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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
2023 Race Report: Engines & Dragons



Here's a Sculpture!
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Engines & Dragons

Among the 8 KineticBaltimore team members, by far the most-photographed was Engines & Dragons by team Cap Kinetic. You'll see why below.

It’s theme was Kyle who can’t fly due to poor vision, and who doesn’t like being called a “dragon” due to their fire-starting reputation. So he joined the Overlea Fire Brigade.

Their front logo commemorates the American LaFrance fire engine manufacturer from 1873–2014.

Kyle had his own helmet, and the members of the Baltimore City Fire Department escorting the race were very interested in the fire engine. It included functional lights, siren, and a ladder.

At the Le Mans start, they dashed down the hill toward their sculpture. Costumes were great, including a pilot dressed as a dalmatian, and pit crew dressed as fabulous fire.

On land, the sculpture proved generally effective, pleasing the crowd. They also got a lot faster after realizing the parking brake they installed the prior night was partially engaged for the first third of the race.

Spectators also loved the bubble cannon.

The start of the water entry went smoothly: driving down the ramp into the Chesapeake Bay.

Some sculptures don’t look like they’re designed to float, by concealing the flotation in the broader design. Such sculptures appear far more dramatic on the water.

You can see the sculpture is listing somewhat to starboard. Team Captain Action Pat explained their Nissan steering box necessitated putting the steering in the back row, and in order to see, the rear pilots had to be elevated. The result significantly raised the center of mass.

They also cut 50 pounds off the front axle to save weight—which reduced their below-waterline ballast. So the center of mass was likely well above the center of buoyancy reducing its static metastability. The addition of dynamic forces including waves, wind, and moving pilots, has the potential for catastrophe.

(More advanced coverage of hydrostatics and hydrodynamics is available from the US Naval Academy.)

Sculptures seeking ACE—like Engines & Dragons—have to navigate around a special buoy to demonstrate enhanced seaworthiness.

This is when things went wrong. Once they turned back toward land, they started to tip dramatically. That high center of mass meant there wasn't much righting force, so once the roll began it was almost impossible to stop.

Two Baltimore City Fire Department staff on shore reacted to this development.

You can see the hollow wheels also took on water, creating these decorative little wheel fountains as they emerged from the water. The pilots were concerned by larger matters as the capsize progressed.

On the ventral side of the sculpture, note the flotation is also concentrated along the center longitudinal axis, significantly reducing the moment of inertia required to initiate a roll along that axis. Widely-spaced pontoons would be far more stable, but also look a lot less like a fire truck.

As the Fire Department boats converged, Action Pat’s experience as a swift water rescue technician and rescue diver came in handy, and all four pilots got out from under the sculpture. We don’t recall another time a Baltimore sculpture flipped Poseidon Adventure–style, but we’re checking the archive.

The completely inverted sculpture achieved true stability, with the center of gravity well below the center of buoyancy. However, it’s difficult to make progress in this state.

Two firefighters dove in to ensure everyone was safe, then helped right the fire engine.

This is why the rules require an

Affixed tow ring, attached firmly to the front of the Sculpture…strong enough to heave the entire sculpture through and out of the water, mud, and other terrain

It’s thoroughly impressive that after a total capsize the team went on to finish the race, even with headlights still glowing.

From the outside, it looked like Engines & Dragons just needed some pushing through the sand. Wise spectators would be surprised, however, to see a pink-license plate ACE-attempting team needing so much help in the sand—as any team ready to drive through the mud unassisted usually has an easy time ACEing the sand.

Action Pat later reported the situation was much more challenging inside: his main axle freewheel “blew up” so his pedals spun without providing propulsion. The power brake motor and air horn compressor had also drowned in the harbor. Turning the sculpture upside down and shaking it in the harbor also jettisoned a variety of cargo intended to support the team, including vintage fire department lights, 2-way radios, a power tool battery, a Pixel 4a cellphone, and a wedding ring.

When you're no longer ACEing, tow rings come in handy at the mud, too.

If you count carefully, you’ll see only 3 pilots.

This is Team Cap Kinetic’s fifth Kinetic entry:

They’ve experienced more in 5 years than many teams experience in 10.

The apple nosed past on Light Street, leaving only one team behind them.

This photo supplied by the team shows them passing the Baltimore City Fire Department Repair Shop along Key Highway near the end of the race.

They joyously crashed through the finish line.

As only one team followed them across the finish line (Working Hard, or Bearly Working?) for their perseverance and not being last they won the Next-to-Last award.

Each team is required to carry “1 comforting item of psychological luxury heretofore referred to as the ‘Homemade Sock Creature’ (HSC)”. Young Amy is a special judge for this cateogry, and awarded Engines & Dragons Sock Creature of the Universe.

Engines & Dragons won two trophies, but neither reflected their involvement in the most dramatic scene on the water in over a decade.

The team that didn’t quit.

Learn more from their team Facebook page and Race Recap Blog Entry.

Here’s the team’s video showing their water entry excitement.


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Were you in the race?
Please contact Tom Jones if you have anything to add or update, or would like high-res photos of your team’s entry.
  1. Grand Champion: Mr. Jon Dig-It
  2. Cut Out to be Royal
  3. Engines & Dragons
  4. Scrap Life
  5. Happy Campers
  6. Tick Tock the Croc
  7. Working Hard, or Bearly Working?
  8. Jemicy: The Big 50, Good As Gold, AuSome, Gettin Gold, & Golden Moose
  1. Book of Platypology
  2. Wilson’s Pyramid
  3. Steve Punk
  4. Ridin’ Wormy
  5. Reverse Dog Sled
  6. Soccer Moms
  7. Neil Mobile
  8. USS Rosie the Recycler
  9. Patent Pending
  1. Fifi
  2. 2 Bee or Not 2 Bee
  3. CLAWdia
  4. Nanster Truck
  5. Opening Ceremony & Start
  6. Thanks!
  7. Volunteers, Spectators & Crew
  8. The Kinetic Baltimore Team
4/19/2024 5:15:36 PM   4/19/2024 10:01:11 PM   1:7   2:1   3:1   4:2   5:   6:   7:3   8:   9:1   10:   11:1   12:1   13:1   14:   15:1   16:1   17:1   18:   19:2   20:1   21:2   22:1   23:   24:1   25:1   AllInOne:1
The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is sponsored and run by the American Visionary Art Museum. KineticBaltimore.com is the volunteer work of Tom Jones.
If you have suggestions about making this site better, or questions, e-mail Tom at tjones@spril.com.