But for the fancy wheel and gloves and shoes I wear while racing, it's all a bit anti-climactic when you have to pause the game to stop your desk chair from rolling back. So I decided I wanted to build a cockpit that would better simulate a racing car, creating an immersion gaming environment. And for that little extra design challenge, it would have to double as a desk since our rooms, whilst large, are not cavernous.
The original idea was to take one of the old Mini-Baja space-frame chasses lying around in Parcel B, but we realized that this would take an awful lot of work just to get it into the dorms, let alone turning it into a desk. So we decided to build our own. We thought we might be able to replicate a roll-cage out of PVC pipe, but it turns out you can't make custom joints, so that idea was scrapped, leaving us the extremely sexy looking...wooden box. The PVC would create a weight-bearing frame with plywood sheeting as a body. This turned out to be a little weak structurally, so we added some 1" wooden ribs to the inside. This made it a lot more stable, but not rock-solid. The interesting result is that the force-feedback steering wheel causes the entire cockpit to vibrate, amplifying the effect. Hooray for serendipity.
|One of the original CAD designs|
|Getting an idea of dimensions|
|Making sure the height was good for desk-usage|
|The basic frame|
|We got it into a usable state by the end of Spring break...|
|...and then set about making it look cool|
|Frankly, I think it's brilliant.|
It was just tons of funs to make. There was a lot of improvisation as we got one bit done, had an idea, then figured out how to make it work on a shoe-string budget. The seat was $150, leaving $50 from the P.P. budget and $50 of my own money. The decals cost $15, the speakers were $30 all in all, the inside was lined with $6 of fabric, and the frame cost $40 to construct.
I also love some of the details. The Gulf livery is a classic endurance racing scheme, and the number 20 refers to Steve McQueen's number in the film, Le Mans. I added the dates to the livery in reference to all of the Le Mans victories held by Porsche. Originally we hoped to add a bank of toggle switches you would have to turn on in sequence before using the cockpit, but in the end we settled for just mounting a power strip on the inside. It helps consolidate the cables and still gives us a switch to play with.
I'll be applying for more funding next year, this time to try and interface with the game itself, allowing us to add external controls and interfaces that actually control aspects of the game. It's all in an attempt to make something like the Frex SimConMotion simulators. They're beautiful and a bargain at $5-10 K.