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Man Digs Out Basement Using Radio Controlled Toy Tractors 169

Phurge pointed out a story about a man with a fleet of remote control toys and a lot of patience. "Excavating a basement using professional machinery is nothing new but doing it with radio controlled (RC) scaled models is something unheard of. Welcome to the little big world of Joe, from Saskatchewan, Canada. For the past 7 years, Joe has been digging out his basement at an average annual rate of 8 to 9 cubic feet using nothing more than RC tractors and trucks. And we're talking about the whole nine yards here — he starts by transporting the excavator on an RC truck to the basement, unloads it, digs and uses other trucks to transfer the dirt up to the ground through a spiral ramp! He even has a miniature rock crusher! 'I feel quite fortunate to have stumbled onto this basement excavation idea, it's been a great past time to date dreaming up new ideas to tackle different projects along the way,' Joe wrote on the Scale4x4rc forums where he also posted pictures and videos of his feat."
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Man Digs Out Basement Using Radio Controlled Toy Tractors

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  • Follow up: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:04AM (#39070401)
    Joe says that he plans to have his house built within the next 18 months, at which point his mother will move in upstairs and he will take up residence in the basement with his computer.
    • Follow-up article (but to related to the parent joke): a interview of Joe [].

      • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:24PM (#39075417) Homepage
        Were those RC construction vehicles Union RC Construction Vehicles?
        • Further:

          I hope he has the required testing/engineering done and monitoring in place to maintain slope stability on the pit face under the excavator.

          He could accelerate the bucket-and-shovel process by acquiring an RC dragline unit. This would be especially desirable if he has future work lined up in the area. eg: Neighbors' basements, latrine (outhouse) pits, etc.

    • Joe says that he plans to have his house built within the next 18 months, at which point his mother will move in upstairs and he will take up residence in the basement with his computer.

      Knock him all you want, but at least his hobby/models *do* something. I know tons of guys that spend $$$$$ on RC that do nothing but drive/fly around and crash.

      In that interview someone posted he said he doesn't want to stop. [] Hey Joe, when you run out of dirt in your basement you can use my backyard to dig a hole for an inground pool. At 2-3 cubic yards a year it should take awhile and I'm in no hurry, I won't even charge you much for use of my backyard :)

  • Basement (Score:5, Funny)

    by rherbert ( 565206 ) <> on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:06AM (#39070413) Homepage
    Well, at least now he'll be able to move out of his parents' basement.
  • A few RC trucks with front-mounted blowers could be fun :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I second that. Would love a scale model RC of one of these bad boys: []
    • I am totally going to have to do that. I have a freaking *HUGE* driveway on the side of a mountain, and I'm tired of paying the plow guy to come plow when he finally gets around to it (which usually means "after I've already towed my step-daughter and/or neice out of the ditch"). This probably wouldn't take any longer between snowfall and a clear driveway than the plow guy, would probably be break-even on expenses, but would be a boatload more fun :)
    • by Leebert ( 1694 ) *

      Can't immediately find the Slashdot story, but this was mentioned a few years ago: []

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      You can buy radio controlled Piste Machines :-) []

    • Yeah, but if it takes seven years to clear the snow away ...
  • by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:07AM (#39070423)
    Wish I had a basement now. /nerdgasm
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:10AM (#39070437) Journal
    Seriously, build small equipment the size of a riding lawn mower, but then use RC (wifi or bluetooth) to control them. With being small and cheap, it would be possible to dig out multiple parts of an area.
    • Re:Interesting idea (Score:5, Informative)

      by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @01:35AM (#39070989)
      Radio controlled equipment is already used in construction. Working in trenches is dangerous and required elaborate and expensive safety precautions. To avoid this, contractors use methods that avoid putting people in trenches. This usually involves equipment with long arms to manipulate things (like a robotic pipelayer) but some equipment is remote controlled. Like this compactor: [] Radio control of large pieces of equipment like concrete pumps is also common, but for the opposite reason. It allows the operator to be at the location where the action is happening rather than in a cab far away.
      • Yup. That is what I was thinking of, EXCEPT that it is not working in an autonomous or even semi-autonomous. This would be useful for NASA or even Google to create X-Prizes for doing just that. By getting equipment to be given an assignment and then you walk away, this allows for a larger number of exploration, construction and mining on the moon, mars AND earth.
      • by dj245 ( 732906 )
        Thanks for the video. I saw one of these on a jobsite (a steam turbine jobsite, so the use of this strange looking thing was not obvious) and had no clue what it was.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    if he could have automated the control with a camera and PC handling the RC control stuff it would have been a cool project. instead he coulda used a shovel and been done in a coupla weeks.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:10AM (#39071207)

      You missed the fact that he does this for *RECREATION*, he even removed a conveyor belt assembly for helping to speed it up too much. (As well as making the basement difficult to traverse). This guy is a FARMER, and if he's to be believed has limited time off-farm for recreational purposes, so this activity fills that gap for him.

      No different than the time many people invest into model trains or dozens of other activities that provide no 'measurable' productive expenditure of time, but through which they derived immense satisfaction in the process of doing.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )

        This guy is a FARMER, and if he's to be believed has limited time off-farm for recreational purposes, so this activity fills that gap for him.

        Hmm, I wonder how many excavator, truck and tractor drivers have mini-farms for recreational purposes, does farmville count? ;)

  • by multiben ( 1916126 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:12AM (#39070459)
    Next week, Joe plans to hold a conference with his star wars figurines to discuss possible reasons for his inability to attract a girl friend.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @01:08AM (#39070825)

      Chicks dig basements.

      They'd have it done in less time, too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        Wait... what!?

        I was not aware that chicks were all into basements. Maybe when they are 14 and literally have no other place to go and the guy is a jock, but past the time you can have a drivers license? Not so much.

        They would only have it done in less time because chicks have this amazing ability to, dependent upon their hotness, to amass armies of men to do their bidding.

        You get a half dozen hot chicks in thongs with some beer, and you could easily get two to three times that many men digging a basement

      • No amount of mod points can let me rate it +6, Funny :(
  • Math seems wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

    by esampson ( 223745 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:18AM (#39070505) Homepage

    Average rate of 9 cubic feet per year X 7 years = 63 cubic feet.

    That's a cube of dirt 4' x 4' x 4'.

    Hardly sounds like 'excavating a basement'.

    I'm guessing that the 9 cubic feet number is wrong. Maybe 9 square feet (with an undisclosed height of about 8'-10') for an annual average of 72-90 cubic feet and a final excavation of a room about 8' x 8'?

    • Re:Math seems wrong (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:25AM (#39070549) Homepage Journal

      There's a more detailed article that the first one links to. In the more detailed article, it says:

      Every year, I excavate about 2 to 3 cubic yards of material. I mine it from the walls during the winter, put it through the crusher, screen it, and then haul it out during a summer’s worth of Sundays.

      So what we have is a unit conversion failure in the first article. 1 yard = 3 feet, but 1 cubic yard = 27 cubic feed. 3 cubic yards is 81 cubic feet, then.

      So 7 * 81 = 567, which gives you a cube just over 8' on a side, as you suggest.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, so easy. Why use metric when you can use elbows and noses and feet and schlongs, they are much easier to comprehend and evaluate on the spot, right? right?

        • Re:Math seems wrong (Score:4, Informative)

          by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:06AM (#39071461) Homepage Journal

          Yeah, like nobody ever made the same mistake converting between cm^3 and m^3. 1 cm^3 = 1mL, and 1000 cm^3 is 1 L. 1000 cm = 10 m, but 10 m^3 is 1,000,000 L. But, folks in chem class made that mistake readily. Metric doesn't magically make the "forgot to cube the ratio" problem go away when dealing with volumes.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          The mistake is the same, no matter the units.

          • SHUT UP!! Metric is better!!

            • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

              You know, it's a little ironic, but the standard subdivisions of an inch (1/2, 1/4, etc.) or of fluid measure (8oz cup, 16oz pint, 32oz quart, 64oz half gallon, 128oz gallon), all of which are related by powers of 2, are a better match for binary arithmetic than powers of 10.

              Sure, that's about the only place imperial measure works out better. But, I still find it a little ironic.

              The powers of 10 in metric really don't mesh as nicely with computer arithmetic as you might like. If you start with meters, sti

      • that is 2.3 cubic meter. Or 3.5 tonnes of earth per year. Wonder how many batteries he burns through..
      • Let's hope nobody uses the article's author for the next mars mission [].

    • From the pictures it looks more like he's just digging into the side of an existing basement, and the 4' cube of dirt would be about right.
  • Inspiring story (Score:5, Informative)

    by hashless ( 1833294 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:26AM (#39070561)
    This type of do-it-yourself story is what we like to see on slashdot. Inspiring, nerdy, and a bit over the top.
    • people have too much entertainment these days to go around being productive doing things like this.

  • Than I would be interested.
  • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:31AM (#39070597)

    ... this man should have been a bit more geeky and lazy at the same time by putting the camera and the RC controls on the Internet, then having remote volunteers run the RC toys to dig out his basement.

    This gets me thinking I can probably get the internet to excavate and build me a large swimming pool, given about 50 RC bulldozers and a month of use of my web-server.

    • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:36AM (#39070637) Journal

      I'm sorry, but I'm going to burst your bubble with a single word: griefers.

      • Gamify the problem and use the right solution with the highest score. That way, if you set a sensible sets of scoring rules, calculated server side, you will avoid the consequence arising form the grievers, and you will solve you probably NP-Hard problem of using RC robots to build a pool. But if you set the rules wrong, you get creative briefing that achieve to solve the problem described by your rules...

        • Griefers are not motivated nor deterred by scoring. They are generally in it for the reaction of others.
          • by Amouth ( 879122 )

            right but if you use the scoring (or the lack of) to kick players.. kinda like auto booting TPK'ers

            • The problem with scoring rules to enforce behavior is that you need to make sure that your scoring rules are solid. On top of that, you would also need to make sure that your walled garden is, well, walled... In other words, if you want a pool dug, you will have to set physical parameters in the shape of the pool (i.e. stakes driven every 6 to 8 inches) or a virtual parameter like a virtual wall (i.e. similar to the one used for the Roomba).

              • by Amouth ( 879122 )

                all of which are required in planning. to have a game you need a goal - that goal would need defined standards for when it was acheive.. i would think size shape location are bare bones for digging out things like a pool.

      • Well, you would have to qualify for a CDL at his pretend MVD first, obviously...
      • Maybe charge $1 for an account. If someone doesn't play nice you cancel the account.
      • That was my first thought. You'd have the excavator pulling the dump truck onto its side, and the backhoe trying to dump dirt as far from the work site as possible within the first minute of going online.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:53AM (#39071607) Journal
      I give it about 10 minutes before your excavation project is turned into Robot Wars.
      • I would watch that... especially if they have Craig Charles as the presenter again, and Philippa Forrester doing the pit interviews.

    • He probably doesn't want a penis-shaped basement.

  • by Myopic ( 18616 ) * on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:56AM (#39070749)

    The headline of this article is a good example of why it is important to hyphenate adjective phrases.

    Your Third Grade Teacher

    • Re:Hyphens (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @04:38AM (#39071777)

      I've reread the title four times, and I can't figure out a single way to parse the sentence in a grammatically-correct fashion other than the one way that was intended -- especially since the only place I can think of where a hyphen would apply would be in "radio-controlled."

      So how did you misread it, out of curiosity?

  • The gentleman would achieve a much greater result if he got himself a scale model of the Bagger 288 []
  • Another method would be controls that work over the internet, then out-source all the hours to dig it out. I hear they got bots that grind gold on WOW, this is another avenue of profit. Its a lot safer then making another Skynet.
  • I refuse to RTFA or summary and am content with vizualizing young Timmy's mom giving him an ultimatum. "Either you clean up my basement right now, or you move out! I mean it young man! What am I saying? You're 45 years old, for crying out loud!" "But mom, it will take me a week at least to program the tractors!"
  • Some people have way too much time on their hands.

    Dig it!

  • by delvsional ( 745684 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:07AM (#39071465)
    He should set up a website with some sort of interface control for the machines and live streaming video, then charge people to play with the toys remotely.
  • Soon construction and warehouse work will be outsourced to oversees workers using internet RC. It's inevitable.

  • So instead of taking a hit of a few weeks while contractors dig out the space he spends the next seven years driving miniature dump trucks and excavators around to accomplish the same and with no end in sight. I'm wondering what the point is here. Maybe for his next project he can attempt something similar with spoons.
  • Personally I found watching the video incredibly boring, but I guess that's why I'd never do something like this.
    When I first read the summary I assumed he used sensors and some sort of AI to do this while he wasn't there, now that's something I could get behind, shit getting done while I'm gone.
    Which leads me to wonder, why don't we have robots doing this sort of thing on a large scale?
    Define the dimensions of the hole you want excavated and let them do the work in a tireless, efficient manner.
    Leave one gu

  • by Catmeat ( 20653 ) <> on Friday February 17, 2012 @06:32AM (#39072279)
    This is absolutely not about digging a basement.

    The man simply likes playing with R/C earthmovers. And this is a way for him to keep on doing it during the five-month Canadian Winter, when everything is covered in snow. I doubt if he would care if it took 20 years to finish.
  • This is a great idea, just like those radio controlled choppers that build towers with blocks, this could also make excavation quite different in the future, allow all these nano tech devices/machines dig out the basement as per the requires specs, and then make some cement trucks to start pouring and even some other machines to even out and compact it, as it is cool it is also quite fast should you have hundreds of these machines instead of 1 or 2....this was the beta stage, now let's see what a fleet of 1

  • by ( 595837 ) <slashdot@advi d . net> on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:26AM (#39073795) Journal

    Dear Mr Joe,

    Our company is looking for talented remote-control specialists.

    We need dedicated operators for a long term commitment in R-C cleaning on large areas of confined space.
    You are likely to have all qualifications required to join the main R-C team at our Fukushima-Daichi facility.

    We're looking forward to hearing from you,

    Tepco Director

    (my emphasis)

  • My first though was how do the remote control toys dig into the dirt. Well looking at the video he first does the digging by hand using a pick and breaks up the larger pieces. The remote control vehicles are just used to haul the material. Hardly digging it out with nothing but remote control vehicles.

  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:52AM (#39074123)

    The next step is to rather than human control them, built in the logic to for self control. It would have to be coordinated between different machine types and job types, a sort of swarm communication. Then scale them up a bit, allow for remote repair of components seen to commonly ware out. Load them on a rocket, shoot to moon, and get building that moon base already! :)

  • ...wait until the RC earthmovers want to unionize. The project would grind to a standstill, demanding maintenance insurance benefits and better wages, causing the employer to go bankrupt in the process -- putting them out of jobs altogether.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin