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The Hacksmith: Remote-Controlled Kickflips

By The Hacksmith

This project was created by Engineering Superheroes of Hackmith Industries.


For many people, video games played a large role in cultivating childhood memories, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games were no exception. The Pro Skater series helped increase popularity for skateboarding and was a staple in most millennials’ childhood video game libraries. Along with classics like Final Fantasy VII, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is getting remastered for current generation consoles like the Xbox One and Playstation 4. In celebration of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Remastered Edition, Hacksmith Industries set out to make it real with a self-kickflipping skateboard that can be operated with a Playstation 4 controller. See how it works in the video below!


How Does it Work?

To make a Playstation 4-controlled skateboard that can propel itself requires a battery, motors, speed controllers, a microcontroller (Arduino), and Bluetooth. Each wheel has an independently controlled motor, giving the skateboard the ability to turn, even though the wheels are in a fixed position (similar to a tractor with treads). The electronics sit in a 3D printed enclosure to protect them from the perils of skating. The motor control portion is relatively simple — Hacksmith Industries has completed several remote-controlled projects over the years, many of which were much larger than a skateboard (like this go-kart).

Making the skateboard do kickflips, however, is uncharted territory. The Hacksmith team went through several different mechanisms to enable kickflips, including explosive gas, fireworks, airbags, and rockets. The rockets delivered plenty of power but lacked consistency and precision. After all, the goal is to do one kickflip, not more.

Eventually, the team used a spring to propel the kickflips because they use consistent force. There was only one problem; torsion springs big enough for kickflips aren’t available. Instead, a large, powerful custom spring was created in-house. The springs sit coiled on a mechanism, similar to a mousetrap and are held into position by an archery trigger release (similar to the Spider-Man Web Shooters project). The trigger release is programmed to the X button on the PS4 controller, just like the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’s jump button.

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