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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
2016 Race Report



Here's a Sculpture!
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Please contact Tom Jones if you have anything to add or update to this content, or would like our photos of your team’s entry.

Saturday 7 May 2016

What a glorious 18th Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore! With highly favorable weather, a delightful assortment of sculpture teams brought amazing human-powered amphibious art for the 14-mile race. A team of 9 KineticBaltimore.com photographers took to kayak, bicycle, scooter, automobile, and more to document the race for the Kinetically Curious. We proudly present our 2016 race coverage.

To see others’ coverage of the race, or to tell others about your race experiences, be sure to check out the Kinetic Forum.

The Bees’ Knees

Taking home the trophy for 2016 Grand Mediocre East Coast Champion was The Bees’ Knees, a team from Washington DC entering their third race, a gathering of 9 bees and 1 beekeeper.

The Kinetic Sculpture Race begins with a LeMans Start, in which all the racers are away from their vehicles. After the opening ceremonies, the 10am gong sounds to start the race, and costumed pilots and crew run down Federal Hill to jump into their vehicles and begin the 14-mile journey.

The Race Rules state “Each Sculpture must carry at all times 1 comforting item of psychological luxury heretofore referred to as the ‘Homemade Sock Creature’ (HSC).” The Bees’ sock creature is a yellow-eyelashed bee flying from the hive.

Other bees were decorated 12-ounce cans with eyes, wings, legs, and antennae, held aloft by wires from a skeleton umbrella.

The hive was rather sturdily held afloat by an array of 5-gallon water bottles as pilots paddled.

The Bees traversed the sand without external assistance.

Getting through the mud required pit crew to push. Pushing is allowed for non-ACE entries.

This team won awards both times they entered before 2016:

With bees still flying, they broke through the tape at the American Visionary Art Museum finish line to complete the race.



King Bal-Tut-More

The Human-powered amphibious sarcophagus King Bal-Tut-More featured spectacular decoration to win the coveted Art Award.

King Tut also required pushing through the mud.

The sarcophagus lid opened and closed with a hand crank, and an integrated decorated latching mechanism prevents untoward mummy escapes. This is precisely the sort of over-the-top engineering that is welcomed in kinetic circles.

Prior St. Paul’s School entries were:



Birdie: The Sculpture Vulture

This giant vulture features impressive engineering innovation. Four unicycles were connected by a rocker-differential suspension system inspired by Mars Curiosity Rover. With 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel steering, and all wheels in contact with whatever terrain it’s crossing, Birdie the Sculpture Vulture posessed phenomenal traction and agility for its lightweight design. This is the first entry from a new team from St. Casimir’s Catholic School in Canton, right along the Kinetic Sculpture Race course.

Exiting the water without assistance is one of the most challenging aspects of the racecourse. Buoyancy reduces traction (especially on rear wheels), and the sloping wet exit ramp increases the degree of difficulty. Birdie drove straight out.

Driving straight through the mud without stopping clinched the Engineering award for this new team.

Here they receive the Engineering trophy.

The vulture’s “feathers” were 500 repurposed plastic milk cartons.



Da Vinci Dogs

Da Vinci Dogs rode their straightforward design at a rapid pace to win the Speed award.

“Guys, this is easier than I thought! … Where’d you go?”

Have you ever wondered* why pontoons always seem to be on the far left and right, rather than the middle? On the water, the Dogs demonstrated the risk of medial flotation. The larger of 2 rear pilots sank a bit lower in the water, and without lateral flotation there was no countervailing force to prevent the rear portion’s complete inversion, severing their connection from the lead pilot.


* Probably not, but bear with me.

In the mud, their finial horse made its getaway.

Accompanying their sock creature stretched over a beverage can, the rat was highly reminiscent of these prior entries:

At sunset, pilots carried the Speed trophy from the awards ceremony.



Tick Tock the Croc

The spectacular Tick Tock the Croc returned for a third year.

Weaving along the racecourse with an extensive library of site-appropriate musical accompaniment, the charismatic crocodile handily achieved an unprecedented sixth People’s Choice award. Ask any of the Chicken volunteers who polled the crowd—this reptile won more votes than all other entries combined.

For the water, Tick Tock donned a nostril regulator while dry ice clouds emerged from its belly.

Progress was good in the mud until all the wheels were engulfed, at which point pit crew pushed Croc through.



Thee Goatman Cometh

Murky tales near Beltsville report of a half-man half-goat. Thee Goatman Cometh channels Kinetic founder Hobart Brown going for ACE with hopes of glorious failure.

This exotically-steered single-pilot craft earned respect of its peers to win the Pilots’ Choice award.

On the water, Goatman propelled with single-side paddle propulsion with an oar for steering support.

Goatman cruised through the sand but bogged down in the mud.

One tread gave out in anguish at the end.

In prior years this award-winning sculpture was:



Scary, Scary Night

Manifesting every classic nightmare phobia for a slumbering monkey, Scary, Scary Night was a shoo-in for the 2016 Urban Myth and Monster Award.

They broke down just around the corner from the starting line, but were able to effect emergency repairs.

Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the pontoons, along with snakes and spiders and goat legs reaching out from other the bed.

When they got to the mud, they deployed a wacky roller fabric scheme that allowed them to drive over the fabric atop the mud. (They also hauled the muddy fabric away after driving over it.)

This was the eighth entry from Team Put a Lid On It of Takoma Park:



Nine Sculptures from Jemicy

For entering a perseverant gang of 9 ACE-attempting sculptures, all pilots and pit crew from Baltimore’s Jemicy School received the Spirit of the Founder award.

This green sculpture with fore nose and aft hands, Boogie Man, was the first of 2 four-pilot entries.

They crashed into the water to demonstrate their sculpture’s robust construction.

Boogie Man was successful at following the much stricter rules needed to win an ACE award, including:

  • No propulsion assistance from outside the vehicle
  • No swapping pilots off the vehicle
  • No feet on the ground

Cry Babies was the other 4-pilot Jemicy entry.

Since 2004, the Jemicy School has more sculptures than any other team:

Cry Babies suffered drive train problems and was unable to complete the race without pushing assistance.

Dragon Racer, with 2 pilots, also registered for ACE.

Dragon Racer persisted at the challenging water exit even after all other teams had left. While they successfully left the water, a hardware reconfiguration at left them unable to continue beyond Canton.

Pocket Monster also registered for ACE. Note that the pit crew member here is able to offer advice, and even physical support to prevent the sculpture from sliding backward. However, the slightest assistance moving the sculpture forward would forfeit ACE status.

Completing the mud without assistance meant the solo pilot need only ride on pavement back to AVAM to be awarded ACE.

Hydra is another solo-pilot Jemicy sculpture whose pilot achieved ACE.

Remaining on the sculpture when it’s not moving forward is not required to ACE—but getting back on after flying off in the mud is required.
Math-lete is another dual-front wheel trike, whose solo pilot also achieved ACE.

Pontoons were covered with equations and other mathematical glyphs.

Flying Phoenix was another solo-pilot sculpture.

Despite challenges like the mud, Flying Phoenix also achieved ACE.

Little Krach was a low-riding solo-pilot trike whose pilot also achieved ACE.

Ancient Hooptie included 2 pilots and 4 wheels, and also achieved ACE.

Once again, support crew for sculptures attempting ACE must be very careful to avoid providing any forward support. Here his hands are raised to make it clear no propulsion is being provided.



Stumti the Tremendous Stork

The Soda Quackers of northeast Pennsylvania brought Stumpti the Tremendous Stork and won Best Costumes for their team of pregnant nurses and babies, inspired by their 2-month old member (plastic stunt double included for photographic purposes).

At the water entry, the stork’s bounty splashed down, and the crowd gasped as if an actual baby was being dunked in the Harbor.

“Stumti” is Lithuanian for “push”.

Earlier Soda Quackers successes are:



Dr. Disaster’s Spin Cycle

Dr. Disaster’s Spin Cycle won the Golden Flipper award, given each year to the team with the “Most interesting water entry”. For most races, “interesting” equates to “catastrophic”. For 2016 in Baltimore, it meant a novel and effective aquatic propulsion mechanism. At splashdown, the two pilots repositioned into fore and aft seats with separate sets of pedals. Each pedal was attached by a chain to a pontoon axle. Each pontoon was wrapped in tentacles that formed a screw to drive the sculpture forward as the pontoon rotated. A very clever combination of flotation and propulsion!

Pit crew wore matching squid-themed helmets.

Dr. Disaster’s’ pilots required pushing assistance in the sand.

The pilots themselves got out to help push through the viscous mud, which this year possessed an optimal combination of splash and high viscosity.

Their sock creature was trapped by squid mandibles.



Mobile Mobile

The Baltimore Lab School created the homonymic Mobile Mobile, bearing Alexander Calder-style artwork.

Soaping the track allowed balls to roll freely during the race.

Flotation drums easily withstood a hearty crash into the sea.

They received the Judges’ Fill-in-the-Gap award, reportedly due to one judge’s obsession with saying the name of Peggy Guggenheim during the award ceremony.

After taking 2015 off, this sculpture returned for a third year:



The Golden Eyedra and the Elusive Πλατύπους

Team Hess returned with the magnificent Golden Eyedra and the Elusive Πλατύπους, where the Greek word is pronounced rather like the English “Platypus”. Platypuses were notoriously elusive in ancient Greece, with not a single mention among the known works of Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, or Euclid.

Click for epic detail.

As always, the sculpture performed beautifully on the water, with aft paddlewheel and steering oarsmen.

With a bit of extra work, they made it through the mud with only a bit of assistance.

After the mud, they visited the Eyedra wash.

The PLATYPUS has been an amazing sight at Baltimore Kinetic races for over a decade:

  • 2015 as PLATYPUS Lost in Space
  • 2014 as PLATYPUS LOST
  • 2013 as PURPLE PLATYPUS
  • 2012 as El PLATYPUS
  • 2011 (Grand Champion)
  • 2010 (Best Pit Crew award)
  • 2009 (People’s Choice)
  • 2008
  • 2007 (Engineering award)
  • 2006 (Engineering and People’s Choice)
  • 2005 (Grand Champion)

and before that, David Hess created Louie the Dog:

  • 2004 (Golden Flipper award)
  • 2003 (Engineering award)

and he was rumored associated with:



Monsters Inc. Crew

Monsters Inc. Crew is the third entry from this team of middle school students from Millersville, with amphibious modification of a manufactured 4-person bicycle carriage, topped by James P. Sullivan.

They cranked through the sand surprisingly well, although they needed pushing through the mud.

Many of this team raced last year:



Wheel of (Mis)Fortune

From Team 1,800 Lbs came their latest, Wheel of Misfortune, with prize-labeled spinning wheels on both sides.

Pilots and crew were Vanna and contestants.

A key to success on the water is having a lot of extra buoyancy. You can tell these people know what they’re doing, as half their pontoons are out of the water—leaving plenty of extra flotation as weight, wind, and current shift.

A judge spun the wheel 3 times and each time hit “Bankrupt”. His prize was a wheel-segment award of a lifetime membership in Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, earning Wheel of (Mis)Fortune the Best Bribes award.

Other prizes they awarded included unlimited pet rats, a free trash can from the City, a free swimming lesson in the Inner Harbor, and a free ride on the Charm City Circulator.

Pilots heaved the wheels through the sand without assistance,…

although a great deal of pushing was required at the mud.

This is the tenth annual entry from mighty Team 1,800 Lbs:



Monsters of the Middle School Brain

A new team from Baltimore County Public Schools Education Foundation created Monsters of the Middle School Brain, with four seats available to pilots.

The sculpture embodied a variety of concerns specific to twenty-first century young scholars.

From the starting line, pilots contributed little propulsive power. The industrious support received the Best Pit Crew award.

”You said there’s a what passing a what on Key Highway?”



Rōninferno

The Make Believers’ Rōninferno is Samurai who collided with demon Wanyudo while cycling up Mount Fuji. Their wheels caught fire and the warriors’ souls were sucked into the spirals of flame.

Thus is the infernal terror of masterless samurai.

Pilots cheerfully employed a soul-catcher on a stick that pulled souls into an infernal retention system on board.

For this glittery demonic masterpiece, they won Sock Creature of the Universe.

This is the fifteenth year for the Make Believers :



OMHS Scorpion

For this jolly catastrophe on the water, OMHS Scorpion won Worst Honorable Mention, the latest of many wooden-frame sculptures to encounter significant difficulty on the racecourse.

However, the students of Oakland Mills High School pulled their scorpion mascot out of the water and continued through the racecourse. (This may be the first-ever cross between a scorpion and a unicorn.)

Scorpion raced last year, too:



Poe’s Toaster

Each year from the 1930s through 2009, early in the morning on the January 19th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, a shadowy figure with a black hat and scarf would approach Poe’s original gravesite at the Westminster Hall and Burial Ground in Baltimore and raise a cognac toast. Poe’s Toaster celebrates this decades-long mysterious tradition.

Poe’s Toaster provided the first sighting of a Greenland Paddle at the Baltimore Race.

Tux pit crew on a tall bike.



Kracken Upcycle

The 2015 reigning champion from University of Maryland Baltimore County returned Kracken Upcycle, built from found and repurposed materials.

The guy in the green sweatshirt has no idea what he’s about to witness.

A sturdy frame held the flotation up on land, and held the sculpture up on water.

The Kracken again performed well on all terrain and water.



Fifi the Poodlecorn Unicorn

From the race sponsor American Visionary Art Museum came Fifi the Poodlecorn Unicorn, the giant pink mascot inspiring kinetic greatness since 2001.

Poodle passing zone up Federal Hill!



Wasn’t Built in a Day

From the Friends School of Baltimore came Wasn’t Built in a Day. In an exciting authority twist, a unicorn rode in the carriage pulled along by humans.

In 2014, they raced

Note to future Kinetinauts: consider carefully before employing small non-pneumatic wheels.

Their journey ended on Pratt Street, when violent side-to-side oscillations on the smooth pavement snapped the trailer’s tongue.



Leg Power!

This year’s largest wheels belonged to Leg Power!, whose giant dicycle design resembles Unwheeldy from the 2005 and 2006 California Kinetic Sculpture Race World Championships. However, it never seemed to move under its own power, and the pilots hauled it on foot even at the start of the race.

I think this is supposed to be round.

After dumping their sculpture carcass on private property, the Leg Power! team continued on bicycles, with foam noodles as symbolic representation of their entry.

For its ambitious design that utterly failed, they received the Golden Dinosaur award, created by Dr. Laurence J. Peter (who invented the Peter Principle).



Kinetic Kouch Reborn

In 2011, the Kinetic Couch celebrated couch surfing—but did not complete the course. Five years later, Kinetic Kouch Reborn appeared and gloriously completed the entire course.

Kinetic Kouch Reborn rolled down the ramp and splashed into the water. It looked like three people sitting on a partially-submerged sofa, with a mostly submerged table, rather like what you'd expect if you were watching a football game in the basement and didn't notice your sump pump failed. The crowd recognized they had no apparent means of locomotion. At that point, the pilots reached behind their heads and pulled up the lamps, and the crowd cheered as they realized the lamps were also oars.

Traversing the sand on small-diameter wheels with low-gnarl tires required rope assistance.

The entre apparatus lifted for pit stop for repairs in Butchers’ Hill.

For slowly completing the course, the Kouch won the Next-to-Last award.



Big Foot

This sculpture showed up before the start, but never crossed the starting line. As far as we can tell, the plastic sheeting was intended to be part of the sculpture, not a protective cover. Section 2b of the race rules requires a tow ring, and this one is also a toe ring.

The Dumpster Divers had raced every year since 1999, the first year of the Baltimore Kinetic Race:



Opening Ceremonies

Starting the opening ceremony was The New Baltimore Twilighters Marching Band.

The National Anthem was sung a capella by the Music for Everyone Lancaster Community Chorus.

AVAM Founder Rebecca Hoffberger announced the opening, followed by Blessing of De Feet by Delegate Luke Clippinger.



Thank you!

We’re extremely grateful to the many Baltimore City Police Department officers who provided escorts and traffic safety throughout the race,

and the Baltimore City Fire Department who provided safety everywhere, especially Canton,


Volunteers, Spectators, & Pit Crew

Here are examples of people who know how to make a good impression at an important event. If you’re interested in learning how to help this wonderful race next year, join the volunteer email list.



The KineticBaltimore.com team

The KineticBaltimore.com Team works to bring you the Kinetic Race Experience through Photography.

Amy Swackhamer

Bob Wojack

Christian Bottorff

Derrick Dasenbrock

Howard Wellman

Margie Hatch

Johanna Goderre Jones

Rich Wilke

Tom Jones

Rampmaster Paul Brinkley

Melina and Bob Meshako of the HMS Yellowbottom



Show individual pages
  1. The Bees’ Knees
  2. King Bal-Tut-More
  3. Birdie: The Sculpture Vulture
  4. Da Vinci Dogs
  5. Tick Tock the Croc
  6. Thee Goatman Cometh
  7. Scary, Scary Night
  8. Nine Sculptures from Jemicy
  9. Stumti the Tremendous Stork
  10. Dr. Disaster’s Spin Cycle
  1. Mobile Mobile
  2. The Golden Eyedra and the Elusive Πλατύπους
  3. Monsters Inc. Crew
  4. Wheel of (Mis)Fortune
  5. Monsters of the Middle School Brain
  6. Rōninferno
  7. OMHS Scorpion
  8. Kraken Upcycle
  9. Poe’s Toaster
  1. Fifi the Poodlecorn Unicorn
  2. Wasn’t Built In a Day
  3. Leg Power!
  4. Kinetic Kouch Reborn
  5. Big Foot
  6. Opening Ceremonies
  7. Thanks!
  8. Volunteers, Spectators & Crew
  9. The KineticBaltimore.com Team
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The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is sponsored and run by the American Visionary Art Museum. KineticBaltimore.com is the volunteer work of Tom Jones.
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