Oct 7: Make a go-kart

Make a go-kart.

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • “Out of the crate, Munro’s bike could do 88.5 kilometres per hour. It took 20 years of long, laborious nights, countless failures, and the unfailing generosity of mateship before he wrung 295.453 kilometres per hour from it—in 1967, at age 68.” Here we learn that Burt Munro worked on his bike until it could do an amazing 295km/hr instead of 88. What were the factors that helped him do this?
  • “He carved conrods from truck axles. He cast his own pistons with a kerosene blowlamp. Very often, they failed…After every dispiriting bang, Munro went back to his bench and started again.” Do you know of any other creative people or inventors that had to try a lot of times before they got it right? What do you think gives a person the persistence to work like this? Is persistence a quality that can be developed or are people born with more or less of it?
  • People come from Australia, Britain, the United States, Ireland and Italy to attend the Burt Munro Challenge. Why do you think Munro’s story has inspired so many people around the world? Have you seen The World’s Fastest Indian? 
  • Other adventure races mentioned in the article are “The Brass Monkey,” the “Dusty Butt,” “Sound of Thunder” and “Teddy Bear Runs.” Do these names sound fun and exciting to you? What kind of atmosphere would you expect at an event with a name like one of these?
  • Booza explains to the writer why he loves the race: “It’s all about the danger. You’ve got no brakes, and things can go wrong real quick.” Can you identify with Booza’s feelings? Why do you think this kind of danger and risk appeal to some people?

Activity: Make a go-kart

Get your own fix of tinkering with speed by making a go-kart! Use any materials you can find or scavenge from neighbours and relatives to make a mean machine of your own. Don’t have any decent wood? You can use anything – fence pales, bamboo, a drawer from an old chest.  If you can’t find any broken bikes or buggies to take the wheels from, try upgrading a couple of scooters or an old office chair.

You will need:

(The following materials are a guide – you can adapt to fit your own materials or ideas)

  • Plywood for a seating board – either 1x18mm-thick or 2x9mm-thick sheets of plywood (you can also use wood of a similar thickness to plywood; old shelves would do.) These will need to be at least 300mm wide x 500mm long to allow you room to sit on them comfortably.
  • A long piece of 4”x2” (90mmx45mm) wood for the centre beam
  • Two short pieces of wood for the front and rear axles (about 400mm long works well)
  • A slim piece of wood around 300mm long for the brake
  • Five small blocks of wood for attaching the wheels and brake
  • Four wheels (either all the same size, or two small and two large)
  • Length of thin rope for steering – around 1200mm should be plenty
  • Bolts, nuts and washers
  • Screws
  • Wood glue (optional)
  • An electric drill

Step One: Screw (or glue) your two sheets of ply (or other) wood together to make a double-thickness seating area (single thickness is ok if it is strong enough to hold your weight without bending.) Place one end of the centre-beam on the underneath of the seating board, allowing for at least 300m sticking out the front. Screw into place.

Step Two: Attach the front axle, steering and wheels. Drill a hole in the middle of the front end of the centre-beam and a hole in the middle of the front axle board and bolt these together. The front axle board should still be able to swivel from side to side, allowing you to steer. Drill holes in the front axle board, on either side of the centre-beam, and tie the ends of rope underneath at each side to make a steering handle.

Screw one of the small blocks of wood under each end of the front axle. Bolt a wheel onto the outside of each of these. Your wheels may already have bolts in them; in this case, drill holes to fit the size of the bolts. If not, first find bolts that fit the wheels, then drill holes that will fit the bolts.

Step Three: To bolt on a wheel, put the bolt through the hole and tap it with a hammer if you need to. Where the bolt sticks through the other side, place the washer and nut and tighten the nut so that the wheel can spin freely but doesn’t wobble.

If any two of your wheels are smaller than the other two, use these on your front axle.

Screw blocks onto rear axle and bolt on wheels to blocks, using larger or same sized wheels. Screw the rear axle board into place under the centre-beam. (If your seating board is strong enough you can just screw your rear wheel blocks directly into the seating board.)

Step Four: Finally, take the slim piece of wood around 300mm long and screw this onto the side of one of the small blocks. Attach it to the underneath of the seating board just in front of one of the back wheels. Make sure the brake can lever back and forth freely.

Add anything else you want to – we added old car seats and made it a two-seater. Take it for a spin! Helmets and long pants and shoes are always a good idea to make sure you don’t get hurt if you crash.

This video on the Mitre 10 website takes you through the basics of go-kart construction: https://www.facebook.com/mitre10/videos/420751779407719/

Send us a picture of you riding your go-kart!