March 11, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I’m Making an Electric GoKart for Maker Faire

I’ve officially launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for my Maker Faire Bay Area 2017 electric GoKart build. There’s a lot of “firsts” in this statement for me. It’s my first time presenting a project at Maker Faire, my first time crowdfunding, and my first time building a GoKart (luckily I have some serious help on that one).

The Bigger Picture

At a higher level, this is also my first time testing the waters of where I’d like to take Maker Project Lab. Though I may eventually succumb to it, I’m reluctant to get onboard with something like Patreon. What I’d rather do, is rally my audience around helping me fund bigger, more ambitious projects.

Projects like this GoKart help me grow as a Maker, and I feel like they’re more exciting for you guys to see unfold. And as my audience grows, hopefully we can scale the scope and expense of these projects to accomplish really awesome stuff.

Power Racing Series at Bay Area Maker Faire 2016.
Power Racing Series at Maker Faire Bay Area 2016. Photo by Donald Bell.

Power Racing Series

I took the above photo at last year’s Bay Area Maker Faire. It was one month after I had been let go from Make: magazine. It was actually one of the first Maker Faires in years where I wasn’t reporting on the event in some capacity. Free to just enjoy myself, I realized that there was simply nothing more thrilling and hilarious to me than watching the Power Racing Series unfold.

In years past, I had often watched the races in awe, internally cataloging all of the skills I’d need to even attempt building car I could compete with. Welding, gearing, steering, motors, throttles, high-voltage batteries — it was all foreign, scary stuff for someone more comfortable with soldering irons and synthesizers.

Fortunately, during my whirlwind year at Make: magazine, I worked alongside Power Racing Series founder and creative superhuman Jim Burke (featured in the above video). Jim unlocked and demystified the competition and the car building process for me. However misguided or misinformed of my Maker skill level, he seemed to think I could pull it off.

The Build

The day after the 2016 Maker Faire was the day I started looking for used Power Wheels on Craigslist. That’s when I came across a $25 listing for a non-operational, off-brand (Dynacraft) Hello Kitty ride-on car. The seller said that he’d bought the car for his daughter and it inexplicably stopped working. We settled up in a Target parking lot, and the Kitty came home with me.

Kitty’s ride home.

Since that time, I’ve already made and scrapped one chassis and motor design that I’ve handed down to my son. That’s a whole other story, but it pointed me in the right direction — calling up friend and former Make: magazine colleague Jordan Bunker and asking for welding lessons.

Jordan has a critical part of getting this car up and running. He’s a fabrication savant. He’s built and raced cars in previous Power Racing events. He’s seen hundreds of different car designs. He also happens to be Jim Burke’s roommate.

Kitty Grabs Back chassis.
A recent photo of the custom built car chassis for the Kitty Grabs Back.

Once a week, for the past few months, I’ve been making the pilgrimage over to Jordan’s garage workshop to push the car fabrication forward a little bit each time. It’s been a hugely educational experience, and there’s still a long way to go, but each time I get more and more excited.

Cool Stuff You Can Get

The build process has been an expensive undertaking and I could use your help to see it through to completion. By contributing at least $25 to our crowdfunding campaign you’ll get a fun, full-color, die-cut vinyl sticker depicting me in the car. Below is an initial sketch of the sticker design by illustrator Josh Ellingson, that is just a hint at how great the final work will be. If you can spare as much as $40, you’ll also get an enamel pin of the same design, along with the sticker.

It’s been fun working up the rewards for this campaign. I hope it’s successful, and a model for future projects I can undertake without going broke. Thanks for reading all this, and thanks for your support!

Illustration by Josh Ellingson.


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