Bus Thursday: the lowdown

July 12, 2014 9:53 pm

This week’s Bus Thursday(tm) was a big success for our electric microbus. We decided our first priority is to get it inspected so we can register and insure it. To that end, we got the horn, turn signals, and wipers all working. All on a Thursday eve. We’re that good.

Sparkin' Jere

Sparkin’ Jere

We are not violent people, and we expect the same from our windshield wipers. To reduce their violent behavior we had to offer some tough love: we had to grind a bigger slot out of the metal frame between the dash and the windshield so the wiper mechanism wouldn’t slam into the from on each stroke.  Weird that this should be an issue. In any case, Jere pulled out the grinding wheel and made it all right.

Next on the docket is to fix up the taillight LEDs, which are already at MakeICT  and 1/2 done. After we reinstall those and reinstall the dash, we should be “good to go” for inspection. I can’t wait! 🙂

Next week too many of us have conflicts to do Bus Thursday. So maybe we’ll see you on Bus Thursday July 26 for re-assembly of dash and tail lights. Until then, maybe we can fix up the lights at MakeICT, perhaps at the open hack night this Monday?

Happy Trails,


Batteries from Jere!

June 6, 2014 7:28 pm

IMG_20140606_150942Today Jere donated four used deep-cycle batteries for our Power Wheels. They all have a few years on them but other than that we don’t know much about their condition, except without load they read about 12V with a meter.

Here’s some information about these. 67 lbs. Yep. And they don’t seem to loose any weight with age.

My plan is to charge them, then bring them to O’Reilly’s and see what their battery tester says about them. I know their testers aren’t conclusive but it should give us some information at least.

I’m not positive this is the right battery for us, given the weight and size, but we can at least experiment with them…and the price was right! 🙂

And…Jere is joining the team!

Backup Motor Controller has arrived!

June 3, 2014 10:27 pm

From John:

IMG_20140603_180658For our Power Wheels racing team, today the backup motor controller for use with a brushed motor arrived. Actually 3 of them arrived. I opened up and tested one today.

The controller has 4 of these FETs in it with a heat sink which attaches to the case (not pictured.) Hooking it up is pretty simple. I had to put a jumper on the ignition connector and used the 5V out from an Arduino sitting around and a potentiometer for the throttle. I got 24V from my power supply. I used a wall wort for the Arduino.

I hooked the output of the controller to a 12 Volt blower motor which is patiently waiting to be installed in one of my cars. We would use a motor controller like this with a 24V scooter motor or one of the 24V wheelchair motors we have, but I couldn’t get access to one of these tonight and I couldn’t wait to test this thing so I went with what I had. 🙂

This motor controller intentionally cuts out when battery voltage is less than around 20V to save the batteries. I didn’t have an oscilloscope handy tonight so I don’t know the frequency of the PWM.

Our intention is to use a motor controller Tom built instead of one of these controllers, but it is good to have options.

Enjoy my nice camera work:

Bus Update: May 22, 2014

May 23, 2014 3:47 pm

And so it happened that Dom, John and Barb showed up to work on said electric vehicle. We have a moving, driving vehicle but there is still lots to do:

  • Tail lights are mid-repair and at MakeICT. Tom is leading that project. He plans to finish them on Saturday.
  • IMG_20140522_220035There is an ever-changing pile of flaky electrical issues with various accessories. After spending a fair amount of time getting nowhere troubleshooting the turn signals, we took the whole dashboard off to see what’s up, dawg.
    • We have labeled every wire and every switch we removed from the dash. We even labeled the antenna wire. Yep we’re that good.
    • In terms of the turn signals, the turn signal lever is tested and good. However, all 3 wires that go to it seem connected to nothing (infinite resistance to both ground and 12V). Tracing the wires, it appeared the connection issue is somewhere toward the back of the bus, which seems odd as the hazards work and must connect to the turn signal wires before then. We are confused.
  • Tracing wiring turned into a more complex task than we would have guessed. Many wires are spliced and taped together with electrical tape. There is some loose wiring, one 5-wire connector that connects to only 2 wires, and lots of other oddities. The idea was floated more than once to rip out all of the wiring and start over.
  • Last week the passenger door was secured to the bus. Actual operation of the passenger door is a 2nd priority. It appears that the screw-thread that is responsible for opening and closing the door is threaded the wrong direction i.e. lifts the door when the door is supposed to open rather than dropping it or vice versa (or vice versa of that).
  • IMG_20140522_220057The driver’s door came back from Jeremiah’s friend (whose name I don’t remember). He painted (some of) it “blue” and worked on getting the cracks out. He didn’t have a lot nice to say about the experience: apparently there isn’t a lot of “fiber” in the fiberglass construction of the bus, so cracks will continue to happen throughout the bus’ lifetime. We might want to consider vinyl more seriously as opposed to a serious paint job.

Next week we will come equipped with twist-on wire connectors and start cleaning up the wiring. The plan is to try connections with the connectors, then secure the wiring.

We are considering an all-out work-on-bus party for Memorial Day. If you would consider participating, let us know so we might follow through.

We’ve come to the realization that it may not happen that the bus will be titled/registered/insured in time to participate in the Riverfest Parade. That’s disappointing in the short-term, but it gives us room to consider the long-term of getting the wiring correct and robust.

Bus Update Feb 20

February 21, 2014 11:03 pm

Good times on the 20th with the bus:

  • confirmed master brake cylinder is good
  • confirmed inside panels are rotted and need to be removed. Screws holding the panels are rusted and hard to remove. We soaked them with Pb blaster and will try again next week.
  • removed more seats to get at inside panels
  • painted battery wells with rust stopping primer-type spray paint.
  • parts run:
    • primer paint
    • drop cloths
    • brake cleaner
    • waterless hand cleaner
    • Pb Blaster
  • list of stuff to bring for next week:
    • screw extractor – John
    • brake hose
    • gloves – Barb
    • creeper – Barb
    • VOM – John
    • Sunny personality – Dom
  • unresolved/to-do:
    • brake system can now be reassembled.
    • motor controller has 5 connections but we see only 4 wires
    • motor controller multi-pin plug has a wire that has ripped out of the plug. Where does it go?
    • motor controller has 4 pin jack. We don’t see a plug for it.

John will be out of town next Thursday so will leave his list of parts at MakeICT in Delano on Sat. Somebody (Dom?) will pick them up and bring them on Thursday.

Tonight: Open Hack Night!

February 10, 2014 2:11 pm

Dom&JohnOrganWorking on something cool? Want to see what others are working on? Just want to see our space? Come tonight 7pm for Open Hack Night!

On Open Hack Night we welcome everybody, members and non-members alike, to chat, build, see the space, and show off their wares.

Open Hack Night is every other Monday. If you don’t come tonight, you’ll have to wait two whole weeks to find out what’s in the works. Two weeks! Who can wait that long? By then, Dom might have blown up the organ!

See you tonight!

Bus Pics

December 23, 2013 7:43 am

These pictures illustrate the current condition of our bus:

Important Electric Microbus Meeting, tonight at MakeICT 6:30pm

December 19, 2013 10:03 am

What, who what?

  • Bus Meeting
  • Thursday Dec 19, 6:30PM
  • MakeICT (924 W. Douglas)


We have some great ideas for our electric microbus. And, through the cosmic randomness of our mystical, magical universe, some great opportunities for it have come up right now. Let’s get rolling, people! 🙂

In tonight’s meeting, we’ll review  ideas for the bus then discuss the current opportunities. Our intention is to leave with a concrete plan for its future. A good plan might include clear dates and goals, including at least one high-profile kickoff event. This will be a pivotal meeting for the bus.


  1. review history and current status of bus
  2. review past ideas about what the bus could be:
    1. new media art space (John explains?)
    2. learning lab (somebody explains?)
    3. other (open?)
  3. review current donations:
    1. Jeremiah (space and money from scrap metal)
    2. Anonymous (controller)
  4. current opportunity:
    1. anonymous donor interested in helping
    2. project lacks focus, specific plan, clear goal with dates, event
  5. logistics
    1. bus ownership
    2. cost considerations
  6. brainstorm and commit to a plan
    1. choose a specific idea as a first step
    2. what event(s) could we tie into?
    3. what has to happen and by when?
  7. framework for moving forward:
    1. who can commit to accomplishing what by when?
    2. roles? project manager? should people be checking in with each other?
  8. As May Arise

Compiled Bus Info

December 18, 2013 7:53 am

This page moved here!

Electric Micro Bus!

July 20, 2013 9:48 pm

I have an all-electric non-working 2007 Microbus for us to play with! Let’s play! “What?” you say?

2013-07-10-13.13.21“You have a bus?”

Well it’s technically not mine. Last year I got Chamber Music at the Barn, a local nonprofit I am friendly with,  to accept the donation of a 2007 Microbus for me. The shuttle service from Jacksonville Mississippi who owned it bought 2 of these as an experiment. They didn’t like it much (too small for the football players they were transporting around, apparently) and when it got vandalized they decided to dump onto a nonprofit. I had plans to fix it up but it hasn’t happened so I thought maybe MakeICT would like a shot at it.

“What’s it need to run?”
There appear to be 2 primary problems:

  1. The passenger door is off the bus and is missing hardware. The shuttle service didn’t like the door so this is the result of that.
  2. The vandals ripped out electronics so there are electronics on the floor. The shuttle service says all the electronics are there, but I have no idea.

2013-07-10-13.13.06It also has a cracked windshield. It’s already rusting. There’s other stuff, I’m sure. The bus is one of only 2 in the world, apparently, so I don’t think AutoZone is going to help us much. 🙂

“Gimme some details on this dealie gig.”
Ok. Well, the bus appears to be a rather simple design — basically an overgrown golf cart. It seats 11-15 supposedly, and weighs about as much as a subcompact. It is road legal and supposedly can go 30-odd miles an hour — perhaps faster if the governor I’ve heard is has is removed. The shuttle service told me all the electronics are very standard. For example, it takes 8 lead-acid batteries which are apparently standard golf-cart batteries. I’d guess the batteries are bad at this point.

The shuttle service used the bus on a campus for 4-hour stints so apparently the batteries lasts at least that long when driven slowly.

“Let’s say we get it running. Then what do we do with this thing?”
2013-07-10-13.21.08Everyone so far seems to feel the seats might go. What ideas do you all have after that? Here are some we have kicked around:

  • turn it into a moving new-media cr8zy-town. Park it on Final Fridays at Commerce St.
  • have a portable lab/workshop/space
  • host classes with materials we keep on the bus.
  • answer the question “Will it blend” by putting it in a huge blender. Well…nobody actually suggested this…

Technically the bus is still Chamber Music at the Barn’s, but I don’t think they care much about it. Perhaps to be nice we could collaborate with them to use it as a shuttle service at their space several evenings during the summer. Or not.

“Cool! Let’s get this thing running!”

2013-07-10-13.21.15Glad you are into it. We plan to get it to Jeremy’s shop in Goddard where us MakeICTers can let loose on it. If you want to be a part of that, let us know! Let’s make a bus-fixin’ team! 🙂