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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
2017 Race Report

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Please contact Tom Jones if you have anything to add or update, or would like our photos of your team’s entry.

Saturday 6 May 2017

It was a cool spring day in Baltimore, and the theme was FOOD. On the southwest corner of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, 24 teams were finalizing their entries for the judges and the starting line, and 1 team was still rigging their trailer hitch, hoping not to miss the start. (They did.) A glorious day!

For hours, clouds threatened rain—but only for an hour at mid-day did they dump their drops, accompanied by heavy winds that made the water entry a lot more interesting.

Our team of 6 kinetic photographers followed the race from start to finish, taking 5,816 photos. The best 268 are in this report.

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

2017 Grand Champion: Cowsmic Moobeams

Having won the 2016 Engineering award with their first-ever entry, Birdie: The Sculpture Vulture, St. Casimir’s Catholic School in Canton returned to win the 2017 Grand Mediocre Championship with Cowsmic Moobeams, portraying ungulate space travel in the form of an amphibious human-powered racing sculpture.

The cow started the race wearing a spacesuit. It was speedy and smooth on pavement, here rounding Key Highway in South Baltimore.

The cobblestones around the National Katyn Memorial were no challenge to the space cow. If you’re building a sculpture, note the emotional appeal of putting a face on the front of it.

By tradition, Kinetic Sculpture Races begin with a Le Mans style start. Sculptures are parked adjacent to the American Visionary Art Museum, and pilots and pit crew climb Federal Hill. When Sister O’Blivion strikes the launch gong, the costumed racers run down the steep grassy slope to their crafts, and drive off.

The afternoon finish line is also next to AVAM, and racers break the tape with completing months of hard work.

The sign at St. Casimir’s school proudly announced the race.

As she prepared for the water entry, Cowsmic Moobeams dramatically shed her spacesuit to reveal a yellow polka-dot bikini.

The four-unicycle independent suspension inspired by Mars Curiosity Rover allowed for amazing transit through the mud challenge in Patterson Park. It’s almost impossible for a sculpture on standard mountain bike tires to traverse the mud without assistance—yet Cowsmic Moonbeams plowed through.

Anyone who’s used bicycle wheels on a kinetic sculpture knows about the dreaded taco—when a wheel bends like a taco. Bike wheels are aggressively optimized for minimal weight and become fragile in kinetic conditions: heavier loads and lateral forces.

Fortunately for racers, Baltimore’s Station North Tool Library is on the scene ready for on-site repairs, even welding.

This is the Cowsmic team shortly before the awards ceremony when they were declared Grand Champions.

Cowsmic Moobeams approaching Stargate Baltimore.

Petal to the Metal

This colossal human-filled flower basket Petal to the Metal won the coveted Art award. Pilots were effectively camouflaged under the flowers made of painted stockings stretched over wire frames.

With a gentle splash, they entered the choppy water.

Once they exited the water and turned toward the roadway, three of their four wheels tacoed and instantly put them out of commission. Fortunately, they had four spare wheels—and were soon ready to leave the Canton Waterfront.

The great basket also traversed the mud with ease. Thanks to rain, the 2017 mud was wetter than usual, making it a little easier than most years.

Flower Basket with a green light down Lombard Street.

The business end of four oars were affixed to rotating PVC pipes, with central reinforcement, allowing them to use a single powertrain that converted between land and sea.

Section 1+ of the Official Rules requires every team to carry at all times a mandatory sock creature. “Homemade Sock Creature must be made in a home, from a not-too-recently-worn sock from the home, and resemble a creature homemade from a sock.” This team’s sock creature was nestled among a basket of adorables.

This team from Takoma Park has entered 9 years in a row:

BEATrice the unBEATable

The Soda Quackers of Pennsylvania created BEATrice the UnBEATable, the first 4-pilot combo mixer and blender. Its effective mechanical flourishes won the Engineering award.

As teams started to enter the water, a squall arrived with strong eastward winds that pushed sculptures into the pier at the water entry.

Past Soda Quackers entries were:

Cogs and a rotating shaft enabled a hand crank to rotate the beaters and agitate balloons in the blender jar.

Passing the Maryland Science Center getting close to the finish line. BEATrice received the Engineering trophy from bewigged judge Luke Clippinger.

PLATYPUS Australian Cold-Cut Sub

David Hess’ PLATYPUS (Personal Longrange All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe) dove fully into the 2017 FOOD theme by transforming into a colossal 9-person cold cut submarine sandwich.

The captain of each kinetic team is polled to identify which of their fellow teams they find most awesome, and PLATYPUS won Pilots’ Choice.

With a heavy-duty welded chassis based on automobile components, PLATYPUS fearlessly charges straight into the water for a bold splash.

Pilots avoided the splash by climbing up into the frame as PLATYPUS careened into Baltimore Harbor.

PLATYPUS flamboyantly drove backwards through the mud, using its lowest gear, and with pit crew behind providing support.

Countering the strong eastward wind required two pit crew pulling the PLATYPUS toward the pier.

That’ll be a 24-foot sub, to go.

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

  • 2016 as The Golden Eyedra and the Elusive Πλατύπους
  • 2015 as PLATYPUS Lost in Space (2015 Space Cadet award)
  • 2014 as PLATYPUS LOST
  • 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:

Nator Racer

From race sponsor Tröegs Brewing Company of Hershey, Pennsylvania comes their mascot Tröegenator in kinetic mascot form. The Nator Racer horned viking carried a keg in each hand. His head bobbled enthusiastically through the race.

On water, the strong winds blew his dramatic hair and beard as invectives emanated from within.

The queue for the mud pit gave pilots off-the-clock rest, and spectators a chance to see entries up close.

Nator Racer required pit crew to push through the mud, but pushing is legal for all but ACE-seeking sculptures.

The anthropomorphic face on the front of this sculpture lent a strong sense of intent as it dashed through the racecourse.

This team knows how to race.

What Time Is It?

Last-minute entry What Time Is It? had a straightforward mechanical design festooned with bright colors. It was clear winner of the Speed award, for fastest completion of the racecourse (after accounting for any time penalties, which in this case had no impact on their ranking).

The fat tires were a big improvement over normal mountain bike tires in the mud (although with bogged pontoons, pilots must still put forth effort!).

At the Patterson Park Pagoda, pit crews were challenged to launch marshmallows through a missing tooth in the AVAM Kinetic Smile.

They were first across the finish line, more than 2 minutes ahead of the second team.

This is the third Speed award won by this group:

Another pretty face.

Tick Tock the Croc

Tick Tock the Croc is a perennial favorite, back for a fourth year. With jubilant soundtrack, relentlessly cheerful pilots, and unbounded enthusiasm turning circles on Key Highway during moments of traffic congestion, its joy is contagious. Based on spectator polling by volunteer Kinetic Chickens, it was far and away the winner of the People’s Choice award for crowd favorite—again.

Tick Tock has won People’s Choice every year it’s raced. When giving out the trophy, the judges specifically challenged other teams to return with something that could unseat Tick Tock in 2018.

Tick Tock featured an illuminated chin, and dry ice fog on the water.

Pit crew helped tow him out of the water exit.

The team also towed along a popcorn popper, providing snacks to all.

Earlier instances were:

Tick Tock didn’t seem to do much for this year’s FOOD theme, aside from the peanut-butter clad pit crewmate.

Tick Tock also visited the American Visionary Arts Museum Jim Rouse Visionary Center.

Kracken Calamari

Last year’s foreboding Kracken Upcycle has found itself on a dinner plate, transformed into Kracken Calamari. For this profound embodiment of the 2017 FOOD theme, they won the 2017 Big Weiner Award.

Affixed to the back was a receipt from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) Grill.

Instead of paddlewheels or propellers, they relied on simple oars on the water. This works acceptably in typical kinetic race conditions—but with this year’s strong winds, they were pushed hard against the pier on the way in.

They had an easy time in the sand.

Prior entries from the UMBC Kinetic Sculpture Race Team were:

Judges Ed and Kim presented the Big Weiner trophy.

Four from Jemicy School

The 3D Industrial Design Kinetic Sculpture Race Class at the Jemicy School in Baltimore County fielded another group of ACE-winning sculptures this year.

The 5-pilot Open Wide, Here Comes the Plane features a pablum-filled spoon ready for infant consumption.

It featured an innovative center steering wheel, controlled by a non-propulsive standing pilot (who counts as a Barnacle because he did not help propel the craft, and since he rode the entire race and weighed at least 93 pounds, yielded a time bonus). This team completed all of the additional stringent rules throughout the racecourse required to win an ACE under the unceasing watchful eye of a dedicated ACE judge.

Since the waves were rougher than usual, roll stability became a concern; here the pilots lean to starboard as the port bow pontoon submerged. (They had enough foam on top to prevent the Pontoon Effect from causing a full capsize roll, however. Prospective Kinetinauts, take note!)

ACE pilots must make continuous progress through all obstacles. If they remain in the same spot for one minute, the countdown timer begins. This team was stuck, but their countdown went from 10 to only 8 before they broke free and were able to finish the mud.

ACE pit crew are permitted to touch the sculpture—but not give it any forward propulsion whatsoever, especially in the mud.

A proud team on its way to ACE.

Racers are encouraged to bribe Kinetic Kops during the race; there’s even an award. Jemicy’s 3-d printed kinetic chicken-winged coat of arms (shown here in the hands of Sister O’Blivion), meant Jemicy received the Best Bribes award.

With 4 pilots, Like Peas in a Pod featured a brimming central pod, and a well-placed pontoon at each corner. They also achieved ACE status throughout the race.

Since 2004, the Jemicy School has entered a colossal array of sculptures:

The single-pilot You Scream, Ice Cream! also achieved ACE, a cone with a cherry on top.

With narrower tires, this countdown got all the way to 1—in just a few more seconds the pilot would have lost her ACE.

Heavy winds also caused these two Jemicy sculptures to collide in the water.

The other single-pilot Jemicy entry was Doughnut Get in My Way. The hardest part of the racecourse to ACE is the water exit. Since most sculptures are rear-wheel drive, flotation can prevent traction to leave the water unassisted. After extended hard work, this pilot was able to crank his way out of the water to the cheers from the crowd and this enthusiastic crew member. The pilot went on to complete an ACE, adding 4 to the growing count for Jemicy.

In a Pickle

The only non-Jemicy team to achieve ACE in 2017 was In a Pickle, shown here about to cross the starting line.

The pickle cruised quickly along Pratt Street through the Inner Harbor.

Just before the water entry, the Pickle’s pontoons pivoted and remained low for the rest of the race.

At the water exit, the Pickle got stuck with mechanical problems, and was passed by several sculptures. For obstructing the flow of traffic, it won the Golden Dinosaur award, unusual for an ACE team.

After the sand and mud, the Wash World volunteer crew cleans up racers to complete the race.

Passing back through the inner harbor in the afternoon.

The Gottwald family had entered earlier:

You Stay Trashy, Baltimore

Inspired by Mr. Trash Wheel, Team 1,800 Lbs built an elegant, trash-collecting sculpture devoted to making the city a less dirty place, complete with googly eyes and conveyor belt that accumulated waste along the racecourse.

Floated by 5-gallon water jugs and foam, the pilots paddled with oars.

Pit crew enthusiastically assisted the mud crossing.

Pit crew also carried trash cans, and for their enthusiasm and benevolence received the Best Pit Crew award.

Team 1,800 Lbs has entered eleven consecutive years:

Holy Mackerel

Holy Mackerel created a wheeled underwater world with an transparent blue roof illuminating an assortment of hand-crafted coral, fishes, jellyfish, and other fantastic sealife made of recycled materials.

Here’s what it looked like from the outside.

These creative decorations nearly won the Art award.
They also won Sock Creature of the Universe for this darned charming instance, awarded by a separate judiciary dedicated to this award.

This team has won an award every time they enter:

Neoprene was a prescient costume choice on this chilly, windy, splashy day. With the added assortment of aquatic-themed pit crew costumes, the Judges awarded them Best Costumes.

Jake’s Nightmare

Jake’s Nightmare was created by the Baltimore Lab School and appears based on the namesake dog in Adventure Time. (If you know more about this theme, please let us know.)

It received the Golden Flipper award.

This team’s three prior entries—all award-winners—were:

Corn Goddess

From the Waldorf School of Baltimore, Corn Goddess faced fore and aft with homages to blue and yellow corn.

The pit crew were an assortment of butterflies, bees, fairies, and other pollinators.

The Waldorf School also entered five years ago:

Unfortunately, we didn’t see them after this point in Harbor East.

Park School B-B-B-Bacon

Park School B-B-B-Bacon is from a new team at the Park School of Baltimore.

The Park School teacher who launched their Kinetic Sculpture Racing team, Mike Guarraia, had also led Kinetics at Arbutus Middle School. For spreading kinetics, he was awarded Spirit of the Glorious Founder.

Ice Ice Huskies

With a large orangesickle, snow kone, and ice cream sandwich attached, Ice Ice Huskies was built by a new team from Patterson Mill High School in Bel Air.

Seafood’s Revenge

Seafood’s Revenge portrays the rebellion of sea creatures fed up with years of overfishing, litter, and pollution. They take over a fishing boat, which they’ve adapted to fish for people on land. The fishermen thrown overboard haven’t given up, and are trying to retake the vessel.

Why yes, that is a giant Moby Dick sock creature eating Captain Ahab, and an octopus that’s wrapped around The Nevermore Captain’s brain!

This was the first entry from CAP Kinetic from the Patterson Park neighborhood, who were beset with plague of trailer, pedal, and inadequate ¾-inch axles problems. Pushing up Federal Hill kept them up in the race—at the beginning.

Nevertheless they persisted, pushing & riding their incompletely-decorated sculpture as far as they could, but never catching up with the pack (or the judges, who didn’t even know they were still in the race).

Finally, they went to the Awards Ceremony, where our photographers caught up with them, wondering where they’d been all day. CAP Kinetic promises to return in 2018, with a sculpture refined by countless lessons learned.

This photo provided by the team shows their full costumery.

OMHS Goes Bananas

Oakland Mills High School of Columbia created OMHS Goes Bananas, with 3 pilots and inflated banana pontoons.

2017 was the third consecutive year of OMHS Kinetic entries:

Unfortunately, their frame bent irreparably after the water portion, and they had to quit the race. The Judges were going to give them their Fill-in-the-Blank award, but no one from OMHS attended the Awards Ceremony, so they redirected it to another team. (The Judges transferred the award unawares the team had gone to the OMHS Prom, scheduled to begin as the race ended.)

When the Judges heard the team had missed the Awards Ceremony to attend their prom, they quickly made a new trophy and went to Oakland Mills High School to present the Original Judges’ Choice award.

SPSG Cargot

St. Paul’s School for Girls created the SPSG cargot, a single-pilot low-riding snail.

True to form, the sculpture was as fast as a gastropod, and won the Next-to-Last award with enthusiasm.

Prior St. Paul’s School entries were:

Fifi’s Diner

The American Visionary Art Museum race mascot returned to celebrate the FOOD theme as Fifi’s Diner, complete with guest check reading “What’ll you have, Hon?’, cat-eye glasses, pearls, and costumed crew.

Fifi stood out among the crowd at the Canton Waterfront.

Green Slime Mold

These comedic pilots of Green Slime Mold were cheerful but appeared unburdened by affiliation to reality. Here, they cross the starting line.

50 feet later came their first breakdown.

Keep your eye on the pontoon support bar as Slime Mold approached the water. Note how the bar is fully adequate for bearing the weight of the foam pontoons. However, as forces of physics transform at the water entry as weight-bearing shifts from wheels to pontoons, this poor unsuspecting bar would never be the same again.

Immediately after entering the water, the support bar was surprised to find itself suddenly bearing the weight of the racers and sculpture. It sheared like a cornstalk barbell, which the pilots celebrated as a delightful discovery.

The pilots paddled the wreckage around the pier (towed by a rope lest it drift away), and heaved the hulk up the ramp. At this point, their craft having faced the same general fate as Shackleton’s Endurance, they abandoned ship and were later found at the awards ceremony.

They were destined for the Worst Honorable Mention, given to “the Sculpture whose half-baked theoretical ‘engineering’ did not deter its Pilot(s) from the challenge of the race.

Oatmeals on Wheels

The Friends School of Baltimore created Oatmeals on Wheels, featuring pontoons comprised of Quaker Oats canisters, and led by a breakfast table complete with tablecloth, spoon, bowl of actual oatmeal, flowers, and air horn. It (eventually) won the Judges’ Fill-in-the-Blank Award.

On the water, their buoyancy was concentrated along the central axis from port to starboard, and they repeatedly pivoted alarmingly forward and back.

Prior entries from the Friends School were


The Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia created Corny-Copia, a 2-pilot sculpture full of inflatable bounty.

After an axle failure, Gorilla Tape held it together to Canton.

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

At Canton, they moved the inflatable fruits and vegetables from the top to a net under the sculpture to serve as flotation.

After the water entry, they had used up all their tape and axles, so they packed it up and drove to the finish.

Crab Sickle

Crabsickle was a giant cooked crab affixed to a bicycle.

This is the only spot we found the crab along the racecourse.

Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies started with the New Baltimore Twilighters Marching Band.

Then came the national anthem, sung by the Music for Everyone Lancaster Community Chorus.

Then the 2016 Champions swam onto the scene for the annual reignition of the eternal kinetic flame.

The crowd cheered...

Finally, Sister Euphonia O’Blivion gave the Blessing of De Feet, and the racers prepared for the Le Mans launchgong to start the race.


This race would not be possible without the Baltimore City Police Department, who ensure the human-powered sculptures safely navigate the racecourse.

This is not typical traffic enforcement.

The Baltimore City Fire Department provides safety, especially at the water.

And the Station North Tool Library provides repair services to keep Sculptures on the move!

Volunteers, Spectators, & Pit Crew

Here are examples of people who know how to make a good impression at an important event.

You can help the 2018 race: Join the volunteer email list!.

The team

This annual coverage on is brought to by the All-Terrain Photography Team:

  • Tom Jones
  • Derrick Dasenbrock
  • Johanna Goderre
  • Margie Hatch
  • Howard Wellman
  • Rich Wilke

We wish you a delightful year until the Kinetic Eternal Flame is reignited May 5, 2018!

Water Entry Choreography by Rampmaster Alan Duda and Dock Troll Stephen Duda.

With choppy water and high winds, splashes were much less predictable. After taking this shot, our “waterproof” camera never worked again.

Show individual pages
  1. 2017 Grand Champion: Cowsmic Moobeams
  2. Petal to the Metal
  3. BEATrice the unBEATable
  4. PLATYPUS Australian Cold-Cut Sub
  5. Nator Racer
  6. What Time Is It?
  7. Tick Tock the Croc
  8. Kracken Calamari
  9. Four from Jemicy School
  10. In a Pickle
  1. You Stay Trashy, Baltimore
  2. Holy Mackerel
  3. Jake’s Nightmare
  4. Corn Goddess
  5. Park School B-B-B-Bacon
  6. Ice Ice Huskies
  7. Seafood’s Revenge
  8. OMHS Goes Bananas
  9. SPSG Cargot
  1. Fifi’s Diner
  2. Green Slime Mold
  3. Oatmeals on Wheels
  4. Corny-Copia
  5. Crab Sickle
  6. Opening Ceremonies
  7. Thanks!
  8. Volunteers, Spectators & Crew
  9. The Team
3/3/2021 1:12:55 PM   3/4/2021 5:44:19 PM   1:106   2:   3:1   4:1   5:1   6:   7:   8:   9:2   10:   11:   12:1   13:2   14:   15:2   16:   17:1   18:5   19:1   20:2   21:2   22:2   23:4   24:   25:1   26:1   27:1   28:1   AllInOne:1
The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is sponsored and run by the American Visionary Art Museum. is the volunteer work of Tom Jones.
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