The very thoughtful and inspired Mr. Ben Secino (a Think Tank student) came to me for mechanical advise about a go kart model he had built out of legos at the end of one of our Eco-debate classes a few months ago. He was determined,after our many discussions in class about finding new alternatives to fossil fuel-based energy, to tackle the concept of a green vehicle for his summer project. His engineering brain was clearly whirring.
After a couple good conversations, many questions and a few trips to Wikipedia, we decided to take on the challenge of building a "green" go kart. Within the loose parameters of that goal, we had many options...Should we go bio-diesel? Solar? Electric?? The possibilities were endless, but on the "free, or cheaper if we can" budget we'd agree upon, many of these ideas were thrown out. We settled on using a wood frame, recycled (and repurposed) bicycle parts and an electric motor with rechargeable batteries.
While an electric go kart is by no means inherently "green" or carbon neutral since most readily available wall plugs are powered by a coal-based city grid, we decided that finding a carbon neutral way to recharge a battery was a worthy and achievable project for a later date and forged ahead. After much doodling and head scratching, we settle on a tricycle-style steering design, capitalizing on the bicycle-ness of our raw materials. So far we have built a wood frame from scratch, salvaged an office chair for a seat and successfully dismantled two donated bicycles which provided us with: two rear wheels complete with an intact disc brake system (score!), a front fork/wheel to be modified and mounted to the front of our frame, several brake cables to be used as brake/throttle connectors.
After much scouring, we were not able to turn up a used electric motor of the appropriate size/safety, so we've had to purchase a new one. Unfortunately, most of the electric components will end up being non-recycled. However, we picked a motor with Ben's future eco-tinkering in mind - it can do double duty as a generator if the drive shaft is mechanically turned. He's already concocted a plan for a water-wheel based perpetual motion machine....
Stay tuned, we're just getting started.
- Carly Ryan (Think Tank teacher)
|From Ben (the student):|
Last year I had the idea to build a type of extended snorkel, so that I could walk on the bottom of a lake without coming up for air. I nearly drowned. I decided it would be nice if this year's project was a whole heck of a lot safer. And so, several months ago, I was tinkering with Legos and discovered that I could use a lawnmower engine to move a cart. It was as if a whole new universe had just opened up to me. Over the coming weeks, the idea evolved and I built a model. I approached my favorite teacher, Carly, about it. We had a lot of fun talking it over, and the idea evolved further. Several weeks ago we began construction....
The first thing we did was put together a rectangular frame with several cross beams. Then we sawed a metal chair in two and bolted the chair part on the frame. Next we cannibalized my mom's bike and got two wheels, bike cables, and one disk brake (yay!!). We mounted the wheels and got another bike from Craigslist ("always garaged"). With welding assistance from Ian, we had our steering. When it was mounted, it promptly fell apart. The next thing we hope to do is strengthen it. The motor and electrical system are due to arrive soon, and the go-kart is awesome! It's name is Barly #1 (Ben+Carly).
Ben Secino, July 2011