Students at Georgia Tech are used to seeing some strange things around campus. So much so that many of them do not even bat an eye when Dustin Sloan and Trenton Charlson charge across campus riding a chainsaw-powered tricycle and motorized Little Tikes car.
Sloan and Charlson are the masterminds behind the chainsaw-powered trike. Both of them are engineering students at Georgia Tech. They met while working on Mandiii, a 120 pound BattleBot, for RoboJackets (Georgia Tech’s robotics team). The two regularly pair up to work on side projects just for fun.
The idea for the chainsaw trike stemmed from one of Sloan’s previous projects: a motorized Little Tikes car. Sloan and his roommate retrofitted the Little Tikes car with some old BattleBots parts. After adding a welded steel frame, chain, sprockets, two 3hp DC motors, and four 22.2V Lipo batteries the car can reach a top speed of 15 mph.
After that first retrofit, all the pieces for the chainsaw trike fell into place pretty naturally. Charlson found a chainsaw for a great price at a thrift store last October and bought it without a specific project in mind. He says, “given Georgia Tech’s tricycle racing tradition, the Mini 500, we thought it was only fitting [that we power up a trike].” They bought the trike from a nice middle-aged couple on Craigslist and the rest is history.
They recommend that you do not try this project at home unless you are confident that you can do everything safely. This project requires you to know your way around machining and welding equipment.
The total build time was about twenty hours. Both creators agree that the hardest part of the project was keeping the tricycle aesthetic. They ultimately, replaced every part of the tricycle except the frame and front wheel. They started by welding a steel frame on the trike to hold the chainsaw with a welded sprocket and new axel.
At first the new axel used the original rear wheels and added a drive sprocket. However, after the first couple of test runs, the rear wheels had to be replaced because the spokes were bent and broken. Luckily, they had a few spare BattleBots wheels lying around.
After a few more pitfalls and adjustments with the tension of the chain the trike was finally road worthy. The trike has no breaks and requires the rider to use their shoes to slow down. According to Sloan “the best part was despite how ridiculous it looked, it was very practical for getting around campus quickly.”
Perhaps most ridiculous of all though, is that on one outing, the pair were stopped by Georgia Tech police officers on Segways. The officers cleared them to ride around campus, but told them to be careful.
Sloan and Charlson have big plans for the overpowered children’s vehicles fleet. They intend to improve the chainsaw trike by adding proper breaks, a chainguard, a better front wheel, and a gas tank.
In addition, they are currently working on a pulsejet engine trike and have future plans for a 125cc trike. They are also talking about the potential for some Barbie Power-Wheels mods. Who knows what these two will come up with next!
Sarah is a freelance writer for the Make: blog. She delights in the intersection of technology, art, and human interaction. Her background includes experience in human computer interaction, DNA sequencing technology, 3D printing, sewing, and large art installations.View more articles by Sarah Vitak