Introduction: Rave Rover - Mobile Dance Stage

Rave Rover was designed and built to be a portable dance platform for parties, raves, and any other trouble we can get into! I will go into as much detail as I can explaining the entire build process, and where to find parts and other accessories. Be sure to check out more information, including party galleries on our website at

Step 1: Starting the Build

Before doing any work on putting something together, I always like to sit down and think about the development and how something should go together. CAD is a great resource for this, so I designed most of the layout before spending any money.

Step 2: Cutting Parts

After designing and seeing how things were going to start to fit together, I decided it'd be a good idea to start cutting parts. Luckily at work, I have access to a 5 foot by 10 foot CNC router, where I'm able to cut any types of plastics up to 2" thick.

From the CAD models, I was able to cut out the exact frame so that everything slides together and locks. I was also able to cut the top out of very thin ABS plastic sheet, which will give the 'rounded square' look once the LEDs are installed and lit up.

The reason for using black plastic is to try to keep this project as light as possible, while at the same time not allowing any light to go between boxes.

Step 3: Fitting the Floor

Once all of the floor pieces were cut out, assembly began of all the rails to check fitment and make sure enough pieces were cut.  There are three main sections, the center of the stage, plus the two pieces that fold up. 

Step 4: Getting LEDs Ready

After cutting all of the parts, it's time to assemble LED modules for the floor. These specific LED modules have three SMD5050 RGB leds per module, and they are able to be controlled over an SPI interface. This makes for being able to change any module to any color at any time, and allows the most control for some really cool displays!

Step 5: Installing the LEDs

Once all of the LED strips were set up (the matrix was 11 x 11, so we built 11 strands of 11 LED modules), it was ready to start installing the modules. Luckily, these modules have 3M double sided tape on the bottom, so positioning them were very easy, but we did come back with some hot glue to make sure they stuck to the bottom panel.

The have to be wired all in series, so each row has to follow the row before it, and the 'flow' has to be correct, else you'll not be able to light up some of the LEDs. The way these LEDs work is by sending them a serial string of data, the first LED takes it's data off the top, and then sends the rest of the packet down the line, basically bit shifting the data stream. You can't individually address the LEDs, but knowing where they are in the data stream, you can change their data in the stream itself.

Step 6: Adding the Frame

Once the LED modules are all planted on the bottom panel, it's time to over lay the cut frames to set up the light 'boxes' or 'pixels'. The holes in the bottom panel (and top panel) allowed us to be able to screw the top and bottom overlays to the rails themselves, and make the entire structure much more solid and to keep it from sliding apart.

You can see how the slots in the rails we cut out are perfect for running the wires between the boxes.

Step 7: LED Color Check and Testing

Once everything was wired and completely set up, it was time to power it up and check for colors and tracking. 

For driving the LEDs, we're using a simple Arduino by outputting data out of the SPI channel. Most of what you see is just random algorithms to make sure the colors are in working order and all of the pixels are working.

The top piece is white translucent plastic, works as a great diffuse panel as one is needed!

Step 8: Gathering More Materials

Once happy with the LED floor itself, it was time to start gathering materials to build the drive train and frames for mounting all of the rest of the electronics.

We picked up all of the aluminum (1x1x1/8" wall) tubing, and cut it up to the sizes that we needed for the frames. While doing this we also picked up all of the pneumatic components which I'll get into later in the build and explain WHY we need air cylinders on this project :)

Step 9: Frame Building

The goal behind the project this year was to be able to make the stage sit completely on the ground when 'in use'. The method to do that was to build essentially four frames. The main stage area frame was 28 x 44.5 inches, with a foldable wing on either side that were each 8.25" x 44.5". This allowed us to be able to drive through a standard 30" door opening once folded up. The drive system frame was built to fit inside the main stage frame, and by using drawer slides as linear rails, the entire stage could be lifted up or down and be allowed to be raised to drive around, and then lowered for stability for the dancers.

The next few steps will show the construction of these aluminum frames.

The original idea was to have all of the aluminum to be welded, but running out of time it was decided to use L brackets to bolt everything together. This seemed to be extremely strong and held together very well!

Step 10: Getting Frames to Fit...

Once all of the frames were built, it was time to get the two main frames sliding together, so the linear rails (drawer slides) and the pneumatics started going together. 

In the video you can see how hard it is to control the air, I am using a standard blow nozzle and just shooting air into the input to make sure the frames will move and not be locked together. In the final version, I fixed the flow by adding in a flow restrictor on the solenoid input, make going up and down very smooth.

Step 11: Mounting Components

Now that we have the frames built and the air cylinders working together, it's time to really get down to business and start trying to figure out how to shove:

(2) Drive motors with 10" Wheels (From Electric Wheel chair)
Custom 10" Subwoofer Box
Amplifier for Subwoofer
Car Radio for powering mids/highs and taking computer input
Onboard PC
(2) 12v 35Ah SLA Batteries
Air buffer tank
Electronics (Solenoid, drive speed controllers, Arduino, power switch, etc)

Now if you remember, the Main Stage frame was 28 x 44.5 inches, this means that the drive train frame was smaller, around 25x42" where all of this stuff has to fit. What are we waiting for?! Lets get to it!

We start installing by necessity. Obviously we need to drive around, so the motors and wheels get mounted first! Next is the batteries (can't forget those)..and then the next biggest item which was the subwoofer.

Step 12: More Mounting...

Once we had the big parts out of the way, it was time to start finding room for all of the smaller items. Also we can't mount anything in the center, because we have to leave room to be able to mount the pole!

With the onboard computer, we're running Windows XP and custom software along side of RoboRealm, which is a high customizable robotic software. I came across a 10" vga LCD and decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to slap it onboard too just incase debugging was needed in the field.

The computer itself is a Zotac Mini ITX in a custom case with 2Gb Ram, and 32Gb Solid State hard drive. 

Compressor was picked up from Harbor Freight, just one of the small simple compressors that you keep in your car incase of a flat, plugs into the lighter.

We decided to use Victor 884 motor speed controls, these deliver plenty of amperage for the wheel chair motors at 12v. 

Step 13: Pole Mounting

We can't forget about the pole! The pole is a two piece design, where around 20" is always mounted inside the Rover, and the other 70+ inches slides into a custom fabricated mount system.

The pole is mounted to the Stage Frame at the top and bottom for added stability. 

Step 14: Finishing the Electronics...

After installing all of the drive parts, it was time to install the arduino, start securing some wiring, and run air lines to get ready for a drive test!

We also mounted the WiFi router which allows us to access the onboard PC by just a simple HTTP server. This allows any cell phone with a browser to go to the Rave Rover webpage being served, and change music, the LED modes, and in the future more stuff!

For Audio control, we feed the Audio line out into the AUX line in on the Car Radio. Using the Car Radio saved a lot of time as it has a built in 4 channel amplifier which was perfect for mounting the four external speakers.

Step 15: Drive Test!

Once things were secured, a power check was in order, and then a drive test. The control system is a standard Spektrum DX6 Radio Transmitter and Receiver, you can find the newer models from places like  or

Step 16: Installing Floor

Now that the frames were built, everything mounted, and we were able to drive, it was time to mate the pieces together that we built earlier. Time to install the LED floor and get some music going! I'm getting anxious to party!

The floor fit perfect, and just using some simple self tapping screws, it was a super fast job of attaching it to the aluminum frames.

Hinges were mounted on either wing to allow that section to fold up to retain the size of being able to go through a standard 30" door.

Step 17: Final Touches

You guys ready to party? I know I am, but first....

Gotta make it pretty!

It was time to cut some side panels, and install the speakers. For the front and rear panels, we wanted to make sure everyone knew 'Rave Rover' when they saw it. 

We took some acrylic mirror as a backer, installed some stand off rails, and a front clear piece of acrylic with a vinyl decal with the Rave Rover logo cut out. Trying to find a diffuser element was tough, but tissue paper worked perfectly for us. The inside of this box was lined with green LED strips so that when power was on, the logos lit up bright!

Step 18: Speaker Install

Time for speakers! Simple install of just screwing them in, and wiring them to the car radio. For this build we used Fusion 5.25" 2 - Way Car door speakers, cheap enough not to be worried about being kicked.

Step 19: Finally Done!

Everything is finished, and we're ready to party....

First party is Dragon*Con 2011, the next step will show you some pictures that we got from the event! For now, check out the modes of Rave Rover below.

Yes, the audio IS coming from the rover itself....

Step 20: Where to Find Parts...

Just wanted to give you guys a source list for some of the parts that I managed to pick up:  -> Sourced Wheel Chair Motors -> Sourced Air Cylinders, Pressure Swtich -> Best source for Arduino References -> Anything Robotic! -> Sensors, Radio Control Gear and More -> Radio Control Gear -> Sensors -> Arduino! -> Sourced Onboard Zotac Mini ITX Motherboard and Harddrive -> Sourced Two 12v 35Ah SLA Batteries -> Sourced Air line, bolts, nuts, and other small hardware -> Sourced 12v Air Compressor!

I'll add more as I remember them!

Step 21: Party Time!

Here's just a few images from Dragon*Con 2011, for more, check out our website at

You may notice some of our friends in the background...Yep, that's Bar2D2 and Marc DeVidts, be sure to check out their webpages too!

We hope you enjoyed our instructable! This project was a lot of fun to do, and we can't wait for the next event.

4th Epilog Challenge

Second Prize in the
4th Epilog Challenge