Introduction: Solar Powered Ferris Wheel Toy

This Ferris wheel toy is solar powered. The goal was to make it as quickly and cheaply as possible, while still having fun building it. I thought about making it out of foam core, but that would take too long, plus the foam core would hide the elements of the wheel. I thought about various sizes of Popsicle sticks, but that didn't look right either. 3 D printing would be good, but not everyone has a machine.

The "skinny sticks" available at Walmart have the right look for a carnival Ferris wheel, plus they are resistant to splitting, which is important because the side plates are firmly pinned into position by Bamboo Shish Kabob skewers. The structure is built as a Hexagon, and all the structural parts (12 side plates, 6 per side, and 12 radial spokes, also 6 per side) have the 5/64" connecting holes drilled 1/4" from the ends of the sticks. When assembled with the skewers, the structure automatically takes on a perfect Hexagon shape, no measuring of angles required.

The motor and solar cell are commonly available on ebay. The motor is 30 rpm at 6 volts, and a cord drive is used to further reduce the Ferris wheel speed to a realistic rate.

Step 1: Materials Required

1 ea. gearmotor 30 rpm 6 volt gearmotor

1 ea. nylon spacer ( for motor drum), #6 round nylon spacer

5 ft. 1.8mm nylon blind cord nylon cord

1 ea. 5 volt 160mA Solar cell

1 pkg. Bamboo Skewers

1 pkg. Jumbo Craft sticks

1 pkg. Skinny sticks

1 ea. 1/2" i.d. washer Washer

12 ea. beads Pony beads

hot melt glue, 30 minute epoxy, electrical wire, metal crimp for cord

Step 2: Assembly

Drill 24 skinny sticks 1/4" from each end with a 5/64" drill (verify the Bamboo skewers will fit that size hole snugly first). Take one skewer, add 3 skinny sticks to one end. The middle stick will be the radial spoke; place a skewer on the other end of the middle stick forming the axle. Put a bit of tape on that skewer to identify it as the axle. Get another skewer and 2 more drilled skinny sticks, and add to the free end of one of the outside sticks. Add skewers like this until the Hexagon shape is formed. Then do the same for the other side, forming the other side Hexagon.

Hot glue the nylon spacer to the motor; the spacer will form the drum that moves the cord and Ferris wheel. Epoxy or hot glue the 1/2" washer to the nylon spacer about in the middle of the spacer, this will prevent the drive cord from slipping off (place the smooth outside edge of the washer on the side where the cord will fit, ie the motor side of the washer). Rough up the nylon spacer a bit so the cord will get more grip from the nylon spacer/drum. Another idea might be to wrap a couple of turns around the drum, but I didn't find that necessary.

Take 4 large craft sticks and hot glue them together to form a square for the support base and set aside to cool. Next, take 4 additional large sticks and drill a hole for the axle skewer centered and about 1/2" from the top, drilling all 4 sticks at once (tape the sticks together first). Test fit 2 large sticks to the wheel axle as the side supports that will connect to the square base. The wheel needs additional clearance for the seats, so the side support sticks need to be longer. Saw an additional 2 large sticks in half (at a slight angle to fit flush against the base). Those chopped in half sticks are then hot glued to the drilled axle support sticks to extend the support the base to measure 9-1/2" axle to base on center line, and should be 6-1/2" apart at the base. Hot glue the support sticks together with hot glue at the axle, then hot glue the support to the base. Repeat on the other side, and test fit the wheel.

It is likely that the skewers on the outside of the wheel interfere with the support sticks, thus preventing the turning of the wheel on the axle. Push the outer thin sticks closer to the center on the skewer (a half inch each side is enough), then clip the excess outer skewer length with side cutters (caution- wear eye protection so bits of bamboo don't hit you in the eye!). The axle skewer length is not changed. The wheel should now spin freely between the supports.

Wrap the 1.8mm blind cord around the wheel, contacting the skewers and leave enough excess cord at the bottom to fit around the motor drum. Use a bit of stiff steel wire, or the crimp end of an electrical spade connector, or jewelry crimp bead to join the cord ends together. Determine where the motor needs to be to keep the cord about 1/4" away from the thin sticks. Mount the motor and drum on a bit of scrap wood or several sticks layered together attaching to the base with epoxy. Hold the motor and scraps to the base with a clamp while the glue dries.

Make the seats similar to the pattern photo provided out of construction paper. Set aside 15 or so 1/2" wide x 1/4" long Scotch tape pieces to attach to the tabs of the seat and hold the seat in shape. My seats were 4-1/2" wide. Fold 3 sheets of construction paper in half, trace the pattern onto the top folded sheet, then tape around the perimeter of the 3 folded sheets so that when the pattern is cut out, all 6 seats will be cut at the same time. Fold and tape the seats together. Tape the seat hangar hooks to each seat.

Step 3: Finish

Add the seats to the Ferris wheel. Place the solar cell in the sun, and place the switch in the forward or reverse position.