Even More Power Wheels Racers

With the Power Wheels Racing series wrapping up for the year, the teams are winding down and writing up their build and rebuild logs for their cars. In previous years, the kids from MIT, a.k.a. MITERS, have brought small electric cars to the races, but nothing like this. It’s a true Power Wheels, or at least the plastic shell, an alternator, a huge battery pack, and a completely custom drivetrain.

[Dane], [Ben], [Rob], [Mike], and [Ciaran] started their build with an alternator that was salvaged from [Charles]’ Chibi-Mikuvan, added a motor from a CDROM drive for a sensor, and basked in the glory of what this cart would become. The frame was crafted from 1″ square tube, a custom disc brake machined, and a 10S2P battery pack built.

The alternator the team used for a motor had a rather small shaft, and there were no readily available gearboxes. The team opted to build their own with helical gears milled on the MITERS Bridgeport mill. That in itself is worth of a Hackaday post. Just check out this video.

With the build held together with duct tape a baling wire, the team headed out to the races in Detroit. Testing the racer before getting to Detroit would have been a good idea. During the endurance race, a set of 10″ rear tires were torn apart in just four laps, impressively bad, until you realize the smaller pink tires that were also from Harbor Freight fared even worse.

After a few races, the MITERS team figured out the weaknesses of their car and managed to get everything working perfectly for the race at Maker Faire NY.

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The Chibi-Mikuvan, or a Power Wheels with a Ford Fusion Battery

At all the big Maker Faires, the Power Racing Series makes an appearance, turning old Power Wheels into race cars that whip around the track at dozens of miles an hour. [Charles] is somewhat famous in the scene – there’s even a clause in the official rules named after him – so of course anything he brings to race day will be amazing. It was. It used a battery pack from a Ford Fusion plugin hybrid, a custom body, and a water cooling unit from a dead Mac G5.

A few months ago, we saw [Charles] tear into the battery pack he picked up for $300. This is the kind of equipment that will kill you before you know you’ve made a mistake, but [Charles] was able to take the pack apart and make a few battery packs – 28.8v and 16Ah – enough to get him around the track a few times.

The chassis for the Chibi-Mikuvan was built from steel, and the bodywork was built from machined pink foam, fiberglassed, and finished using a few tips [Charles] gleaned from [Burt Rutan]’s book, Moldless Composite Sandwich Aircraft Construction. The motor? That’s an enormous brushless motor meant for a 1/5th scale RC boat. The transmission is from an angle grinder, and the electronics are a work of art.

The result? A nearly perfect Power Wheels racer that has a curb weight of 110 pounds and tops out at 25 mph. It handles well, too: in the videos below, it overtakes the entire field of hacky racers in the Power Wheels Racing competition at Maker Faire NYC, and afterwards still had enough juice to tear around the faire.

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DIY Bike Brake Light And Turn Signals

If you ever take your bike out and share the road with large automobiles, you know that sometimes it can get a little hairy. As a biker, you will stand no chance in a collision with a vehicle. Communicating your intentions, i.e. turning and braking, can certainly reduce your risk of getting in an accident. [Mike] didn’t like the traditional idea of taking a hand off the handlebars in order to signal to traffic so he did something about it, he built turn signals and a brake light for his bike.

The business end of this project is the rear-facing light bar mounted under the rider’s seat. It is made from Radio Shack project boxes and mounted to an off-the-shelf L bracket. A bunch of LEDs were installed in the project boxes, the yellow turn signal LEDs are arranged in the shape of arrows and the red brake light LEDs are in an oval. Inside the project boxes you will find the 9v battery that powers the circuit and also a breadboard that is home to the circuits responsible for blinking the turn signals.

DIY Bike Turn Signals

Check out the switch assembly that is mounted to the handle bars. It was built using an old reflector bracket which was already the correct size to mount to handle bars. As you would expect, there is a toggle switch for turning the turn signals on and off. A little bit more interesting is the brake switch. It is a hinge-lever style limit switch and positioned in a manner such that it is activated when the brake lever is pulled. There is no additional thought or effort required on the cyclist’s part!

Something that is certainly not expected on the switch assembly is the headphone jack. [Mike] likes to listen to music while he rides and a cord dangling around from a backpack or bike bag gets in the way. On the rear light bar, there is a headphone jack that allows an MP3 player to be plugged into. The audio signals travel up the same CAT5 cord used for the turn and brake signals. This allows only a short run of headphone cable from the handlebars to [Mike’s] ears.

Tesla Model S Battery Teardown

Tesla Motors club user [wk057], a Tesla model S owner himself, wants to build an awesome solar storage system. He’s purchased a battery pack from a salvaged Tesla Model S, and is tearing it down. Thankfully he’s posting pictures for everyone to follow along at home. The closest thing we’ve seen to this was [Charles] tearing into a Ford Fusion battery. While the Ford battery is NiMH, the Tesla is a completely different animal. Comprised of over 7000 individual lithium-ion cells in 16 modules, the Tesla battery pack packs a punch. It’s rated capacity is 85kWh at 400VDC.

[wk057] found each cell connected by a thin wire to the module buses. These wires act as cell level fuses, contributing to the overall safety of the pack. He also found the water cooling loops were still charged with coolant, under a bit of pressure. [wk057] scanned and uploaded high res images of the Tesla battery management system PCBs (large image link). It is a bit difficult to read the individual part numbers due the conformal coating on the boards.

A second forum link shows images of [wk057] pulling the modules out of the pack. To do this he had to chip away the pack’s spine, which consisted of a 2/0 gauge wire potted in some sort of RTV rubber compound.

We’re sure Tesla doesn’t support hackers using their packs to power houses. Ironically this is exactly the sort of thing Elon Musk is working on over at Solar City.

An RV Converted into a Spaceship Simulator

Hackerspaces always breed innovative projects. The outlandish ideas that come out of these areas typically push the boundaries of what is possible. This giant spaceship simulator is no exception, which is normally housed at the London Hackspace.

It was created by a team of DIY hackers that wanted an immersive experience that didn’t involve virtual reality goggles. Instead, they chose more of a holodeck-type game that literally would shake the people inside the sci-fi styled caravan as they traveled through virtual space fighting aliens along the way.

The cockpit consisted of three seats – one for a pilot, one for a tactical officer, and one an engineer. Countless amounts of computer monitors, joysticks, switches, and a wide variety of arcade-like buttons line the walls inside.

The main radar screen was modeled off of the 1984 space trading video game named Elite, which has been a game geared toward virtual reality from its early beginnings. In fact, a recent sequel called Elite: Dangerous has quickly gained traction as one of the Oculus Rift’s most popular experiences so far.

The difference here is that the caravan acts more like a ride rather than a virtual reality game. Interaction with this simulated experience is hands-on the entire way through.

The whole game is run by another member of the team who controls the experience with two Android tablets in a back room, and can trigger an unidentified space creature (a friend with an inflatable tentacle arm) to attack the unsuspecting space travelers.

141036173395118The game looks like a lot of fun, and it will be exciting to see if this project inspires other engineers to develop something similar. Perhaps someone will make a room into a Dreamatorium play area (as seen in the television show Community); or maybe go full out and attempt to recreate the actual Star Trek holodeck.

If anyone does decide to fashion together a large-scale simulator, be sure to send in photos of the progression of the project and put it up on Hackaday.io!

[via Motherboard – Vice Magazine]

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Someone just stole your car. They took it right underneath your nose, and you have no idea where it is. Luckily, you have a GPS tracker installed and can pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle that thief drove away with.

Having a GPS tracker in your vehicle becomes extremely useful when something unexpected happens. Taking the necessary precautions to ensure a secure tracking system can save a lot of time and money if the car suddenly disappears.

Helping to solve the vanishing vehicle problem is the bright, young team at Cooking Hacks who created a step-by-step tutorial showing how to create a homemade GPS tracker. Their design is Arduino based and has a GPS+GPRS shield with an antenna attached to continuously pick up the location of the vehicle. Making a call to the Arduino inside triggers an SMS message to be sent back with the specific GPS data of where the tracker is stationed at. Information is then set to a server and inserted into a database, which can be accessed by opening up a specialized Android app.

We’ve seen similar ideas before, like this GPS tracker for stolen bikes, but this project by Cooking Hacks is unique because of its mobile phone integration with Google Maps. Not to mention, their video for the project is fantastically awesome.

If you have developed a system like this, be sure to let us know in the comments; and don’t forget to check out their video after the break.

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AirLegs Augment Your Cardio by 10%

Here’s another very interesting project to come out of the 4 Minute Mile challenge — pneumatically boosted legs.

It’s another project by [Jason Kerestes] in cooperation with DARPA. We saw his jet pack a few days ago, but this one looks like it has a bit more promise. It is again a backpack mounted system, but instead of a few jet turbines, it has a pneumatic cylinders which move your legs for you.

Just watching it it’s hard to believe it makes it easier to run, but apparently after being tested at the Army Research Laboratories last year it demonstrated a whopping 10% reduction in metabolic cost for subjects running at high speeds. It can actually augment the human running gait cycle, and is the only device the US Army has confirmed can do so.

He is already hard at work designing version 2.0 which is lighter and more flexible. There’s a bunch of test videos after the break so stick around to see it in action.

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