EV Skateboard: aaaand done!


Actually, I’m far from finished; but it does work! As usual I’ve gotten everything running at 3AM.

I’m off to buy some heftier batteries for the Wii Nunchuck before going back to practicing in the parking lot. Initial tests were pretty exciting. I’m used to the direct drive on the Segway board, though, so the one time this one started to get wobbly, I instinctively leaped off…

…and the skateboard kept going, straight into the woods!

No harm done, though I’m surprised considering I haven’t made undercarriage protective bits. Brakes and reverse aren’t keyed in right either. Hills scare me.

The quest continues…

Settling. A lightweight commuter board it is!


I hate to say it, but the wheelman is just too huge. I’ve decided to ditch the novelty for something I can carry around, and this board is the solution. At just under 10 pounds–which includes all the ev bits–I won’t whine when the battery dies, nor is it so obtrusive that I can’t tuck it under a chair anywhere I may end up on campus (or elsewhere).

I temporarily settled for a suspiciously cheap $12 deck from a local store. My ideal choice is a Kuya Mini Hero, but they are made-to-order and would be 3-4 weeks out. No thanks (for now). I don’t seem to get any wheel bite with the current setup, so I’ll save my complaints for when the board splits in half.

I’ve been good and taken many pictures of my process this time around, so I’ll update that after I catch up one some work for Hackaday. Hmm, looks like I bolted that front truck on backwards. Guess I’ll add that to the list.

Moving forward: Wheelman build


My floor is a bit of a disaster at the moment, but Simon doesn’t seem to mind (or perhaps that is the desperate stare of a cat wronged by untidiness). I found an old Wheelman (bushpig) …skateboard? and, as with most things I receive, it’s already in pieces.

The plan is an electric conversion with a low kV Turnigy brushless motor. The Segway skateboard is too impractical: I can’t go downhill without tragedy and offroading is a deathwish. I’m also trying to get the weight down on the wheelman, too. With the gas motor removed, it was still ~35 pounds.

I’ll be cleaning and rebuilding the frame, I suppose.

Autobalance Skateboard Part 6.2: Video

As promised, here’s some video of the skateboard in action. I’m still trying to track down some of the speed test videos.

As it turns out, I had to deflate the tires to be able to turn. It may not be clear, but I’m turning solely by leaning in the video. Shifting my weight to my left or right foot sets the board off balance–which the PID controller rushes to correct–thereby driving the board either forward or back. In addition, if I put more of my weight onto my toes or my heels (I’m facing one wheel; my back is to the other) this causes one tire to have significantly more surface area in contact with the ground, which turns the skateboard either left or right as it moves.

Although the Wii nunchuck can steer the board, it’s functioning only as a deadhand switch in the video.

Autobalance Skateboard Part 5: New Frame

Aside from the occasional demonstration to prove the PID controller worked, the aluminum board hadn’t seen much action until yesterday, when I nearly drove the wheels off the little guy. An hour and 200 yards later, vibrations threatened to shake everything apart. The aluminum frame had bent into this:


I love this project. Even though the wrecked frame guaranteed a complete structural overhaul, I’m still excited to get back to work.

It’s replacement:


My friend D.G. and I worked out this sturdy alternative after a few hours. We temporarily mounted the new frame onto some plywood and re-attached the wheels / axle.


It’s coming together better than I expected. All the measurements line up frighteningly well.


Now to add the rest and clean up that deck!

Macbeth Costumes: Part 1

University of Georgia Department of Theatre and Film Studies, 2013

This project was a huge challenge — and a persistent one. I’ll post a more detailed-write up later, but here are some quick photos and explanations showing my contributions to David Saltz’s Macbeth production here at UGA.

There are far too many people involved in a project like this to go into at the moment, but I should note that these brilliant costumes were created by Ivan Ingermann. He and David knew where they wanted the lights to be–it was up to me to make it all work. My job was to design the electronics, create and program a delivery system for the animations, do all the wiring, soldering, and building associated with the lights, and actually build out the animations for each costume. I hadn’t anticipated the extent of the troubleshooting I’d need to do during the show, but more about that next time.

There were a total of 6 separate, fully-illuminated costumes (3 witches, 2 Macbeth, 1 Lady Macbeth) and a number of smaller pieces (Malcolm’s chest, Duncan’s crown, and some weapons). Here’s the sword:


I’m actually very pleased with the way I finally got the weapons to light up without it looking like the clear acrylic blade was full of wires. I’ll dig those pictures up for the next post.macb01 The costumes varied from “relatively easy to deal with” to “breaks early and often.” This is Macbeth’s second costume, which at this point (about a week into the production) David decided it might be better to eliminate some of the lights for the costume to keep from breaking as easily. It still put out quite a bit of intensity:macb03 Here’s a shot of Dane on the final night of the show’s run. By this time I’d removed even more lights to keep things working. More on that later.8A1A235C-D6CC-4E94-A25C-E7F1082631E3

The witches’ costumes had nearly 200 RGB LEDs each, but due to the way they were placed, they were a bit easy to deal with and didn’t break quite as often. This is the under-layer (the bottom half of the legs are broken in this shot. This is right before a repair).photo 3(3) The final costumes had the almost-sheer white overlay. It looked pretty cool. Emerald and Callie offer up a quick pose:DSC_0071 While I offer up quick repairs, mid-show. DSC_0054I would like to point out (if it wasn’t clear) that these are individually addressable RGB LEDs. Each one can manage a huge range of color, and I programmed each one of the suits to animate on cue (with anywhere from 5-30 cues per costume, depending on the character).  Here’s the control board taped on to the battery.


I really did enjoy this project. The actors were extremely patient and kind, the department got me any resource I needed, and I never felt like any performance had… noticeable…electronics failure(s). Sure, there were some hiccups, but nothing I couldn’t fix or the actors couldn’t work with.