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Project Spotlight: Electric Motorcycle

May 23rd, 2012 3 comments

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Last week, Hive13 member Rick showed off a rather impressive project: An electric motorcycle he’s building. He started it near the end of 2011, inspired by his father who started building an electric car years back but due to funding issues could not complete it. A lot of online resources helped greatly by providing information on what people had tried, what worked, what did not, what parts they were using, and so on. (Did I really need to mention that part? This is a blog for a hackerspace.)

Whatever its stage of completion, he says he has about 100+ miles on it so far and it can do 54 mph. (Update: This doesn’t mean the bike has a range of 100+ miles, but that he has ridden about 100+ miles on it so far. Actual range is more like 20 miles. Sorry, Hackaday.)

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The frame of the bike is a 1989 Honda VTR 250 he had around for spare parts for other bikes. To replace the Honda’s 24 HP gas motor, he used a common golf cart permanent magnet DC motor, 24 V – 72 V, driving it with a fairly standard 48 V electric controller. Four Optima Deep Cycle Yellow Top 12V batteries power it (two of them are visible in the top photo), and he added a 48 V charger to manage them. (Update: Batteries are AGM [Absorbed Glass Mat], not lead acid, for the record.)

Headlights, taillights, turn signals, and other accessories run from 12 V that a DC-DC converter provides. (I think this also included the ridiculously loud horn, strictly for safety reasons because the bike makes practically no noise otherwise. He says he’s only had to use it twice so far…)

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Rick estimated the total cost at about $2800, and that was using mostly new parts with warranties rather than used ones from Ebay. In addition to this, he purposely built it with a removable battery rack if we wishes to swap in a different battery type later on – he mentions LiFeMnPO4 batteries and a new controller & charger that would have added $1500 to the price, but would have increased the bike’s range and reduced its weight. (He put its current weight at about 400 lb total.)

Actual problems seemed pretty minimal. He made a mistake in the math when choosing the motor’s drive sprocket; a recent change in this brought the top speed from 35 up to 54 mph. The website from which he bought the battery charger advertised it as weatherproof, and he discovered it was not. He has some concerns about the motor getting too hot on hills or longer runs, and intends to add a temperature gauge and a fan.

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I also felt I had to ask a token stupid question, “What is it like to ride a motorcycle where you can’t rev the engine?” but received a fairly serious answer: “It’s weird not having a gas motor. The rev thing isn’t as weird as not having any kind of engine brake when you’re going down hills.”

The Flickr album of pictures is here (first 5 are courtesy of Dave Myers; remainder are my own until the last 5, which are Rick’s). Rick also provided some photos and videos of the initial tear-down, assembly, and first rides:

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(Disclaimer: Neither Hive13 nor Rick advocates riding without protective gear. The only reason this is absent in the pictures is that these were very short test runs.)

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Glass Block LED Matrix, controlled outdoors via tablet

October 13th, 2011 4 comments

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Short version: Using an Android tablet, you can draw things on our Glass Block LED Matrix from the street, and it’s pretty awesome. Video here, photos here.

Long version:

Things have progressed recently on the Glass Block LED Matrix which Chris Davis and Paul Vincent started. For a couple weeks, the code was already in place to let Processing talk to it via simple serial commands to the Arduino & ShiftBrite shield. We wanted to use the tools from Project Blinkenlights to control things over the network; while this didn’t entirely work as planned, the project offered a lot of ideas and inspiration.

The most recent addition I made was the inclusion of oscP5 to the Processing sketch to let it listen for OSC (Open Sound Control) messages. As it happens, a brilliant piece of free software already exists (Control from Charlie Roberts) which turns Android/iOS devices into control surfaces that send out OSC messages. On top of this, Control comes with a handful of example UIs, one of them being “Multibutton Demo” which provides a UI with an 8×8 button grid, sort of like a monome. (The tablet in all of the photos is running Control with that Multibutton Demo UI.)

As our LED matrix is 7×8, this UI was a good initial match. I set Control’s destination URL/port to the backend machine that was running Processing, set the sketch to parse the pretty simple OSC messages Control would send out at every button toggle, and then I was able to control what was on the LED matrix by drawing on that 8×8 grid on my tablet.

I finally got to show it off outside on Tuesday evening when it was dark, and it’s working pretty well, as the video shows.

Next steps:

  • Making a Control UI that allows for color control. These are RGB LEDs, after all – we can control intensity and color, not just whether they’re on or off.
  • Making this web-enabled. I think Control allows this?
  • Fixing the glitchiness that I didn’t show in the video; something cryptic is going on on the Arduino side.

Check out the github project here and the project wiki page here.

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Weekly meetup for “Intro to AI”

October 5th, 2011 No comments

The free online version of the “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course (http://www.ai-class.com/) based on Stanford CS221 starts next week. As several members signed up for this course, we are going to be meeting up at the Hive on a weekly basis to watch the lectures and work through some of the homework. We’ll meet first on Wednesday, October 12th, at 6:30 PM, and the intention is to keep meeting each Wednesday at the same time for the 10 weeks that the course lasts (course schedule is here – it runs through the week of December 12th).

Lectures are supposed to appear online each week, and I’m told they’ll also be downloadable. I will try to download the videos ahead of time and have copies of them locally. Other than that, we’re just going to play things by ear – I’ve never done a course like this before, perhaps because no course I’m aware of has been done like this before. Something you can program on (i.e. a computer)  might be helpful to have. Quoth their website, “Programming is not required, however we believe it will be very helpful for some of the homework assignments. You may write code in any language you would like to (we recommend Python if you are new to programming) and your code will not be graded.” A textbook is not required but is supposedly helpful, and I think some people said they had older editions they could bring in.

If you’re taking the course, or you want to take it, please join us. You don’t need to be a Hive13 member. You don’t even need to be enrolled in the online course, for that matter – but it’s free and enrollment is open until October 9th, so you may as well.

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Galileo update & DIY solder mask

September 27th, 2011 16 comments

The Galileo project is progressing, and the next step is a board to drive its many many LEDs.

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Center column of Galileo display

Dave B. put together a schematic and board in EAGLE for this purpose, based around the TI TLC5940, a 16-channel LED driver, and had the boards made at DorkbotPDX. Schematic is here, board layout here.

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Unsoldered PCB

(Sorry for the light fogging. I really should just get a real macro lens instead of putting an old Series E 50mm on extension tubes.)

Paul and Jim then used the laser cutter to make a solder mask out of acetate film (i.e. garden-variety transparencies). The cream layer in EAGLE provided the mask to cut, and here’s the stencil created from that:

Here are two of the attempts to laser-cut this stencil from acetate sheets. The imperfection on the top one (see the right of the two holes on the bottom left) came from etching the edges of the hole rather than rastering it, supposedly; the bottom one came out a bit better.

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Less-successful stencil

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More successful cut

Here’s one finished board, having had solder paste applied through the stencil and reflowed on a cheap electric skillet. It looks good aside from a solder bridge at the chip’s 2nd- and 3rd-to-last pins:

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Soldered PCB

Keep following the Wiki page - the project progresses pretty regularly and Jim updates the page.

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Long overdue photos from Mu, LitterBoxFriends, & Thriftsore Boratorium

September 14th, 2011 No comments

 

 

I took forever to post this item, but here it finally is. The Hive had an experimental music show (the post about it is here) months back, and Douglas Lucas kindly shared his photos from the event.

Here is LitterBoxFriends:

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Here is Mu (and the aforementioned Douglas Lucas):

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And here is Thriftsore Boratorium:

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