Designing a Motorized Drift Trike
Design Engineer or Thrill Seeker?By Danielle Roof
Stavros Boutris has been building and tinkering with projects from a very young age when he would play with Legos. He is still the very young age of 15, but he has already designed and built his own drift trike. What's a drift trike? Imagine riding a tricycle way too fast so that turning looks more like what old folks might call skidding out of control.
Stavros Boutris and his dad Basil started designing together when they first built a go-kart. That gave them a chance to learn welding together but more importantly, they've embarked on an on-going journey of building and designing together.
"Drifting" refers to a type of driving where the driver intentionally "over-steers" and the wheels lose traction, hopefully while still maintaining control through the turn. The concept originated with cars, but after being popularized in the media, including movies in the Fast & Furious franchise, it has become much more widespread and popped up with other types of vehicles – including tricycles. Stavros saw videos online of gas-driven drift trikes, and decided that he wanted to make an electric version for himself. When he and his dad determined that no designs existed, they set out to design their own frame.
The design process of the trike led to a box-shaped frame, a neck tube similar to that of a normal bike, a cross-braced seat, and a motor held in place by two bars centered between the back wheels. The trike is low to the ground, with the rider's feet positioned in the middle of the large front wheel on two pieces of metal, placed there for this purpose - otherwise, the rider's feet would be on the ground. The back wheels have an outer plastic layer that purposely reduces the traction to create the drifting motion. This outer layer was made out of two plastic buckets, since the ideal material – PVC pipe – doesn't come in the diameter that Stavros needed.
For Stavros, the most challenging parts of the design were the rear brake and connecting the motor with the batteries. In earlier stages of the project, the rear brake wire would pull out, causing the brake to fail. Eventually, Stavros was able to work through this problem and make sure that he can stop his trike using a pedal. Stavros and Basil chose the motor because it was the most powerful one they could find online, and it requires several batteries to run. Initially, they connected the batteries and motor in parallel, but this did not supply enough voltage to the motor. After research and consulting with the company that sold them the motor, Stavros and Basil learned that they should have wired the batteries in series. After making this adjustment, the motor got the voltage it needed.
Watching Stavros demonstrate his trike is impressive. He maneuvers it skillfully, and his enjoyment of the ride is evident on his face. His favorite part of making things is finally arriving at the result and getting to use the product. Projects like the drift trike are a hobby that allow Stavros to both build something and enjoy the process, as well as to use the final product for his own fun. Stavros wants to keep building on weekends, and keep working on projects that interest him. As for what is next, he isn’t sure yet – but it won't be a second drone. Though he likes them enough, he doesn't need another one. To contact Stavros and Basil, email Basil at [email protected].
Video Demonstration: https://youtu.be/1wGUhopE-kI
Danielle Roof is a senior at Tulane University originally from San Carlos, California. She is studying Political Economy and Education, and hopes to go into teaching. Her favorite things to do when she's not studying are dance, yoga, and traveling to new places.