Raven: a bluetooth vehicle

Jessica Chang
Sep 8, 2016 · Unlisted

Hackster page for this project: https://www.hackster.io/jessmchang/raven-a-bluetooth-controlled-vehicle-b61ec4?ref=similar&ref_id=15115

Much of my junior year fall semester was spent in the design lab learning how to use new tools and iterating on my designs for my Introduction to Prototyping and Fabrication class. It was the first semester this class was taught as part of the new design department (Jacobs Hall for Design Innovation). Prior to this class I had little to no experience with any of the tools we used, including laser cutters, 3d printers, Autodesk software, acryllic benders, soldering irons, Arduino, etcetc…The assignments preceding my final project were to build a working vehicle. My final project was to iterate on this vehicle and redesign it to be aesthetically pleasing, functional, and wireless. Below is the final product. My new vehicle chassis is constructed with black mat board, and features two side curves. The edgy personality of the car inspired its name, Raven.

My previous iterations of this car featured a box design cut from econo-wood. It was powered by a continuous servo, and direction was controlled by a mini servo in the front of the car. Clearly enough, my designs had failed to maneuver due to traction issues and were not aesthetically pleasing at all. Nonetheless here are my previous iterations:

Iteration 1: https://www.hackster.io/jessmchang/hw-6-97c540?ref=user&ref_id=31406&offset=5
Iteration 2: https://www.hackster.io/jessmchang/project-2-part-2-working-chassis-d2bf61?ref=user&ref_id=31406&offset=2
Iteration 3: https://www.hackster.io/jessmchang/second-project-final-week-bfcb40?ref=user&ref_id=31406&offset=1

The individual parts were not modular so making adjustments to my design was very difficult and time consuming. I wanted to make sure that this time, my car would be able to maneuver smoothly while also being able to go up a ramp smoothly.


The form and curves of the car are inspired by a majestic black raven. The material and body are inspired by a few car and ship concepts. I made the design simple and edgy.

Sketches and iterations

After the three weeks of designing my car, I decided to scratch all the electronics. Instead of using the two servos to power the car, I decided to go with two DC motors. I wanted to make sure the electronics worked before moving on to form, because what is a beautiful car that can’t work?

Step 1: During Thanksgiving break, I took apart my car, and started from scratch. I made sure my electronics were working and quickly taped them to a piece of cardboard.

Step 2: I soldered my electronics together and stuck it on a body that I designed and laser cut out of econo wood. I ran into some issues while doing so. I didn’t do a great soldering job on my first try and while I was trying to remove my nrf8001 bluetooth module, I accidentally overheated it. My instructor Chris didn’t have any more so I was forced to use another type. It took a few hours to get that one set up and I was quite nervous about this because of the limited time I had to rewire my electronics, but it turned out to work fine in the end. :)

Step 3: I designed my car chassis on Adobe Illustrator. Below is an image of the rough mid-fidelity prototype of my car base. Unfortunately the cuts didn’t go all the way through so when trying to take out the cut pieces, I snapped the top layer of my base in half. Luckily this was only my mid-fidelity version so I just taped it together. The left plate features the top part of my body and the right plate features the bottom part. I designed it to have a ton of holes to lessen the weight of the car and to secure my electronics with zipties. The holes are also useful for wire management.

Step 3: I began to design my shell. Below is one of my earlier versions of the shell, made out of Bristol paper. It didn’t fit perfectly with the base at first, so I taped it to the base, and used a pencil to mark the areas that needed to be cut, and areas where there needed to be more paper. Further down is an image of all the iterations, each with a minor adjustment from the previous version.

Step 4: For my high fidelity version, I cut out my base plates with matte black acryllic. I secured all of my electronics with zipties. You can also see the final attempt at soldering my wires.

Step 5: I added a ping pong ball in the front of a car that acts as a wheel and to reduce friction. I secured the ping pong ball with a bent piece of scrap wire and secured it with two zip ties. It works extremely well!

Below you can see all the iterations and adjustments up close. Towards the end I designed two holes to be cut out of the shell — one hole for easy access to the on/off switch and another for the 9v battery barrel plug.

Below is the final version of my shell, cut out with black matboard. I used a laser cut folding pattern for areas that needed to be folded over and secured with velcro.

Below is an image of all my iterations. I began with a cardboard prototype and ended with a final version.

Future refinements

Still, my car could use some more work. I realized that mat board is not very sturdy and may not be the best material for a shell. In the future I would experiment with different materials to see what materials may work better.

Final product and video

Want to see more? Here’s my hackster page: https://www.hackster.io/jessmchang/raven-a-bluetooth-controlled-vehicle-b61ec4?ref=similar&ref_id=15115

Originally published at jessmchang.com.


Jessica Chang

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maker for life