, some walking, and organized a few drag races!)

Thanks to the GoPro camera mounted on my head, we were able to capture some of the action during the parade. So enjoy the view from the top of my noggin!