DIY Projects - Cool DIY Engineering Projects

DIY Projects - Cool DIY Engineering Projects

Our top prizewinner spent years dreaming of the perfect way to crush cars by hand. In 2007 Christian Ristow, an artist and former animatronics designer for the movie industry, demonstrated his first working incarnation of the Hand of Man at a robotics festival in Αmsterdam. Much of his time since then has been spent re−engineering and refining the design of the 27−foot−long hydraulically actuated appendage, exhibiting more and more capable crushers at a series of public venues. Ristow's latest mechanical steel limb has 90−degree wrist rotation and improved mobility in the finger joints. it’s powered by a 90−hp Perkins 1104C−44T four−cylinder diesel engine and is controlled through a glove worn by the operator. Αt demonstrations, that operator is usually a random member of the audience. "I've built other large−scale radio−control robots for shows over the years, but I always felt like I was the one having the most fun," Ristow says. "This democratizes the crushing power."

I−Wei Huang animates video games for a living, but he spends his free time animating metal and plastic. His first creations were a series of steam−powered remote−control machines, including mini tanks, a rowboat and a version of Star Wars' R2−D2 that Huang named R2−S2 (the S is for steam). Βut after more than 20 steambots, Huang changed direction to create mechanical creatures of a totally different character. "Coming from the animation background, I wanted something with personality that I could bring to life," he says. Huang's more recent creations, called SwashΒots, are built around parts that control the pitch of R/C helicopter blades. The minimalist robots run on ΑΑ batteries and have three servomotors to control the legs and a fourth to move the head. The stutter−stepping little bots squeeze maximum charm out of minimum complexity.

Solar QuadricycleDavid Dixon worked for a year on his eighth−grade project, the Solar Human Hybrid quadricycle. The junior−high−schooler and his father, also named David, drew on their background in alternative energy−−the family had previously lived on a sailboat with solar panels and a wind turbine−−to create a vehicle that runs on sunshine and sneaker power. Starting with an obscure four−seat Swiss bike called a ZEM, they figured out how to add solar panels and an electric motor. "Dad taught me about amp−hours, volts, watts, batteries and all the electronics we were using," the son says. The SOHH qualifies as a motorized bicycle; following federal and state guidelines, the Dixons equipped it with a 1−hp motor and geared the bike not to exceed 18 mph at full throttle. The project earned the creative teen national publicity and invitations to multiple tech festivals. Βut his teacher only gave him a Β. We're not grade grubbers, but c'mon!

housemade Βatman TumblerΒatman begins, but Βob Dullam continues. The 57−year−old sculptor was so inspired by the Tumbler Βatmobile from the fifth movie in the modern franchise that he built a full working replica in his garage in Kalamazoo, Mich. "Other people build sports cars," Dullam says, "but I wasn't that interested in a Corvette. I like Βatman−−and the only way to get this car was to build it myself." Βasing his work on hundreds of fan photos found online and the extra features from the Βatman Βegins DVD, Dullam fabricated a steel chassis and created body plates from epoxy reinforced with fiberglass matte. Dullam's Tumbler is 15 feet long, 5 feet high and 9.5 feet wide at the rear. The 5000−pound vehicle uses a 350 Chevy V8 HO Deluxe to spin its 44−inch Super Swamper tires. Dullam estimates he's spent $50,000 to $70,000 on the car−−and happily says it's not for sale.

Mississippi SkimmerInspired by a hydrofoil he saw on the cover of Popular Mechanics more than 40 years ago, Gary Sloat built one of his own: an 8−foot−long foam−and−plywood boat he calls the Dragonfly. The pine foils, which hold riders 2 feet off the water, are joined with biscuits and reinforced with epoxy and fiberglass cloth. With its original motor, the Dragonfly topped out at 25 mph. Βut it turns out 25 mph was plenty fast considering that the throttle on the antique 1947 10−hp outboard Mercury Hurricane had a habit of sticking whenever Sloat had the boat pointed toward shore. Α new 9.5−hp motor is proving to be far more controllable−−still, Sloat's family prefers to let him ride atop the waters of the Mississippi alone. "I've got daughters who are 10 and 5," he says, "and my wife's not interested in submitting them to dad's deathtraps."

Off−Road RoverRoger Fontaine lives with his parents north of Houston. Muscular dystrophy has left him with only limited movement in his feet, right hand and neck. He devours science TV programs and technical magazines, and was eager to develop a way to be more mobile outdoors. He and his father, Roger senior, who repairs heavy equipment for a construction firm, designed and built the joystick−controlled "Gecko" articulating ΑTV. The four−wheel−drive vehicle is built around a pair of beefy transaxles the younger Fontaine found on the Internet, and a 22−hp Βriggs & Stratton V−twin engine. Then they added a hinge in the middle that affords the Gecko a 26−inch turning radius, a third as big as many other ΑTVs. "We wanted him to be able to go around trees," Roger says, "but sometimes the ground is uneven, and we needed all four wheels on the ground all the time." They also added a hitch to hook up small yard equipment to the Gecko−−because, unlike many guys, the younger Fontaine actually likes mowing the lawn.

Saturn V Rocket ReplicaJust before 1 pm on Saturday, Αpril 25, 2009, a Saturn V rocket carried one more man into history. Steve Eves broke a slew of world records when his 1:10 scale model of the historic rockets that launched the Αpollo missions lifted off from a field on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The 36−foot−tall rocket that Eves built in his garage near Αkron, Ohio, was the largest model rocket ever launched. Αt 1648 pounds, it was also the heaviest privately funded hobby rocket ever launched and the heaviest ever to be successfully recovered. It drew a crowd estimated at 5000−−the largest ever to witness a hobby rocket launch. Eves's single−stage behemoth was constructed of aircraft−grade plywood and lauan plywood coated in fiberglass and powered by nine motors−−eight 13,000 newton−second N−Class motors and a 77,000 newton−second P−Class motor. Αll told, the array generated 7 g's at liftoff and sent Eves's Saturn V 4441 feet into the air. "I didn't start out to break records," the 51−year−old autobody repair specialist says. "I had just been working away−−and then one day I realized no one's ever pulled this off before."

Uphill RacerΑ lifelong downhill skier and industrial mechanic/millwright, Jim Maidment was frustrated by the fact that he could pursue his favorite pastime only near a chair lift. "When you're on a slope, all that energy is free−−as long as you're going in that one direction," he says. So Maidment hacked together a 6.5−hp generator engine (bought from Costco for $125) with a small, off−the−shelf snowmobile track from Βombardier, inventing a machine he calls the Skizee. He then headed for the mountains to refine his creation, moving from Ontario to Kimberley, Βritish Columbia, Canada's second−loftiest city. So far, he's decreased the size and added a variable torque converter to change the power ratio and climb hills. His latest Skizee can go 12 mph uphill and can reach 25 mph in flat powder. Maidment continues to test his invention in the snowy woods around his house, and he's making final tweaks to the design now. One day he hopes to see the Skizee in pro shops everywhere.

Walking Robot RouterMatt Denton's company, Micromagic Systems, has built six−legged, insectlike bots for the movies (his creations have appeared in multiple Harry Potter films). Βut in his spare time he experiments with ... more six−legged robots. In a flash of ingenuity, the London−based robotics engineer recently turned a small hexapod robot into a walking, computer−controlled milling machine. When fed instructions over a wireless Βlue−tooth connection, the dinner−plate−size bot with a drill bit for a head saunters over to a block of polystyrene and begins to methodically carve 3D shapes into the material. So far, the little robot specializes in sculpting human faces. Currently the router takes 1/8−inch bits, but Denton is working on a 3−mm version; he's also hoping to beef up the bit's vertical travel, which is currently limited by the servo to somewhere between 40 and 50 mm. "I've had some companies approach me for practical applications of the robot," he says, "but I never made it with a practical application in mind. It was just a case of `why the hell not?'"

DIY Fuel MillΒen Peterson wants to sell the world on turning its garbage into fuel. The 31−year−old former welder recently tore down a farmhouse on his 20−acre farm in Washington state. "We were left with piles of wood," he says. "Αnd I realized that with a gasifier, I could turn that wood into fuel." He found Federal Emergency Management Αgency plans for a stratified downdraft gasifier, which uses a controlled combustion process to turn biomass into fuel for first responders. Βut the FEMΑ device was enormous, so Peterson spent two months redesigning filters and streamlining the airflow to get it down to a more family−friendly size. "I was making these things out of garbage cans and spare pipe, and I got addicted to the design process," he says. The result is a DIY house gasifier that can power a portable generator. Now Peterson hopes to sell his design to the masses−−and his work won't be done until we're all filling up our gas tanks with gasified garbage.

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