I’m Harris and I studied Electronic Engineering at University of Nottingham, UK but have now graduated and work as a Graduate Electronic Engineer at Ocado (not blog affiliation here!). Along with a life full of electronics, I enjoy ice skating, playing bass guitar, having a pint with my chums, any form of gigging and listening to music!
I’ve been interested in electronics since a pretty young age in my opinion. It first started when a childhood friend of mine got a 10 in 1 electronic kit for his birthday allowing for such projects as making a crystal radio or lighting a light bulb with a transistor. I was utterly fascinated at how wiring up simple components could produce visual or audible effects and I begged my dad to buy me one! A week later, the post arrived and it turned out my dad had purchased me a 30 in 1 electronics kit off amazon. At first, I made a few of the projects not understanding what half of them even did but observing the effects of the circuits, whether they created strange sounds in the crystal headphone or lit the LED up dependent on external inputs. A few of the projects I found so interesting that I started to make them seperate from the kit. One of these was a keyboard using the carbon in pencil lead to produce a variable resistor and making little keys out of wood. It sounded awful but I was amazed at what electronics could do!
Fast forward a few years and I started my first “real” project. I’ve always liked the thought of being able to drive a motorized vehicle and decided to give it a shot. With absolutely no knowledge on petrol engines and hardly any mechanical abilities other than using a screwdriver, spanner and terrible soldering ability, I embarked on an epic task of building a trike.
When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to receive the present of pedal go kart. It had been a few years since then and I was starting to outgrow it anyway so I dismantled the whole pedal drive section leaving just the seat, frame and steering mechanism. It was then that I needed to figure out some form of drive system. Having been influenced by the T-rex reverse trike, I decided that I wanted to go for that style of vehicle and swiftly purchased a cheap “mini-moto” motorbike, IIRC, it was around £30 and my dad took me to collect it from somewhere in the heart of Staffs.
Now having bought a partially working mini moto, I had the mammoth task of rebuilding the crappy little 47cc (fake 49cc) engine. With ebay on my side, I purchased a new pull start, new ignition coil system along with a new fuel filter and throttle cable. I also bought an old exhaust fit for a mini moto off one of my school mates too (I was around 13/14 at this time!).
After rebuilding the engine, I had a working mini moto (though both tyres were in poor condition) and half a gokart and I needed a way to join them. Not wanting to involve anybody else in my project, I knew of welding (thanks to the godly program – Scrapheap Challenge), but not how to do it!
By this time, I had quite a collection of other electric motors and battery packs so I took to YouTube and saw if there were any possible methods that I could weld without shelling out another £50 for a real arc welder. After trawling through video after video, I managed to find a video showing of how people in parts of Africa were stranded with broken vehicles yet ingeniously used the car batteries wired in series to create a really shoddy arc welder.
Fitted with a couple of deep cycle 20Ah 12v batteries, the fattest wire I could find in my local hardware store (Price City, you’re the best shop ever!), some 2mm welding rods off eBay, thick gardening gloves, an Aldi welding mask and some battery clips, I was ready to have my first ever attempt at welding! I got the mask on and attached one of the clips to my vice which was holding a piece of scrap metal. Slowly stroking the rod along the piece of metal, I struck an arc straight away and melted the whole piece away! Turns out 48v is a little bit too much for welding scrap metal…
A few more attempts on the scrap and I was ready to start on my trike. With absolutely no measurements made (all done by eye), I scratched away at the paint, lined up the mini moto (with the steering mechanism now removed) and made the first proper weld!
Once all the welding had been done, all parts attached and the petrol tank filled with a 2 stroke mix, I took if for the first spin. It was completely exhilarating! Obviously, it was about as safe as walking down a motorway on a foggy night with loads of traffic, not forgetting it was loud enough to deafen from a mile away. The only place I could possibly take it to was a long stretch of path next to a field, and thats where I went! I managed to get it to 25Mph before deciding that going any faster would be stupid of me with no form of crash gear on.
It got to the point though where the neighbours were getting a bit annoyed about how obnoxiously loud and unsightly it was around the estate and my Gran proceeded to have a “chat” with me that generally concluded with: change it from petrol or it goes to the tip. I was absolutely livid that she couldn’t see the amount of work and effort I’d gone into making this trike and didn’t speak to her for 3 days (its harder than you think when you live with your grand parents!). So finally, my decision was to convert it from petrol to electric powered. Fortunately, by now I’d only spent ~£50 so my budget was still a touch healthy.
So again, returning to eBay, I purchased all the kit required to do a full electrical conversion: 36v 500w motor, 36v dc controller, hall effect throttle and 3x 12v 7ah SLA batteries. This really did push the budget up having cost around £110 for all the parts – a lot of money when you’re an incomeless teen.
And so, that was the trike for a fairly long period of time until I decided to try and upgrade it to a hub motor and ended up breaking it! It unfortunately never lived on past that point and to this day, its probably my proudest achievement.
A few more minor projects happened along the way:
- Bass guitar amplifier – 100w Class D based on a Philips TDA8920 with SMPS
- A few bass effects guitar pedals
- A few high voltage projects and amplifiers
- Built a PC
- The bassbox!
With coming to uni, I got the opportunity (surprisingly!) to make many more interesting projects. One of such was a completely touch sensitive bass guitar named the Phobass. I entered this project into a university competition called the Student Venture Challenge, obtained some major investor interest and won a £1,000 entrepreneurial grant too! The project is still ongoing though with a job offer from a large electronic engineering company, its currently quite low down on the priority list.
If you fancy watching some videos of a few of my projects, check my youtube channel:
So thats me!