Pinewood Derby Cars Have Come A Long Way

Get your graphite and hike a wheel, [Aron Hoekstra] writes in to completely embarrass us with some excellent pinewood derby cars.    In the pursuit of that extra something [Aron] consulted with his sons who came up with some cool ideas for cars, one Tron themed and the other basically a Wiimote with wheels! The official Pinewood derby rules say nothing about electronics, so as long as nothing helps the block-o-wood travel down the track faster, anything goes. This means you are free to load up whatever cool lights you want, but will have to earn your robotics merit badge some other way.

[Aron] Starts the builds by carving out the shape of the cars, each feature a hollowed out cavity underneath to accommodate the batteries and electronics. For the Tron Light Runner car, one continuous EL strip weaves in and out of the derby car’s body, and a single AAA battery runs the driver. [Aron] notes that it took around five feet of EL wire to cover the little car, which is two more than the driver is rated for. Fortunately the extra little bit of additional wire had little effect on its brightness.

The Wiimote car has detailed 3d buttons, a breadboard with a linear regulator,  and PIC 16F628 driving  blue LEDs.  For the majority of the time the PIC simply runs a chase routine for the four LEDs, but [Aron] went through the trouble to program in the Wiimote’s start-up sequence!

Shown above the [Hokestra]’s work is my older brother’s pinewood derby car (top left) and my… potato rocket… thing… (top right)  from many many years ago. I now seriously regret not considering LEDs! Although I think all that existed then was red,  green and IR.

Check out videos of the [Hoekstra] bros’ cars after the jump!

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Pedal powered EL wire bike


Instructables user [samsmith17] wanted to cover his bike with EL wire for this year’s Burning Man, but he didn’t want to mess with the hassle of using batteries as a power source. Instead, he decided that his EL wire bike would be powered solely by the rider. In the interest of keeping things green, the entire build is made up of re-purposed parts, aside from the EL wire itself.

If you are not familiar, EL wire only lights up when AC current is supplied, so he decided to use a stepper motor to generate the current required. The stepper motor was mounted against his bike’s wheel, and wired backwards through the AC transformer portion of an old cell phone charger in order to step up to the required voltage. A rheostat was also added to the circuit in order to help prevent an over voltage condition, which could potentially damage or destroy the EL wire.

The end result is pretty cool to watch, and costs very little to boot. It would be nice to see someone expand on his project, adding additional wire colors and perhaps a few capacitors to keep the wire from going dark immediately after the wheels stop turning.

Continue reading to see a quick video of the completed project.

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‘Tis the season to decorate bags with EL wire

We hope you’ve already got parts on hand for your holiday projects because shipping might be a little slow at this time of year. But if you’ve got a bag and some unused EL wire here’s a one-day project you should try. Make yourself a Tron-inspired shoulder bag, or backpack.

On the right, [PT] is doing fantastic job of modeling with his electroluminescent offering. This is another Adafruit offering that holds your hand each step of the way from designing, to sewing, to wiring it up. This will go great with that glowing unitard he’s been working on.

[Alan Yates] has also done a spectacular job with his Tron backpack seen on the left. He picked up his EL wire on clearance at a place called “big-W” after Christmas last year. They were selling 3 meter segments (each with their own inverter) for just $3. We’re happy he got a deal and even more pleased that he found a use for it.

[Thanks Drone]

Jacob’s Ladder using EL wire

For Halloween [Paul] wanted to build a Jacob’s Ladder without the peril that working with high voltage might bring. He was inspired by a sequencer board for electroluminescent wire and decided to build a Jacob’s Ladder simulator using the glowing material. What he ended up with is quite convincing. Eight segments of EL wire have been mounted between two diverging towers. When a PIR sensor detects motion in the room, an Arduino switches on the simulation, playing a recording of the classic sizzling voltage sound while using the sequencer board to flicker the wires from bottom to top. See for yourself in the video after the break. We give [Paul] bonus points for constructing the base out of Lego.

But if you’re not one for being cautions, there’s always this real Jacob’s Ladder build. Or maybe you just want to make something glow with the EL wire.

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How to work with EL wire

As you can see, [Phillip Torrone] has a nice start on his Tron costume for the movie premiere. Electroluminescent wire is what makes these costumes glow and if you’ve never worked with the stuff before you’re in for a treat. Adafruit posted a tutorial explaining how to work with EL wire. The process isn’t hard, but they’ve got a few nice tips, like using copper tape as a platform for soldering the corona wires. There is also a discussion of the math involved with properly powering your setup.

In this case, Adafruit is using ready-made power inverter units. If you’ve interested in hacking together your own inverter take a look at the background information from [Jeri Ellsworth].

Daft Punk costumes

[derektroywest] has posted a detailed step by step breakdown of making a Daft Punk costume. They’ve done a great job, the overall look is very convincing. They include links to where to get each part as well as information on how they pulled it off. The helmets were inspired by the timelapse Daft Punk helmet build. As you can see in the video, they don’t have the entire visor made into a display, but the effect is quite nice, especially because it is multi color.

Glowing patch cables

[Sleepydog] just sent in this cool video of a patch cable he made with a built in EL wire. He’s using a Power over Ethernet router to control which ports have power. He states that this would allow easy identification of specific cables in the mess. While the proof of concept seems completely functional, and the idea is nice, we have to wonder if the cost to put in all the extra hardware would be worth it. Each cable would have to have its own inverter, not only driving up cost, but possibly adding interference. That does not mean we don’t want this desperately, we do. But we want it just because it looks cool. He needs to choreograph this to some music now and make his entire server room into a fancy display.