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What I Learned Building My 7-Year-Old a Sim Rig Pt.2

Ferdie in the OP Chaild Rig from Overpower

Featured image: Ferdie in the OP Child Rig from Overpower

In my last article, I focused on building Overpower.gg’s “OP Child Rig” for my little boy, Ferdinand. He was excited, obviously I was excited too. But inevitably, along the way we’ve learned some good things and a few hurdles that seem trivial problems for experienced sim builders. If you’ve never built a simulator before, hopefully, these notes will help you along the way.

The rig is built, running and there’s a very curious little guy at the wheel.

OP Child Rig by Overpower.gg

Assembly, as I covered, is relatively trivial. The OP Child rig is mostly composite layered plywood, and it’s supported by metal brackets on the pedal deck and some aluminium profile to add extra rigidity too. The instructions are reasonably straightforward *if* you’re able to concentrate and (take their advice:) arrange the nuts and bolts, by bag. It’s horrible to lose something. Tools are included! Thank you!

PS If you *do* find yourself losing a bolt I can’t recommend Accu enough – they’re brilliant. On with the lessons.

Don’t build these on Christmas Day! 

Despite the small size of the rig, and the simplicity of things like monitor VESA mounts, you definitely need more than a day to build a sim. Christmas Day is probably the worst day I can think of! With all the excitement, mess and noise there’s simply not a chance you’ll be able to give this project the attention it deserves. I wouldn’t wish this challenge on anyone.

Give yourself a week or two to get everything arranged and built, if there’s something missing or something you’d like to add – you have time. Delays are rife at this time of year – I ordered a sim racing PC to go with this project. I had to cancel it because of CPU stock levels!

Assemble everything, and leave the Monitor until last

Obviously, the cockpit goes together first. It’s easy to move (it’s light!) until you start bolting things on. Once the monitor is attached it’s best that you no longer plan to move the rig.

The width of the rig is significantly increased that sliding it through a door and walking it up the stairs becomes infinitely harder.

Get the approximate Rig fit as early as you can

Rig fit is obviously really important. Simple adjustments, like monitor height and pedal tray positioning, are very easy to move. Ferdinand’s eye level matches the horizon in iRacing and I’ve made sure that he can reach the Pedals without a stretch. 

Ignore the “seat” – this was the best photo I had – note how low the monitor is!

If this is going to be a surprise (good luck with that) You can guesstimate the basic adjustments by knowing the height of your child from the waist (so you can guess where the monitor should be located). And if you know his leg height, I think a fully depressed throttle should use about 2/3 of his / her full leg length. The rest you can do on Christmas day! 

From the image above we had several changes before we settled on getting the pedals moved forward and starting again:

foot on the throttle

Force Feedback, depending on the wheelbase you’re using, can potentially be overpowering for a small child.

Fanatec Direct Drive Wheels

The CSL DD you see in the photos has a boost kit but while Ferdinand is learning, it’s set to 40% in the Fanatec tuning menu. That CSL DD should last a very long time, so I’m happy to manage the FFB levels instead of buying lesser hardware. 

CSL DD settings - note FFB is set to mak 50%
CSL DD settings – note FFB is set to mak 50%

You have to remember to set some expectations, and work on confidence building. Force Feedback feels weird at first, and there’s lots of UI work to do – depending on the age of your child, they might not have a huge amount of Windows experience. My lad does have some karting experience but only at a Bambino level, so it’s difficult to know what software (games or sim) he’d initially prefer. If nothing else this whole experience has taught him a powerful life skill: to ask when you’re not sure!

On that note, it’s very smart to setup the wheelbase for whatever software you’re planning to use. I recently asked on Reddit and here were the most popular “first time sim” games (“simcade”, really – but I don’t get caught up in that sort of nonsense).

Here were the favourites:

– Wreckfest (comes with CSL DD presets – notchy FFB though)

– BEAM.ng (Ross is working on the guide to this as we speak)

– Forza (I’m a bit take or leave it here)

– Project Cars (meh)

– iRacing (Alrighty then!)

To be fair, I think the FFB doesn’t make a huge amount of sense in Wreckfest. It is fun though and your new sim racer will like it, but probably quickly want to get on with the actual racing. 

On that note we ran Wreckfest for an hour or so and then I put him in the F4 in iRacing. He preferred it, even though the settings and supervision really count. He’s naturally using opposite lock to attempt to catch a slide and he’s starting to learn Silverstone National, too.

As I’d set up the car in iRacing this is a more intuitive approach for me. I’d recommend that whatever game they end up playing, you’ve done your background research on the software settings and FFB tuning. We don’t want any nasty surprises.

A Process of Patience and a Great Learning Opportunity

Ultimately, these steps are a process – some for you, the parent and some to take your new apprentice through. 

iRacing’s UI can be learned in small chunks. Make sure the wheel button mapping, pedals etc are all pre-configured. That way, you’re teaching how to power on the PC, open the iRacing UI and select a test drive. 

We still haven’t finished learning car control – the F4 is easy to drive but I think a Formula Vee will be the better bet. Kids learn, sometimes very quickly, and sometimes they need practice. Patience through this stage is so vitally important.

Something I learned is that your kids want to give sim racing a try but it’s likely more because (at first, at least) they want to spend time with you. And vice versa, I expect. 

So good luck getting everything set up. If you think I’ve missed something in this post, add in the comments or drop me a line and I’ll add it. 

What I Learned Building My 7-Year-Old a Sim Rig Pt.2