Cooper, Ziggy, and the Radio Controlled War Rig

October 25, 2015  •  2 Comments


FI1C0172FI1C0172 This is Cooper (4yrs) and his sister Ziggy (11mo), their parents have been ‘makers’ long before the term was popular. Both software engineers by trade; his mom a mixed media artist, and father a photographer and electronics hobbyist have joined forces to create the most epic Halloween costumes they can imagine for the last four years. They spend months brainstorming and tossing around ideas but by the time October rolls around they put the metal to the grindstone and challenge themselves to out-do everything they’ve attempted before.

Year One (album here), Cooper travelled back in time as a mini Marty McFly in his push car DeLorean.

A lot of cardboard, tape, and paint went into this shell built over a hand-me-down red push-car complete with EL to achieve the fusion lighting effects.  Read more about it on Gizmodo.

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Year Two (album here), Cooper fought ghosts and goblins in his Ghostbuster Ecto-1.

Cardboard is still the primary component in this build, but this ride includes the user of soda bottles, salsa cups, LEDs, working sirens, and a sound system to blast the Ghostbuster Theme Song from a Bluetooth enabled mobile app.  Also covered by Gizmodo here.

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Year Three (album here), Mommy was 8 months pregnant, but Cooper still saved the day with his pal E.T.

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And in Year Four (album here), Cooper (Mad Max) teams up with his little sis’, Ziggy (a mean Imperator Furiosa), to fight Immortan Joe.

A couple of cheap second-hand PowerWheels Jeeps (Wrangler, and Barbie) form the base plus the usual cardboard, electronics, and paint. Powered by four motors, a smooth starting throttle, power steering, keyed ignition, sounds effects with pull cord truck air-horn, and the ability for 11 month old Furiosa to drive via an overriding remote controlled iPhone app.

Nerd Alert! Some of the tech details:

  • Most parts were from other projects here, some came from Amazon, and others took 3 weeks shipping from China.
  • Based on a yellow Power Wheels jeep, with parts from a Barbie jeep.  Both found cheap on craigslist.
  • Two Arduino Nano's control the system; one for the main car, and a separate one to drive audio.  Audio was causing some lag and we couldn't have the local car controls unresponsive.
  • Running all 4 motors from both jeeps, using two PWM 5V motor controllers from eBay.
  • Steering was done using two Hitec HS-805BB servos.
  • Keyed ignition from a electric scooter.
  • Sound is from a VS1053 based MP3 board from eBay, controlled via a Nano and output through a tiny 2 channel amp and speakers.
  • Air Horn Cable was an awesome find: Cole Hersee - Momentary Pull Switch.
  • Existing throttle, and Forward/Reverse switches, were connected and a smooth start throttle was added programmatically.  With the extra 2 motors it's a lot of initial torque, so the smooth start and throttle speed limit makes it comfortable and safe for small kids.
  • A 10k Potentiometer is used for the steering wheel.
  • A couple of LEDs were added to the dash; Power to show when it's running locally (triggered by the ignition key), and Override to show when it's being remote controlled (thus local controls disabled other than audio).
  • Bluetooth 4.0 BLE is using an HM-10 module to a basic iPhone app.
  • When in remote override mode, the iPhone app is not limited in controls, so it can open up to max speed or control anything else on the car.  A heartbeat signal was added to ensure the car stops when losing connection or out of range (otherwise the kids would drive uncontrollably on forever!)


From the creators:

Working on these projects is truly a labor of love. It’s an opportunity to stretch our creativity and surprise even ourselves at what we can achieve both individually and together. We actively encourage imaginative play in our house, Cooper is a LEGO lover just like my husband and I were as children, and he loves, stories, movies, and most of all make-believe. Halloween is at least one day of the year where we can guiltlessly live vicariously through our children in a world of wonder and fantasy, and revel in the smiles it puts on their faces.


Thanks a lot and Happy Halloween!!!

The Newton-Smiths (Cory, Jeremy, Cooper and Ziggy)


Showoffs. :-D

But seriously, what's the top speed this year?!?!
Will you adopt me? Please? I'm potty-trained and sleep through the night.
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