It’s crunch time in the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab and the Magic Wheelchair team is hunkering down for a final week of intense building. With the reveal set for Saturday, June 8, the team is scrambling to finish up Ben’s motorcycle costume. So much has happened with so much still to go. But, as always, the build team is determined to gift Ben with the most incredible costume and experience he could ever dream of.
Three weeks ago, Chinloo and Sal Lama traveled to Ben’s hometown to test out the costume’s frame and dry fit it to his wheelchair. Ben’s caretaker, Amanda, pushed the wooden frame around her driveway and found it was relatively easy to push around, “Like pushing a grocery cart,” she said. She thinks she’ll have a relatively easy time maneuvering Ben in his costume, both for the reveal and for Halloween.
When Amanda brought Ben out to try on the costume, his face lit up. “So cool,” he whispered, grinning. With his manual wheelchair strapped into the frame, Sal and Chinloo were able to see how well the costume moved with him in it, and determine how comfortable he was.
Sal and Chinloo came back with good intel on Ben and the costume, and with that the team kicked their efforts into high gear.
The motorcycle’s frame could be a costume itself, but with the foamed pieces attached, it’s truly incredible. Team members spent hours sanding, spackling, sanding again, and hard coating before the machined pieces were ready to connect to the frame. But how to attach them?
Answer: magnets. All the pieces of the body that fit directly on the wooden frame are held in place by small magnets. Originally, some of the magnets were put in the wrong way, leading to Albert informing the team, “Fun fact…magnets have polarity,” and having to start over again. But it was a quick fix, and the pieces are now easy to put on and take off.
To get the best fit, Albert ended up manually cutting out a lot of material from the inside of the pieces. He also had to remove material from the rear wheel so it could clear both the frame and the PVC push bar. There are lots of internal cuts in the pieces that make up Ben’s bike. But while the extra work wasn’t particularly appreciated, the loss of weight was a boon to the team and the costume’s functionality.
With the magnets applied, the final hard coat was added, and painting began. Once final, hand painted details are finished up, the team will apply a clear coat to the finished parts.
“Wiring is coming down to the wire, literally,” Annie said at the last meeting to discuss electronics. This bike, inspired by Tron, Akira, and Indian Motorcycles, has electronics on top of electronics and they’re all intricately linked.
Electric lead Nicolas designed a PCB board, which should be ready on June 2nd. He’s started designing a single sided board as a contingency, but the electronics are set to be installed after the board arrives. All wires in the build lead back to the dashboard. And once the PCB is ready, the team will have a precious few days to wire and troubleshoot any of the electrical components and code. So they’re trying to complete any and all electric designs, programs, and parts before then. That includes the LEDs along the body and the wheels, the dashboard, and the audio.
The Wheels, The Dashboard, and The Audio
One lesson learned from the dry fit was that Ben is easily distracted—a passing motorcycle stole his attention completely. What better way to keep him engaged with his costume than by making it interactive! Portfolio Management Director Stephen Endersby spent weeks designing the dashboard. His design includes buttons, switches, LED lights, handle bars with a faux-throttle, a spot for small speaker, and more.
Stephen created the dashboard CAD in SOLIDWORKS, but the team went old school to determine the fit. They cut a piece of cardboard to size in the finished costume, then took the cardboard with them to a local store to purchase both necessary electronics and fun components for Ben to play with.
One of the parts purchased was a small USB powered speaker for R&D User Experience Design Director Kevin Berni’s audio. The small speaker will be mounted on the dashboard, and when Ben twists the faux-throttle on the costume’s handlebars, a programmed revving noise will sound. Kevin wants Ben to have proportional or derivative control over the sound, so when he revs up his bike, it revs with him.
The LEDs for the wheels are mostly in place, and the stripes on the side of the bike are still being worked on. The current plan is to have the throttle control the lights on the wheels, so they light up when the “engine” revs. The team hopes to have the light stripes on the side animate as well, though they will not be connected to the throttle.
Finally, the team is hoping to make one lone toggle switch somewhere inside the frame, so an adult can turn the bike and all of its electronics on and off.
There’s still a ton of work to be done. At this point, the build team can hope for a best case scenario with the electronics and their functionality. But even with hiccups in the future, the Magic Wheelchair team is determined to give Ben the best bike ever. The motorcycle costume is coming together beautifully. With a little over a week left, we’ll have to wait and see what comes of this motorcycle madness!
Help support Magic Wheelchair and amazing kiddos like Ben!
SOLIDWORKS is working hard to make Ben the most incredible costume ever and help the non-profit Magic Wheelchair achieve its goal of providing kids in wheelchairs with epic costumes. SOLIDWORKS is funding Ben’s costume build in its entirety, but we invite all our readers to support Magic Wheelchair in Ben’s name! If you visit his classy.org page, you can donate directly to Magic Wheelchair and help support them and all the lives they touch with their great work. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting build and get your engines revved for more motorcycle madness!
SOLIDWORKS is partnering with the Magic Wheelchair to create an over-the-top costume for a child in a wheelchair. According to their mission statement, “Magic Wheelchair builds epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs — at no cost to families.” Motorcycle Madness is an ongoing series dedicated to updating our readers on the current project’s progress.