Hackaday Links: March 17, 2019

There’s now an official Raspberry Pi keyboard and mouse. The mouse is a mouse clad in pink and white plastic, but the Pi keyboard has some stuff going for it. It’s small, which is what you want for a Pi keyboard, and it has a built-in USB hub. Even Apple got that idea right with the first iMac keyboard. The keyboard and mouse combo are available for £22.00

A new Raspberry Pi keyboard and a commemorative 50p coin from the Royal Mint featuring the works of Stephen Hawking? Wow, Britain is tearing up the headlines recently.

Just because, here’s a Power Wheels Barbie Jeep with a 55 HP motor. Interesting things to note here is how simple this build actually is. If you look at some of the Power Wheels Racing cars, they have actual diffs on the rear axle. This build gets a ton of points for the suspension, though. Somewhere out there on the Internet, there is the concept of the perfect Power Wheels conversion. There might be a drive shaft instead of a drive chain, there might be an electrical system, and someone might have figured out how someone over the age of 12 can fit comfortably in a Power Wheels Jeep. No one has done it yet.

AI is taking away our free speech! Free speech, as you’re all aware, applies to all speech in all forms, in all venues. Except you specifically can’t yell fire in a movie theater, that’s the one exception. Now AI researchers are treading on your right to free speech, an affront to the Gadsden flag flying over our compound and the ‘no step on snek’ patch on our tactical balaclava, with a Chrome plugin. This plugin filter’s ‘toxic’ comments with AI, but there’s an unintended consequence: people want need to read what I have to say, and this will filter it out! The good news is that it doesn’t work on Hackaday because our commenting system is terrible.

This week was the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, first proposed on March 11, 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee. The web, and to a greater extent, the Internet, is the single most impactful invention of the last five hundred years; your overly simplistic view of world history can trace modern western hegemony and the reconnaissance to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, and so it will be true with the Internet. Tim’s NeXT cube, in a case behind glass at CERN, will be viewed with the same reverence as Gutenberg’s first printing press (if it had survived, but you get where I’m going with this). Five hundred years from now, the major historical artifact from the 20th century will be a NeXT cube, that was, coincidentally, made by Steve Jobs. If you want to get your hands on a NEXT cube, be prepared to pony up, but Adafruit has a great authorial for running Openstep on a virtual machine. If you want the real experience, you can pick up a NeXT keyboard and mouse relatively cheaply.

Sometimes you need an RCL box, so here’s one on Kickstarter. Yeah, it’s kind of expensive. Have you ever bought every value of inductor?

Power Wheels Gets Real With Real Wheels

We’re no stranger to Power Wheels modifications, from relatively simple restorations to complete rebuilds which retain little more than the original plastic body. These plastic vehicles have the benefit of nostalgia to keep the adults interested, and naturally kids will never get tired of their own little car or truck to tear around the neighborhood in. Many toys come and go, but we don’t expect Power Wheel projects to disappear from our tip line anytime soon.

Today’s project starts with a straightforward Power Wheels restoration story: [myromes] picked up a well-worn Jeep and decided that it needed a fresh coat of paint and some tweaks before handing the keys over to the next generation. But in an interesting spin, he decided to try mounting proper pneumatic tires on it in hopes they might imbue the pint-sized Jeep with some of the abilities of its full scale inspiration. But as it turned out, the project wasn’t quite the Sunday drive he was hoping for.

For one thing, the new wheels were much thicker than the old ones. This meant cutting away some of the plastic where they mounted so he could get the shafts to slide all the way through. At 5/16″, the original Power Wheels shafts were also thinner than what the axle the wheels were designed for. Luckily, [myromes] found that a small piece of 1/2″ PEX water pipe made a perfect bushing. Then it was just a matter of buying new push nuts to lock them in place.

That got the front wheels on, but that was the easy part. The rears had to interface with the Jeep’s motors somehow. To that end, he cut out circles of plywood and used an equal amount of Gorilla Glue and intense pressure to bond them to the new wheels. He then drilled four holes in them which lined up with the original motor mounts so he could bolt them on.

Things were going pretty well until he tried to replace the Jeep’s rear axle with a length of threaded rod from the hardware store. It wasn’t nearly strong enough, and sagged considerably after just a few test rides. He eventually had to place it with a correctly sized piece of cold rolled steel rod to keep the car from bottoming out.

While the new wheels certainly perform better than the original hard-plastic ones, there’s a bit of a downside to this particular modification. The slippy plastic wheels were something of a physical safety to keep the motors and gearboxes from getting beat up to bad; with wheels that have actual grip, the Jeep’s stock gears are probably not long for this world. But [myromes] says he’s got plans for future upgrades to the powertrain, so hopefully the issue will be resolved before the little ones need a tow back home.

For more tales from the Power Wheels garage, you might want to take a look at this fantastic rebuild complete with digital speedometer or just head straight to the big leagues with some seriously upgraded rides.

A Faster Grave Digger For Your Child

Children love speed, but so few of those electric ride on toys deliver it. What’s a kid to do? Well, if [PoppaFixit]’s your dad, you’re in luck.

This project starts with an unusually cool Power Wheels toy, based on the famous Grave Digger monster truck. During the modification process, it was quickly realised that the original motor controller wasn’t going to cut the mustard. With only basic on/off control, it gave a very jerky ride and was harsh on the transmission components, too. [PoppaFixit] decided to upgrade to an off-the-shelf 24 V motor controller to give the car more finesse as well as speed. The controller came with a replacement set of pedals, both accelerator and brake, to replace the stock units. On the motor side, a couple of beefier Traxxas units were substituted for the weedy originals.

Acceleration is now much improved, not just due to the added power, but because the variable throttle allows the driver to avoid wheelspin on hard launches. It also makes the car much more comfortable and safe to drive, thanks to the added controllability. Another way to tell the project was a success is the look of pure joy on the new owner’s face!

This was a fairly basic install, very accessible to the novice. These sort of electric vehicle hop-ups are commonplace enough that there are a wide variety of suppliers who sell easy-to-use kits for this sort of work. For that reason, we’ve seen plenty of hacks of this sort – like this modified scooter, or these Power Wheels set up for racing.

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Power Wheels Rescued, Restored and Enhanced

It seems power wheels are like LEGO — they’re handed down from generation to generation.  [Nicolas] received his brand-new Peg-Perego Montana power wheels in 1997 as a Christmas present. After sitting in a barn for a decade, and even being involved in a flood, it was time to give it to his godchildren, though not without some restoration and added features. His webpages have a very good write-up, just shy of including schematics, but you’ll find an abbreviated version below.

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Parent To The Power Wheels Rescue

If the [realjohnnybravo] is the one from the show, it appears he finally managed to get a girlfriend, marry her, and produce at least one son. As the old schoolyard rhyme goes, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes filling the whole *!$&# backyard with brightly colored plastic garbage. One of these items, a Power Wheels quad bike,  suffered a blow from planned obsolescence leaving behind a traumatized child. [realjohnnybravo] decided to fix it.

He made frequent mention of how one could go to a store and purchase replacement gears for the toy. Perhaps it’s a German thing. Regardless, he shows experience with internet comments by justifying his adventure in gear manufacturing with, paraphrased, “I’m having fun and learning so back off you pedantic jerks.”

Resin casting is great, and is often overlooked vs 3D printing. He purchased some hardware store RTV silicone and some slow-cure resin. The faster cure resin would get too hot with this much volume and potentially burn.

Materials procured he took apart both gearboxes from the machine. He first made a silicone mold of the broken parts (from the good copies out of the working gearbox) and removed the master. Without a vacuum or pressure casting chamber, the molds came out a little rough and bubbly, but it’s nothing some work with a carpet knife can’t fix. For big gears like this it hardly matters. Next he poured the two part resin into the molds and waited.

After some finishing with regular woodworking tools the parts fit right into the voids in the defective gearbox. His son can once again happily whir around the lawn, until the batteries die anyway.

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.

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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:

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