Making Mario Kart Real

If you’ve ever had a casual go-kart experience, you might be able to relate to [HowToLou]. He noticed that whenever he tried to race, the same situation inevitably always happened. One racer would end up in front of the pack, and no one else would be able to pass them. The result was more of a caravan of go-karts than an actual race. That’s when he realized that video games like Mario Kart had already figured out how to fix this problem long ago. [Lou] took ideas from these games and implemented them onto a real life go-kart in order to improve the experience. The result is what he calls a Flash Kart.

The key to improving the experience was to add more features that you don’t normally get in a real word go-karting experience. The Flash Kart uses an electronic drive system that is controlled by computer. This setup allows the computer to limit the speed of the kart so they are all the same. The system includes a Logitech gaming steering wheel with built-in control buttons. There is also a color LCD screen mounted as a heads up display. The screen displays the racer’s speed in miles per hour, as well as multiple MP3 music tracks to choose from. The system provides the user with a limited number of speed boost tokens, listed on the heads up display. The user can also view their current ranking, their location on the track, or even get a view directly behind them.

The back of the kart includes a 23″ LCD screen that shows other players who you are and what team you are on. For added fun, the rider can display taunting messages to other racers using this screen. The front of the kart includes a laser cannon for shooting other karts as well as a “token scoop” sensor. This allows the riders to pick up virtual items such as laser cannon ammo, shields, or extra speed boost tokens.

To pack in all of this added functionality, [Lou] started with a typical go-kart chassis. From there, he built a custom fiber glass shell for the back-end. This houses most of the sensitive electronics. The system is powered by three 12V deep cycle batteries. A 15HP electric motor drives the rear wheels. The throttle is controlled with a gas pedal that simply feeds to a sensor that is hooked up to the control computer. The heart of the system is a computer that runs on a 2.6Ghz small footprint Zotac motherboard with Windows XP. The software is custom written in C#. The computer is plugged into a miniLAB 1008 interface board. This is how it communicates with all of the various sensors. The interface board is also used to control a number of relays which in turn control the speed of the kart.

Unfortunately [Lou] built this kart years ago and doesn’t include many details about what sensors he is using, or how the software works. Still, this was such a cool idea that we had to share it. Be sure to watch [Lou’s] video below to see the kart in action. Continue reading “Making Mario Kart Real”

Project Binky, Putting a Celica in a Mini The Hard Way

The old Mini – not the new one, mind you – was a fantastic rally car, but fifty odd horsepower won’t get you very far today. The name of the game is souping up a pile of rust from 1980 to create one of the fastest Minis on the planet. That’s the goal of Bad Obsession Motorsport, a project by [Nik Blackhurst], [Richard Brunning], and [Rex Hamilton] as [Abraham Lincoln].

[Nik] has a 1980 Mini 1000, a car-shaped pile of rust. The plan for this multi-year build is to stuff the engine, gearbox, and suspension from a Toyota Celica ST185 GT4 into the old Mini. If you’re wondering, that’s a two liter, turbocharged engine with 200 horsepower and four-wheel drive in a Mini that originally had 50 or 60 horsepower. No, the engine doesn’t fit, but that’s not going to stop these guys.

This isn’t the kind of build you just dive into. Once the guys had the Mini in the garage, a load of measurements were taken from both cars, written down, and the car stripped down. This is not a simple mod, and a few pieces of equipment were custom-made just for this build. The biggest of these is a custom jig the Mini chassis can be bolted down to. This jig gives [Nik] and [Richard] the ability to mount the Mini and engine on rollers, and rotate the entire chassis 90 degrees for easy welding of the underside of the car.

Already there are eight videos covering a year and a half of work, and only now is there a light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the old body panels from the Mini were removed and replaced with reproduction parts. Those parts were quickly ruined with a cutting disk and some custom fabricated panels were put in place. Somehow, it still looks like a Mini but it’s massively strengthened and cut to accommodate the much larger suspension and engine from the Celica.

Grab a cup of coffee (or tea, if you’re into that) and check out the videos below. It’s incredible how much time and work went into this build, and we can’t wait to see the next update in a few months or so.

Continue reading “Project Binky, Putting a Celica in a Mini The Hard Way”

Quadrotor Pod Racing

A group of multicopter enthusiasts from Argonay, France cordoned off a path through the forest and spent the day racing. The resulting video makes it look like a heck of a good time.

Twenty “drone” pilots all used first-person view (FPV) camera setups for complete immersion, racing at up to 50 kilometers per hour through a 150m course in the woods that was chosen for maximum thrills and spills. The track basically followed a footpath, but the pilots still had to be extremely alert to avoid natural obstacles (we call them “trees”). The narrator adds that the nearly random lighting and camera artifacts added an extra level of difficulty to the event.

After practicing a few times just to get around the track in one piece, they started racing each other in heats. On the final heat, at 3:40 in the video, five copters start off head-to-head and tear out into the woods. Of them, only two cross the finish line.

FPV drone crash scenes still make us wince a little bit. We wonder how many of the participants spent the next few nights in the repair bay.

Continue reading “Quadrotor Pod Racing”

Racing telemetry on a cockpit view


[Martin] has a Lotus Elise and access to a track. Sounds like fun, huh? The only problem is that the dashcam videos he makes are a little bit boring. Sure, they show him flying around the track, but without some sort of data it’s really hard to improve his driving skills. After thinking about it for a while, [Martin] decided he could use his Raspberry Pi and camera module to record videos from the dashboard of his car, and overlay engine data such as RPM, throttle, and speed right on top of the video.

Capturing video is the easy part of this build – [Martin] just connected his Raspi camera module and used the standard raspivid capture utility. Overlaying data on this captured video was a bit harder, though.

[Martin] had previously written about using the Raspi to read OBD-II data into his Raspi. Combine this with a Python script to write subtitles for his movies, and he’s off to the races, with a video and data replay of every move on the track.

The resulting movie and subtitle files can be reencoded to an HD movie. Reencoding a 13 minute HD video took 9 hours on the Raspi. We’d suggest doing this with a more powerful compy, but at least [Martin] has a great solution to fix his slightly uninformative track videos.

Electric motorcycle hits the racing circuit


Check out that beefy electric motor hanging out where the swing arm connects to the body of this motorcycle. It’s the muscle that makes this recently completed electric motorcycle ready to race.

[Jackson Edwards] has been hard at work building this from the ground up. His goal was to make it competitive with production line motorcycles and his most recent test runs are pointing to success. The film shows off a couple of problems with the rear suspension. This actually led to him dumping the bike on a turn. He was unharmed but the control panel on the handlebars was unfortunately trashed. A bit of work fixed the handling and he was able to ride with confidence. We’re struck by how quiet the thing is as it tears past the camera at the very beginning of the video.

Sure, we’ve seen other electric motorcycles before. Those were all conversions from gas. Designing from the ground up really opened up a lot of choices not possible with a retrofit. Make sure to dig through all the posts on his blog to get the full picture.

Continue reading “Electric motorcycle hits the racing circuit”

Pulse jet snowmobile, or, what Swedes do during hibernation

jetSweden is coming out of the depths of a cold, dark winter. What better time, then, to enjoy the last few weeks of frigid temperatures, short days, and frozen lakes and rivers? That’s what Orsa Speed Weekend is all about; tearing across a frozen lake by any means necessary, including jet powered snowmobiles.

This pulse jet comes from the fruitful minds at Svarthalet Racing (Google Translation) who have put an amazing amount of work into their fuel-injected pulse jet snowmobile during these last cold winter months. They’ve even gone so far as to do some analysis regarding how much horsepower their snowmobile has. Surprisingly, it’s not much more horsepower than a small car, but that’s due to the hilarious inefficiency of pulse jets compared to more conventional engines.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen jet powered snowmobiles build for Orsa Speed Weekend. We’ll just hope this year a few more videos will show up in our tip line.

Fauxrarri is the PPPRS Champion

The Power Racing Series (PPPRS) is an electric vehicle competition with a $500 price ceiling. This is Fauxarri, the 2012 Champion. It was built by members of Sector67, a Madison, WI hackerspace. To our delight, they’ve posted an expose on the how the thing was built.

It should come as no surprise that the guys behind the advance electric racer aren’t doing this sort of thing for the first time. A couple of them were involved in Formula Hybrid Racing at the University of Wisconsin. That experience shows in the custom motor controller built as an Arduino shield. It includes control over acceleration rate, throttle response, and regenerative braking. But you can’t get by on a controller alone. The motors they used are some special electric garden tractor motors to which they added their own water cooling system.

If you want to get a good look at how fast and powerful this thing is head on over to the post about the KC leg of PPPRS (it’s the one towing a second vehicle and still passing the competition by).