Better Racing With Power Wheels

For the last few months, teams across the US have taken old Power Wheels and other electric vehicles meant for children and turned them into racing machines capable of flying around the track at speeds pf over 30 miles per hour. How do you take the plastic chassis of a kid’s toy and turn it into a Power Racer? [Dane] from team Chibi-Atomic-Thing tells us how.

In classic Power Racing Series fashion, this year’s build began with last year’s chassis. At the 2014 NYC Maker Faire, a weld on the steering linkages failed, necessitating some quick work to replace some bad welds. Poor fabrication wasn’t the only shortcoming of last year’s car; the rear axle was fixed, the brakes were terrible, and the gearbox wasn’t quite as good as it could be.

The team had a few months to make the necessary changes for this season’s races. Because they were adding advanced and arcane technology known as a differential this year, a second disc brake holster would need to be fabricated for the other rear wheel. A new motor controller was added, but the team is mum on why exactly they need an eight-speed gearbox when the longest straight on the track is about fifty feet.

The answer to why a tiny electric car needs more gears than a clock is for now, at least, unknown. Hopefully it will be revealed at the next Power Racing Series race at the NYC Maker Faire in a few weeks. Until then, check out the video of the 2015 Detroit race below.

Continue reading “Better Racing With Power Wheels”

Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Picking Up Litter With Robots

On beaches, in parks, and in [BDM]’s back yard, there’s a lot of liter everywhere. The normal solution to this problem is to hire someone or find some volunteers to pick up all this trash. We’re living in the future, though, and that means robots. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [BDM] is building a robot that picks up trash.

A robot that picks up litter is a very, very interesting problem. It can’t be controlled by a person, or else it would be more efficient to just get out there and kill your back picking up bottles. This means it must work autonomously, and that means identifying litter, picking it up, and disposing of it.

For the identification part of the problem, [BDM] is using computer vision that captures an RGB image and discriminates against natural objects. Right now the computer vision is far from perfect, but it does a very good job, all things considering.

The next biggest problem is picking the trash up and disposing of it. For this, [BDM] has repurposed a Power Wheels and attached a DIY robot arm. It’s not a very powerful arm, and a children’s toy probably isn’t the best platform, but it is the start of something very, very cool.

You can check out [BDM]’s video for the project below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Picking Up Litter With Robots”

Powerwheels Racing Series in Detroit

[Transistor-Man] and the gang finally got around to documenting their experience at the Detroit Makerfaire 2014 and the Powerwheels racing series. They weren’t planning on entering, but in a last-minute decision they decided to see if they could whip up an entry just over one week before the competition! They did — and it’s awesome. They call it the Chibi-Atomic-Jeep.

As the competition name implies, they had to base the vehicle off of a Powerwheels frame. Bunch of steel tubing, some TIG welding and a nice paint job, and they had the base frame of their vehicle. At the heart of it? An alternator from a van — surprisingly powerful and easy to control. They used cheap 8″ wheels from Harbor Freight Tools — they worked great, just didn’t last very long… By the time the races were over, they went through NINE of these tires. Good thing they’re cheap!

The most impressive part of the build is the gears. They made them using a water-jet cutter at the local hobby shop and a Bridgeport mill with an indexing head — not an easy task to complete!

Continue reading “Powerwheels Racing Series in Detroit”

[Harrison Krix’s] Marriott Chariot

Atlanta’s Mini Maker Faire had plenty of booths to keep visitors busy, but the largest spectacle by far was the racetrack smack-dab in the middle, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more eye-catching contender than [Harrison Krix’s] vehicle: the Marriott Chariot.

If [Krix’s] name looks familiar, that’s because he’s the master artisan behind Volpin Props, and is responsible for such favorites as the Futurama Holophonor replica and the Daft Punk helmet. (Actually, he made the other one, too).

The Chariot is yet another competitor in the Power Racing Series, an event that keeps popping up here on Hackaday. [Krix] drew inspiration from this Jeep build we featured earlier in the summer, and went to work sourcing an old plastic body to get started. The frame is 16 gauge square tubing, with a custom motor mount machined from 3/16 steel. After welding the chassis together, [Krix] chopped up a small bicycle to snag its head tube and headset bearings. A pair of sealed lead acid batteries fit horizontally in the frame, providing a slightly lower center of gravity.

[Krix] has a keen eye for precision and his build journal shows each step of his meticulous process. But, you ask, why “Marriott Chariot?” and why does the car look like someone threw up a kaleidoscope? Read on beyond the break, dear reader, to learn the Chariot’s origin and to see a video of it winding around the track.

Continue reading “[Harrison Krix’s] Marriott Chariot”

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.

Continue reading “Even More Power Wheels Racers”

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.

Continue reading “The Chibi-Mikuvan, or a Power Wheels with a Ford Fusion Battery”

Jeep Power Wheels Upgrade Only Reuses Body

Power Wheels Racing Jeep

It is debatable whether [Jamie] upgraded his Power Wheels Jeep or built a beast of a mini vehicle and only added a Power Wheels Jeep body. Either way, this Racing Power Wheels Jeep is awesome. The goal of the project is to race in the Power Racing Series races held at Maker Faires.

This vehicle is no joke. It is still electric but runs on 24volts DC. It has pneumatic rubber tires for traction and disk brakes for stopping. The ‘gas’ gauge is a volt meter mounted into the dash next to the motor temperature gauge. As if that was not enough, the headlights and tail lights work. Take note of that sweet custom frame, it was mostly made from an old bed frame.

Continue reading “Jeep Power Wheels Upgrade Only Reuses Body”