Remember the Chibikart—that awesome, Mario-inspired go-kart built by MIT student Charles Guan? We loved it in an only-an-MIT-student-could-come-up-with-something-this-sweet sort of way. Luckily for us, Guan has just polished off the finishing touches on a newer, more accessible design that he says can be built even by those of us without a tricked out makerspace and the perks of being an MIT genius. He calls it, rather aptly, the Democratic People's Republic of Chibikart.
Historically speaking, most of my projects have involved a little bit of "unobtainium" – or perhaps to put it more accurately, an Unobtaining Machine. As well documented as they tend to be, they are admittedly difficult to reproduce by anyone outside of a university or similarly well-equipped makerspace setting, the reason being that they tend to involve much manual or CNC machine work; waterjetting, laser cutting, precision boring, etc.. I've generally made a attempt to explain the processes involved in addition to investigating ways that things can be built by more people with different resources, but it isn't usually the focus of a project.
Breaking it down.
What does "detuning" mean for this project? It will mean fully documenting online the build process of a small electric vehicle using commonly available but modern parts and a reasonable set of garage tools and hardware store purchases, while utilizing available digital/online/personal fabrication resources. It will not feature cutting-edge science nor attempt to teach principles of engineering simultaneously. The goal is a fun buildable project of more difficulty and exploration of the hidden underbelly of engineering than a trip to Home Depot will net someone. Again, some times all you need is the resources and the technique – I'm guessing individual sections of this documentation will be way more useful to more people than the whole project is.
Now, Chibikart is probably the worst possible project to do something like this with. First of, it's not going to be cheap at all – it's not a weld-together-a-steel-frame-insert-scrap-lawn-mower-engine-here kind of project...I decided to pursue it, though, both because it has novelty factor (while it may be impractical it's fun as hell to ride around), is made of a pretty adjustable/extensible platform (80/20 extrusion), and because it is harder. It's abundantly clear to me that not everyone will be able to pick up and do it, but in my opinion, to throw it out there is better than just relegating it to a build category in my sidebar that I will occasionally linkdump to.
The ground rules.
• I will use Instructables and create a step by step document that shows the vehicle's construction from start to finish. This is a departure from my usual style, but I will try to keep things as open ended and customizable as possible.
• No old car batteries, galvanized frame tubing, and hacked wheelchair DC motors. This will be brushless, lithium ion, aluminum framed, and powerful & lightweight using parts that can be purchased new. Much McMaster, Hobbyking, and Surplus Center (with other minor vendors) will be involved.
• I will limit the use of tools to those which could reasonably be found in someone's garage, or the average high school builder had access to. For me, it was a drill press, hand drill, Dremel tool, a fairly common 29-piece drill set (couldn't afford the 115 number-letter-fraction set!), and a set of hand tools including some wrenches (not a whole set), pliers, cutters, and limited taps and dies.
• The limitations set forth above may make it sound difficult, but this is the part where I get to essentially pick and choose the fabrication exercises. The advent of on-demand waterjetting means that nothing substantial has to really change from Chibikart's design. Like its conceptual predecessor tinyKart, Chibikart is a pile of 80/20 and waterjet-cut aluminum plates that I really didn't have to do that much to in order to put together. I'll publish the flat layout files publicly such that anyone could conceivably Big Blue Saw a copy.
Guan has put together an incredibly detailed Instructable for the DPRC, with photo-documentation of the build process every step of the way. If anyone has a go at putting together their own, please send in pictures/video/anecdotes. We'd love to see 'em!
The very recently completed Democratic People's Republic of Chibikart.