Get Connected

With RadioShack gone 😥 I have had to find a way to get the connectors I need to get the many builds properly assembled; enter Amazon. I am a prime member (I’m sure they hate me for it) so I get free, 2 day shipping on just about everything. This is key when you run across a need and your project is at a stopping point because of it. 

Finding good connectors is a pain. Most are Chinese cheapo’s, but now-a-days; there isn’t much else. So you spend as much in trial and error on buying sight unseen connectors as you do installing them. Below are the ones I have found that have held up.

3 Different Types of Connections

Getting something easily in/out for transport, repairs or upgrades is key. Especially as your project grows you may need to reconfigure to get more features into your project. In my mind there are 3 different types of connections: Quick, semi-permanent and permanent

Quick Connectors

There are a few different quick connectors that I use that I have found work well. For most of what my box pulls, low amp, 12 volt wires and connections work fine. In fact, may be a must. (see later article on wire gauges) Sometimes you need to get creative when you have multiple related accessories that need to get plugged in. For those I am using a modified Ethernet cable and in the past I have used a old computer serial cable. I will get more info about those as we go. For batteries and other 2 wire connections like the smoke machines I use 18awg wire barrel quick connects.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072BXB2Y8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

If this retailer doesn’t have them, there are dozens on amazon and Ebay that do. These support 5amp current well and I have spiked to 10amp on the 2 main power supplies and I have seen them work just fine (although it exceeds the manufacturer speccs)

Semi Permanent Connectors

Semi-permanent connectors are those that need to be able to be removed, but not very often.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01B17DL0G/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CLX1VW5/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

These Screw Terminal Strip Blocks not only allow for semi-permanent connections but help you keep things clean and organized inside your project.

Once you get everything mapped out and wired you can take a picture of it, put in in MS Powerpoint and add labels to remember what is what.

Additionally you can use blue painters tape to label the post important wires. The little red #6 fork is ideal for the small gauge wire you will use.

Permanent Connectors

Permanent connectors are connections that need to be soldered in place or direct wired. I will admit I started off using permanent techniques and quickly switch over the frustration to quick and semi-permanent connections, but there  are connections at certain points where this will be necessary. Components that have motorized parts and vibrate should be soldered. Close, closed or small areas that don’t have the room for connectors should be soldered.

Note: You should always use some form of connection. Just running a bare with through an eyelet connector is just an event of failure waiting to happen. I ONLY use electrical take as a temporary fix.

Soldering kits these days are pretty cheap. I use a large kit I purchased from Radioshack before they closed. Cheap however doesn’t mean good. For the soldering iron cheap ones only last for 30 hours or so of use. For a project guy that is about a year.

Here is a cheap starter kit.

https://www.amazon.com/Soldering-Iron-Kit-Temperature-Screwdrivers/dp/B07GJNKQ8W/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1539958183&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=soldering+kit&psc=1

The Medical Story – An Overview

When I joined the Air Force I had one criteria… Be around Airplanes. Well, duh.. it was the Air Force. I had a really high ASVAB score so getting in the Air Force was easy enough, but with the build-up to Desert Storm, there was a waiting list to get in. So I told them I would take whatever job they had (as long as it was with the planes) to get in sooner.

Air transportation specialist (605 or 2T2) was where they placed me. As part of this field was a huge opportunity to do so much; I was quite happy. That was until I got my first assignment, more on that later. The career field included working the fleet services, air terminal, air cargo loading, cargo processing, air terminal operations, crew chief and combat controller.

Basic Training

Growing up under a career military man was an experience in itself. Everything needed to be done in a specific order and everything was goal oriented. Lectures were a daily practice that I now appreciate greatly. I joined the military because after I got out on my own, I lacked, and missed, that daily structure. However, once IN the military I soon found that my Father’s military and the one I had joined were 2 completely different things. There was no unity, no brotherhood; in fact, it was every man for himself. 

I was often punished for helping another finish a run or even teaching them to shine shoes (skills I learned in ROTC). I had high hopes that once I left basic and into the real Air Force it would be different… and it wasn’t. Every day, every task and every deployment was the efforts of individuals looking to out perform each other. At Shepherd Air force Base where I took my training, it was the same. Chastised publicly for tutoring people who’s grades were down, I started to see that this wasn’t going to be the career my father spoke so well of; for all those years.

Pope Air Force Base

Pope Air Force base would come back to haunt me as I told them “any job around planes”. I landed Fleet services with the 3rd MAPS. Fleet services cleaned the planes, latrines and brought meals to the flight crew. It was a nasty job, but I did it to the best of my ability. After a point I was moved to Checkpoint where I worked with troops and loading aircraft cargo. This was at least a better job.

I used every moment I had free to take as many courses and classes that were available. I volunteered for everything that came down the pike; truly wanting to make a career out of whatever was handed to me.

While I was on this assignment there was a call for a select group to work with the Special Operations group out of Fort Bragg. These guys were the cream of the military crop and those selected would train with them; so we could cater to their load needs and work with their sensitive material. I really enjoyed this assignment as these guys represented a group, a team that my father spoke so well of.

These guys wore no rank or identification of any type and were great to work and train with. I also trained in different forms of martial arts, tactical defense and worked out consistently to prepare for the possible deployment that might be necessary as part of that operations group. This is also where I would work with blacklisted materials that we would learn later; contained agents that would cause a rapid decline in my health.

As a desire to continue with this I answered the call to join the Air Force Honor Guard and Rifle Team requested through the new 23rd TAW “flying tigers” that had come to make Pope AFB their home. This detail would be done along with my regular duties but did turn into a 6 month full time appointment. We would provide saber drill teams, weapons performance drills and military funeral details. It was as part of this assignment that I received my orders to Germany.

Ramstein AFB, Germany

When I received orders to Ramstein AB I had no symptoms and no issues. I would consider myself, at that time, the best physical shape I could be for my size. I could lift my body weight, smash concrete with my fist, could do an inverted leg press 3 times my weight and run for hours with no problems. (and did as a regular part of that unit). Stationed to work in the warehouse at Ramstein I jumped right in. However, a few months after being there I started to feel fatigue and discomfort in my workouts.

I started visiting the base medical center; getting motrin and sent back to work. Shortly after the humanitarian missions to Bosnia started to gear up. We unloaded, packed and prepared thousands of pounds of meat, flour and oil on pallets to be air dropped in. When I came home each night I looked like the Pillsbury Doh Boy… I also would fill in for checkpoint airmen that called in sick often working 16-20 hours a day during this mission.

The more I did the worse I seemed to get. Base medical finally send me to Landstuhl hospital for further treatment. After 3 days of tests the Doctor was like “I wish we could have caught this sooner”.  By this point damage to my joints was already done. The nervous flashes, twitching, chronic pain, exhaustion and lack of strength were quickly becoming part of my life as my health rapidly declined. My NCOIC recommended a transfer to a different department as I was basically just taking up a desk in his department, not able to lift anything or drive a forklift in the braces the Dr’s put me in. The more tests the Dr’s ran the more confused they had become (not yet knowing a cause of Desert Storm Syndrome, especially with my not being “in country”) So every week it was a different Dr, a different test and a different GUESS.

Data Records

Data records and processing is where I was assigned during my “light duty” time. The NCOIC there always had a chip on his shoulder feeling that he always got the “defective airmen”. However, I took the same attitude here as I did every other assignment. As I was one of a handful of people in the squadron that had worked nearly all off the parts of my career field I was required to work multiple shifts while “healthy people” were getting deployed. As a result I worked 20 hours a day for months. My wife was allowed to visit me at 3am in the morning, I slept on my desk rather than trying to go home.

I always looked for areas where I could benefit my country, earning 2 additional meritorious service metals for monies recovered and instituting new processes for data entry. This lead to the Squadron commander meeting with me to request helping me stay in the Military. (With not being able to get around very well I could no longer be “mobility certified for combat deployment”) I agreed and he pulled my medical records to buy some time. I took this opportunity to travel as much as I could going to different places like France, Bulgaria, Belgium and more… all just a few hours drive away.

However, this arrangement would eventually catch up with me. Once the medical review board was convened I was on a plane back to the US in 2 weeks flat.

During my time I was stationed at Pope AFB and Ramstein AFB with light deployments for months locally and abroad. While I never went to the Gulf, my duties placed me in direct contact with the chemicals and gear that was coming back from the Gulf to the various units at Fort Bragg. I also worked one-on-one with the Special Operations Group (no designations) and their “uncategorized cargo” for approx. 9 months. (this is where the lawyer thought the main exposure occurred) I also worked with the incinerators frequently, as all overseas trash and open materials needed to be burned. I regularly received vaccinations because of our continued exposure to overseas aircraft. (They even came out to the flight line to give us shots rather than making appointments because there were so many)

Welcome Home

Coming back home was a bitter sweet thing as I had to deal with my new physical challenges AND try to find a new civilian life. We were held up at customs flying into Miami as, for some reason, I was not on the flight manifest. What made it more confusing was that I wasn’t in any database… anywhere! After 8+ hours of interviews and strange looks they decided that this was beyond them and sent me along with paperwork to fill out.

We processed into the Veterans Administration in Jacksonville, FL. we thought it was going to be as easy as they said it would be in the out-processing briefing; not so much. My records could not be validated and I was directed to Scott AFB. This is also when I contacted my Dad to see if he knew what was going on. He made a few calls and got at least my name and social security # found. But every call to the VA was hit with a roadblock.

A Glimmer of Hope

In spring 1999 we visited the legal center at Pope AFB (where I was previously stationed) and spoke with a legal defendant (Lt. Ted __) who told me that there have been many unexplained illnesses from the time which I served. He said that a case was being prepared that we could be apart of; they were trying to get the VA to help process several airmen who had similar stories like mine.

We were very excited to hear this news. 2 weeks later I was informed that the case was not going to move forward and that the lawyer that established the case had left the military. No further pursuits were being considered.

After that I basically gave up on getting any assistance but my wife did not. She called government offices and even senators trying to get someone to help… the end result was a not so polite call that we’d better drop the issue… “or else”.

I have been blessed to work for companies that have worked with my mobility issues. My mom helped get me a wheelchair and I have just learned to “deal” with it. I was evaluated by different neurological centers in Lexington, KY (2003-2006) but not really understanding what was going on, they were trying to diagnose paralysis rather than muscle weakness and fatigue.

My wife started to contact the VA again in 2006. They were very nice about saying there was nothing that could be done without the medical records and a validated DD 214, so she started filing out online requests regularly until… in Jan. 2012 we actually received my DD 214. She immediately called the VA in Lexington KY (where we lived at the time) and was told we could process, however there was a 3 year window to diagnose service related conditions so all it would do is give me an ID card. (No word on if the medical records were ever found).

Since then we have been told every story under the sun as the rules change with every person you speak with. Honestly, I have lived so long like this… I frankly don’t have much confidence or desire to go through all that again.

The Details

As this is an overview I don’t want to bore people with every little detail of those 6 years that fundamentally changed the course of my life. Many of the details have been long forgotten. My memory was extensively damaged as a result so I rely on the things I have written down over the years, my wife and pictures to keep things straight. I don’t remember names and few faces, places I’ve lived, most of my kids growing up.. It’s been a real struggle. In the meantime I use what I retain to the best of my ability. I watch documentaries ALOT to help exercise my brain. I know that stuff is still in there (I spoze) I’m hoping to get some of it back one day.

Down But Not Out

Perhaps I could’ve sat around and felt sorry for myself, but alas; I didn’t. (too much) I have held a full time job, went to several bible colleges while I worked. I have worked for One Stop Auto Parts, Autozone, Advance Auto Parts, Don Jacobs Oldsmobile, BMW, VW and Honda where I achieved some of their highest training and service honors. I also ran an advertising company while I worked as a Public Safety Chaplain, volunteered for several local public safety programs, ministered in nursing homes, worked with children’s ministries, Pastored a church and more.

There was even a period of time where I was in (what I felt was) remission of symptoms. Except for the Chronic fatigue I felt pretty good. It was this period that I launched my business and got back into martial arts working with the IOTF. A stroke would bring about conditions amplified. Later Diagnosed as MS.

2 years ago I stepped down from public life to work full time from home and assist ministries where I can.

To preach or do a Sunday school class requires 10-12 hours of rest and I nearly collapse when I get done. However, when I preach or teach I feel little pain, it’s kinda hard to explain. Managing my health is now a full time thing. I am blessed to be able to work from home using the experiences and knowledge I have gathered, and continue to learn; through Modern Web Studios.

Maybe a Touch of Pride

Except for some placards on my wheelchair and an occasional hat I wear I don’t rub in the fact that I was in the military. We didn’t really take any images of me at all for a really long time, I didn’t want to be thought of as a person who was “disabled”. I was extremely thankful for the time he gave me to be able to walk and function, and I tried to use that time to be as productive as I could; but that was at a cost. God has used these events to shape my focus on so many different things. I look back at my life and seem so many different things that I have done that, perhaps, I did in spite of my condition. I worked so very hard to not let some medical condition take away my joy and desire to accomplish things, motive my children and be a good provider. Maybe it’s just a touch of pride.

Sure I’ve sacrificed, but so has my wife and family. My wife has pushed my wheelchair, dragged me up stairs, brushed my teeth, helped me go to the bathroom and stayed awake all night to make sure I stayed breathing (yeah, that was a thing)… if we are going to talk about sacrifice… I don’t compare to what she and my family has sacrificed for me. So if you see me out and about and want to wish me a “thank you for your service”.. Skip me and give my wife and kids a big hug and a well deserved thank you.


During my time at Pope there were quite a few “events” that took place that were at best, memorable. Below is one of them.

 

More Power

Anytime you are wanting to put a project together like this on any level… you need batteries. 12 Volt wheelchair batteries are perfect as you place them in any position AND because they are 12 volt; they are compatible with automotive things like lights and LED strips.

I have tried batteries from all over and have found this supplier to be awesome. SUPER fast deliveries and the batteries last.

https://www.amazon.com/sp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfilled=0&isCBA=&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&orderID=113-1452632-3813852&seller=A24WV2YRRJEBAG&tab=&vasStoreID=

The 3 Main Power supplies I get are:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007XIUPCU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Small project

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006T07BC0/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Main platform

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A82D9DK/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Wheelchair itself

I have a total of 9 of these batteries powering all my toys on the wheelchair.

Enjoy!

 

Other Vids

Starting off with individual components the need for a fully self contained unit became apparent; leading to the first blueprint design and build. That frame has been the foundation for all the additions to the point it is now.

Incredibles
Sounds with the Flux Capacitor
Wheelchair with Mustang 5.0 Engine (Crank Up The Sound!)
Power Wheelz – Party In Line At Disney
Power Wheelz – First Outing with Sound System
Power Wheelz – Bubbles make the world a better place
Power Wheelz – Famous Wheelchair with Racing Sounds
Power Wheelz – 1st Major Blueprint Design
Power Wheelz – Saying Goodbye to the Streets of America
Power Wheelz – trying out the bubble blower
Power Wheelz – New Style Bubble Blowers
Power Wheelz – Integration of 2 manual Bubble Blowers
Greased Lightening with Green Army men
Dance off with Green Army Men
Headed to the Car
Incredibles
1 of 15
Sounds with the Flux Capacitor
2 of 15
Wheelchair with Mustang 5.0 Engine (Crank Up The Sound!)
3 of 15
Power Wheelz – Party In Line At Disney
4 of 15
Power Wheelz – First Outing with Sound System
5 of 15
Power Wheelz – Bubbles make the world a better place
6 of 15
Power Wheelz – Famous Wheelchair with Racing Sounds
7 of 15
Power Wheelz – 1st Major Blueprint Design
8 of 15
Power Wheelz – Saying Goodbye to the Streets of America
9 of 15
Power Wheelz – trying out the bubble blower
10 of 15
Power Wheelz – New Style Bubble Blowers
11 of 15
Power Wheelz – Integration of 2 manual Bubble Blowers
12 of 15
Greased Lightening with Green Army men
13 of 15
Dance off with Green Army Men
14 of 15
Headed to the Car
15 of 15

Other Build Projects

As a Master Tinkerer I have always been building something. I have built themed Jewelry boxes, a Grandfather curio clock, projects for church… Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Videos – Early Development

The Power Wheelz build process has been an ongoing project for years. New ideas, upgrades and better technology keeps me busy, but these videos will let you see some of the early steps that led to what you might see today.

Power Wheelz – Party In Line At Disney
Power Wheelz – First Outing with Sound System
Power Wheelz – Famous Wheelchair with Racing Sounds
Power Wheelz – 1st Major Blueprint Design
Power Wheelz – trying out the bubble blower
Power Wheelz – New Style Bubble Blowers
Power Wheelz – Integration of 2 manual Bubble Blowers
Power Wheelz – Party In Line At Disney
1 of 7
Power Wheelz – First Outing with Sound System
2 of 7
Power Wheelz – Famous Wheelchair with Racing Sounds
3 of 7
Power Wheelz – 1st Major Blueprint Design
4 of 7
Power Wheelz – trying out the bubble blower
5 of 7
Power Wheelz – New Style Bubble Blowers
6 of 7
Power Wheelz – Integration of 2 manual Bubble Blowers
7 of 7
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