Retrofitting modern LEGO train tracks for use with older version

So you’re really looking for that [Norman Rockwell] Christmas and want to set up your train to encircle the Christmas tree this year. The problem is that all you’ve got is an old LEGO train set and not enough track for it. You can’t just buy some more, because the technology has changed; or can you?

[Chris] was dismayed to find that newer LEGO train sets have gone to battery operation rather than drawing power through metal tracks. The new tracks are plastic, and buying extra segments of the older version is cost prohibitive. He figured out a way to add power conductors to the new track pieces.

It turns out the design of the new tracks matches the old, except they’re all in plastic instead of having metal rails. He bought a plastic add-on set, then picked up some copper foil from the hobby store which is meant for stained-glass work. It’s adhesive backed, and after working out the best way to apply it, he coated the rails with the stuff. As you can see above, the new mates perfectly with the old, and keeps that locomotive chugging along.

If you’ve got copper foil left over after this hack, there’s tons of other uses for it. Perhaps building your own flex sensors is worth a try.

Washing machine powered bike

[Ameres Valentin] was looking for a less expensive way to get around after spending in excess of 100 Euros a month on public transportation in Munich. His solution is an electric bicycle powered by a washing machine motor. It’s a 300 Watt motor that runs on 24 Volts, capable of around 3000 RPM. We’re used to seeing hub motors or chain drives on electric vehicle hacks, but it looks like [Ameres] is using a flywheel on the motor shaft to drive the rear wheel of the bike through direct contact.

Inside the saddle bag you’ll find two 12 volt 12 amp hour sealed lead acid batteries which are used in series. It looks like he charges these with a wall wart (that we think might use a switching power supply) modified with a couple of large alligator clamps. A push button mounted on the handlebars makes it go.We wonder if he’s still able to pedal when the batteries are running low? We don’t see a way to disengage the motor from the rear wheel so we’d bet this is something of an issue. Then again, if that charge actually works you’re never far from an opportunity to top off the batteries.

Check out a quick clip of the motor spinning the wheel embedded after the break.

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Monkey-powered scooter is all electric

[Knife141] lets this monkey push him around all day long. It’s a whimsical touch for his scratch-built electric scooter. He started the build without a set of plans, cutting angle iron and clamping it together until the frame looked about right. Once the welding was done, he began adding all the parts to make it functional. There are front and rear brakes, operated by a lever on the handlebars. The rear wheel has a sprocket bolted to it, along with some spacers to give the chain adequate clearance.

Inside the saddle enclosure you’ll find a set of three lead-acid batteries. These are 12 volt 10 amp models that provide 36 volts of juice to the electric motor. The only thing we know about the electronics is that both the motor and the controller were purchased at a surplus store.

The sock monkey that pushes him around is sort of an afterthought. But since it’s just a couple of wheels with the feet attached, this might make a fun project for the kids to add to a bike.

Engine Hacks: Electrified Datsun is the ultimate engine swap

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white_zombie_electric_car

Forget the Tesla Roadster, we want an electric car like [John Wayland’s] White Zombie!

If it wasn’t plastered with sponsor stickers and the like, you would never realize that this otherwise unassuming ‘72 Datsun 1200 is an absolute beast of a car. The gas engine that used to provide a mere 69 horsepower was swapped out for a pair of custom-built electric motors which propel the Datsun to 60 miles per hour in under two seconds.

The electric motors supply 500 horsepower and a staggering 1250 foot pounds of instant torque, providing one hell of a ride. The car is powered by 12 custom 29.6V battery packs which provide 2,400 Amps of current each! Aside from laying down a quarter mile in under 11 seconds, White Zombie can make a 90 mile trek before requiring a recharge.

Needless to say, this impressive car takes plenty of people by surprise each time [John] hits the track. Continue reading to watch one poor sap learn the hard way that his brand new Maserati is no match for White Zombie.

[via Discovery]

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Skillet reflow controller

Using an electric skillet to reflow surface mount circuit boards is a popular alternate use for those kitchen appliances. The real trick is monitoring and controlling the temperature. [Mechatronics Guy] built his own skillet temperature controller using a thermistor, a solid state relay, and an Arduino.

He was inspired by [Ladyada’s] work which used a servo to adjust the temperature dial on the skillet’s power supply. This started by attaching the thermistor to the bottom of the skillet using JB weld. since this area will be heating up he also attached a terminal block for connecting the feed wires as the heat would melt any solder joints. Those wires travel back to a control box housing the Arduino and solid state relay. To gain finer control over the heating element the relay is switched on and off, resulting in low-frequency Pulse Width Modulation, which should help maintain a consistent temperature better than just turning the temperature dial on the cord.

Pair this up with the vacuum tweezers hack and you’re on your way to a surface mount assembly line. If you want to see this process in action check out this post. It goes from stenciling, to populating, to reflowing in a toaster oven.

[Thanks Rob]

Self-balancing unicycle 2.0

Focus Designs has a new version of their self-balancing unicycle for sale. This improves upon their original design in several ways. The battery pack has moved to LiFePO4, which is becoming more common in electric transportation. There’s also regenerative braking and fall protection which kills the motor when you fall off.

We’ve embedded their marketing video after the break. Our favorite part is the shot seen above: a guy on the unicycle cruising along next to a woman who is running. There’s nothing like sitting on your bum while some else exercises.

At any rate, from what we see in the video they’ve turned out a solid product.

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Electric scooter sings as it travels

This scooter has been fitted with a three-phase induction motor. It reminds us of the sound effects from vehicles in the Jetsons. Right now they’re using lead-acid batteries and get about 15 miles of range from one charge. Once they switch over to lithium polymer they calculate the range will be closer to 45 miles due to the reduced weight and increased capacity. Not bad for $600 in parts, and we’d bet it’s both faster and more stable than the one-wheeled-wonder we saw last week.