Is it a car? Is it a bike? It’s a pedal car.

This is a great how-to reference for starting your own pedal powered contraption.  I started with 3 kids’ bikes, a bunch of bed frames, and some electrical conduit.10411829_10204693823479624_4278020863117572750_n

I used the head tubes and two front wheels for the front steering. Next, I cut the bottom bracket off of one of the kids’ bikes for the pedals. The last major part is the back end of the 3rd kids’ bike. I cut that just in front of the bottom bracket to use that as the drive in the back of the bike.


The 3rd head tube became the steering wheel mount. I made the seat with crushed velvet covering a foam cushion on a wood base, and the cockpit is made out of conduit.


The steering wheel is made out of a rolled stainless tube I had laying around. After adding some headlights, brakes, a cup holder, and a gear shifter, I covered the outside of the frame with vinyl.


Because this is an art piece you can’t forget a crazy hood ornament.




Add some black spray paint and some decals, and you’re in business. Cruising in style. Just try not to run over any gorillas. Check it out in action here


One rack to rule them all

If there is anything that gets under my nerves, it’s a mess of wires! But what do you do when you’re up to your eyeballs in wires? wire messMy plan was simple: I would make the best wire rack that would give me easy access to whatever I needed. My first order of business was to draw up a design.20140324_120016

I originally designed the rack two feet across all the way to the top, but I decided that would make for a tipping hazard. By putting the smaller spools of wire on the top, I should be able to fit just as many spools on it if I made the top smaller. The final depth on top was 1.5 feet and the depth on the bottom was 2.5 feet. The width was 4 feet and the height was about 4 feet, but if you add the casters to the base then we had a wire rack about 4.5 feet tall. The wooden dowels lock into place with gravity and have to be lifted to change the wire


The greatest part of this is that you know what wires you have and exactly where they are when you need them.

The Planet Express RedBull soap box derby car

How do you build a space ship in 30 days? Well, with lots of Red Bull!

We started by laying out a grid on the floor to make sure we could fit the planet express in a trailer. We began building the frame next, to make sure the foam would fit on top once we started building the body. We purchased the foam at Home Depot and layered it in two inch sections. Tracing out the shape and cutting it out a little over-sized seemed to work the easiest to get the rough shape.


After the rough shape was cut out, we cut it closer with a hot wire cutter. Then we sanded the layers smooth to match the curvature of the previous layer.



After we achieved what we felt was a good shape for the body of the ship, I finished building the frame for testing.  The frame was made of 3 kids bikes and some steel tubing.  It worked pretty well.


We finished painting, aligning the ackerman steering, building a crushed velvet seat, and installing the brakes, and then packed up for the trip to Cincinnati Ohio to race the ship.


After seeing the size of the hill when we got there, I decided to get the brakes working as well as I could while everyone else worked on small details and costumes.


We came in 4th overall “not bad for our first red bull race”. I think our car held up well to going down the hill, but we could have gotten more points for a failure. At the end of the event Ian crashed into the hay bales for more points, but did surprisingly little damage to the car.


Thanks to the rest of the team: Dan Boehm, Ian Powell, Torrance Scott, Nick, and our sponsors Hardin Design and Development and bb7 for helping to inspire the kid in everyone!




Portable Paint/water Sprayer

In early 2016 there was a Water Privatization bill being pushed through the court. The recent problem in Flint, where the water was being poisoned by lead and other contaminants to try to save money, brought to light the dangers of that bill.  I quickly threw together a plan to help. I got a 5 gallon bucket, a battery, a switch, lots of food coloring, and a pump from a windshield wiper on a car.


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I assembled the parts and went down to the capital to leave my message. I was able to spray about 15 feet out and drain the 5 gallon bucket in about a minute. The hardest part of this project was finding a tip that would let me write in big letters and not use so much water. The bill did not pass FYI.



Make Some LED Snowshoes!

I love putting LEDs on everything! The LED snowshoes are pretty fun and one of the best things I have come up with, I think. If you want to make your own it’s pretty simple, and you can do it for about 20 bucks in materials.


Just search eBay for 5050 rgb LEDs. You’ll also need some batteries and controllers for them. “Get some protected batteries so they don’t explode like the stupid hoverboards please”. Some things to remember include: only put the LEDs on the outside edge, and use lots of zip ties! I’m still in the prototyping stage for these so there are a few issues like the LEDs like to break on bends and waterproofing. When I have a nice working design, I will be selling kits at






Electric All Terrain Skateboard Build

I started building this for build Madison, and in less than one night i was able to get it to work. I used an electric lawn mower motor and an old battery from a e-bike for the main parts. It’s controlled with a hand throttle connected to a cheap China 36 volt controller.



One thing I did do differently is I added Ackerman steering. The skateboard is able to go about 20 mph and can do a burn out. All parts are fabricated by hand, and the wheels are the 13-inch Harbor Freight specials covered in high class Walmart rubber.




The Lameborgini

The Lameborgini was an electric car sponsored by Dexton Kids for power wheels racing series. When the body arrived everyone was a bit amazed at how small it was. I started by gutting the whole thing because the small 6 volt motors were not going to push me around fast enough. I added a 12 volt starter motor from my mustang, a water cooling system, a 600 amp paragon controller my friend designed and two large 12 volt batteries.




Once the car’s new drive was installed I started working on the cosmetics and weapons. I installed a nerd machine gun I found in the garbage and wired it to a switch on the steering wheel.


The car performed well and had lots of problems. I was able to get the car up to about 20 mph as long as I could hold on. lol


Photo credit to Karen Corbeill and Joe Kerman.

The Story of The Minnebago

The Minnebago has to be one of my more memorable and loved builds. I originally built the Minnebago after our mayor of Madison started coming down hard on the homeless population. The Minnebago is a tiny home that is also a bike with pedals so that only bike laws apply.


I started building in early fall of 2014, and completed the MInnebago on a budget of about $400 and about 60 man hours. I went through a few different designs of the drive train before I was able to get a version that could support its own weight and could be pedaled. The current design weighs about 350 lbs.


There is a bench/bed, a table, a hole for ice fishing inside, and there are lights inside and out. I deployed the Minnebago on to Lake Mendota. I quickly found out that it was almost impossible to move with wheels in the snow, so I added skis.


I installed solar panels, a battery power system, and a wimax network to make it self-sustainable while in the middle of the lake.


After the temperature started to warm up, I moved the Minnebago to State St with the help of a few homeless guys. I wrote statistics about the local homeless population on the sides.


It turns out Michelangelo’s Coffee had a problem with me parking my bike on their block, and they initiated a complaint with the city. The battle had begun. The mayor’s office started taking trips down to my bike to brainstorm ways to remove it.


I received a notice saying I was illegally parked on the sidewalk and that I had to move it. I posted my response citing that the bike is a bike by their own definition and was even registered with the city. I did, however, move the Minnebago to a more visible location at the top of State St.


I went to a meeting downtown the next day, walking past the Minnebago, and everything looked fine. Two hours later a friend called and said it was gone. There were no signs or warnings posted like the city’s website said they would do. I went to court. There is a public nuisance law granting to city power to remove any property they want without warning. This is not the end of the story for the Minnebago though. Next month I will be getting it ready for the Madison Maker Fair to demonstrate sustainability.



Make Your Own Smoker Grill

After I came back from Alaska with 40 lbs of salmon, I really wanted a way to smoke and grill my catch.  I looked around for a while and came up with an aluminum cylinder my friend Tim gave me that reminded me of a minion.


I set out to clean it up and start building. I drew up a mouth, drilled some starter holes, and then cut a mouth out with a jig saw.


I then made 2 arms and some glasses and bolted them on. Because the cylinder is aluminum the fastest and easiest option is to bolt them on. I added 6 vent holes in the bottom that the fire can draw fresh air from. Interestingly, the vent hole feeds the fire in such a way that you get a “firenado”. I’m not sure if it changes the taste of the food or cooking speed, but it is cool to watch.


I then bolted on a few eyes, cut the lid, and added a hinge in the back and a handle on top. I fashioned two grill plates using industrial grate that is normally used for walkways in production plants. Don’t worry it was new material. I used eight over sized bolts mounted to the body to lay the grates on.


After a final cleaning, I fired up my new grill and let it burn for a few hours to get out anything that might have been left inside. The first food was salmon and asparagus, and it was a massive hit. Mmmm Salmon