Posts filed under: Electrical

What you can make at The Foundery: A Real Live Mario Kart

         Foundery team members Corey Fleischer and Jess Goldfinger have made a real live Mario Kart controlled wirelessly by a wii remote. See a video of it in action here!

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          The idea for the vehicle came from a casual watercooler conversation at Corey’s former workplace. He and a few coworkers saw a beer-tossing mini fridge on TV and thought it was very lame. They knew they could one-up it, so they started to brainstorm a better product. Their ideas started with a beverage-delivering cooler on wheels and ended on a go-kart that could be controlled by itself wirelessly. They set out to build the latter.

          The cart’s control system is connected by a wii remote, which talks to an Arduino through bluetooth. The Arduino knows which direction the remote is pointing and can move the wheels to match it. The cart itself is made from miscellaneous parts of electric scooters, wheels of a hand truck, and the seat of a lawn tractor. Fellow Foundery instructor Jess Goldfinger programmed the software for the controls and wired it up!

          Corey actually used this cart as part of his audition for the show Big Brain Theory. He subsequently was accepted for the show and won. See his application video in which he puts a lightbulb in the microwave here.

          Come by the Foundery to make a go-kart of your own, or just take a spin on ours!

 

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The World’s Greatest Electronic Benches!

Any good Maker-Space should expect members to be working on leading edge electrical projects.  Electronics prototyping has always been a hobby of mine, so I wanted to make sure that our electronics work stations are top of the line and have everything I would want in a work station;)

So in the true American way of “thinking about myself”, I want to make sure our work stations could accommodate soldering, breadboard prototyping, and electronics testing.  I want all the possible tools within plain sight, and within and arms reach, lot’s of electrical outlets and tons of light.  When choosing solutions for storage or work surfaces for The Foundery, it’s always a debate whether we should build or buy.  Choosing electronic work stations was no different.  We’d all love to slap a “Made in Baltimore” sticker on everything in here but we’re a small team with a lot on our plate these days.  Doing some research I found that I could buy 60″ work benches from Alibaba for $700 Made-in-China benches, U-line had the 60″ benches at $1500 each which were also probably Made in China but sold in US (for what that’s worth).

We wanted 4 people to be able to work at a time on these, so we would need 4x of the 60″ benches…that’s pricey.  I did some number crunching and figured we could build 2 x 8ft electrical benches for $500.  And that was all I needed to convince Jason it was a no-brainer to build our own custom benches.

So in typical engineering style, I 3D modeled the benches just to show off my CAD skills.  See below!

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The features I considered to be must-have’s include:

  • 30″ depth
  • upper shelf to hold power supplies and oscilloscopes
  • back board for part bins and tool hooks
  • foot rest
  • overhead bar for mounting LED work lights.
  • 39″ work height so that members can work while standing or sitting on a stool.
  • 20 power outlets in case a member needs to power a Chevy Chase style Christmas light display.

The final overall dimensions of the electrical benches were 8ft in Length x 2.5ft deep and 8 ft high made from 2″ square 14 gage steel….yes that’s correct.  8FT TALL, 14 gage steel!  You could do pull-ups from the overhead light bar if needed.  Given how competitive Jason is, there’s always a chance of a pull-up competition breaking out.

Here’s a pic of me standing next to the first tack-welded side member of the electronics bench.

Audrey’s getting really proficient at squaring up and welding these box beam structures so the full frames of these benches came together in just a few hours.  Here’s a pic of the completed frame.

For the bench surface we decided on two sheets of 3/4″ MDF glued together.  This would give a nice smooth and rigid work surface that could hold paint well.  We’ll be putting Electro Static Discharge (ESD) mats on top to protect sensitive electronics from electro-static damage.

Below is a picture of a finished bench with peg-board, overhead lights, work surface and shelf installed.

We plan to use the peg board for storing wire-strippers, electrical tape, crimpers and bins for terminal lugs and so on.  I’ve spent a lot of time on electronic work benches and these will be a luxury to work at.  We tested the overhead lights and ensured that there are no shadows on the work bench surface.  Below you can see the power strip with 20x outlets.

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And in typical Corey fashion, it wouldn’t be a true finished project until something goes wrong.  My wife probably won’t believe this, but after finishing the first bench, I grabbed a floor broom to sweep off the wood dust from the work surface. Being super focused on doing the worlds best sweeping job, I lost track of the butt of the broom 3 feet above my head and stuck the broom pole strait through the bench light’s diffuser…

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I wish you had seen Audrey’s face when she realized what I had just done.  She probably thinks I did it on purpose to get out of any future sweeping tasks  (like when I melted the kids plate in the dishwasher so my wife would never trust me to load the dishwasher again).

An easy fix though, the replacement diffuser is already on it’s way!  I’m super happy with how these benches turned out.  They are probably the word’s largest and strongest electrical benches.

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