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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
Photos From the 2005 Race



Here's a Sculpture!

Saturday 30 April 2005

The Baltimore Harbor was just part of the watery excitement April 30—the morning rain soaked all at the Opening Ceremonies.  When the rain tapered off, the harbor filled the moisture gap and provoked even more mayhem than is customary at this sort of event.  Several sculptures foundered and one capsized.  Thanks to the rain, the mud was far less viscous than usual, resembling a great brown puddle.  This year's race featured 28 entries—more than ever before—and in many other ways was the grandest Baltimore race in history.  See the photos below, and even videos provided by KineticBaltimore's own Karen Wallace.

Cake on a Lake is a 15th birthday cake for its sponsor, Artex Fine Art Services. The woman with Baltimore beehive hair popped out of the cake as it navigated alongside the pier at Canton Waterfront Park. If you need any works of fine art transported, you will find no other vendor with the People's Choice award, chosen by the spectators. They also won a cherished ACE award—a major extra level of technical difficulty few sculptures achieve.  Among the ACE requirements, a  sculpture must receive no external assistance such as pushing in the mud, and pilots cannot exit the sculpture to fix or propel it.  An ACE is a phenomenal accomplishment for first-time entrants, especially when their work is as artistic as this.

This 9-seater is known as PLATYPUS. Eight independent bicycle pedal sets link into a master powertrain, using gearing so each pilot could pedal at their own personal rate. The sculpture weighs 3500 pounds with no one on it, and uses an SUV transmission providing 2-wheel-drive low gearing for pavement, and 4-wheel-drive high- and low-gearing for rough terrain. The Kinetinauts also took advantage of their reverse gear and pedaled forward while facing backwards to dramatically surge through the sand obstacle in Patterson Park. See the video of Platypus in the mud. PLATYPUS is short for Personal Longrange All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe.

PLATYPUS is also at home on the water, using pontoons of solid foam wrapped with duct tape, then painted to match the red and black color scheme.  The sculpture is the work of David Hess (responsible for the playful pooch Louie in 2003 and 2004), and Jason Bennett.  PLATYPUS clearly features the most robust engineering ever seen at the Baltimore race, but the judges chose to not give it an award for that.  Instead, the judges surprised even the PLATYPUS crew and gave it the Art award. Because it came in the exact middle of the finishers, it also won the East Coast Mediocre Champion awards and is eligible to go to California to participate in the World Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race. (See the Kinetic Pilgrimage link on the left menu for photos.) We also hope to see PLATYPUS back in Baltimore next year, perhaps festooned with expanded art.

Another new concept to hit the Kinetic Sculpture scene in 2005 was Tank o' Fish, an amphibious aquarium. They had all manner of exotic sea creatures contained within. For their visionary design, they won the Pilot's Choice award selected by their fellow Kinetinauts.

Team Miso brought this elegant dragon to the race. Through the mud, its back bounced up and down, and its tongue darted about. See the video! Miso's flotation cleverly consisted of an air mattress secured to the chassis, avoiding the Pontoon Effect* that has been the downfall of so many on these waters.

From the front, the dragon was even more dramatic! While the art is spectacular, the judges chose to give it the Engineering award. This award-winning sculpture is available for free to a good home! You could race it next year as-is, or apply your own design. For more information, contact michael.krushinsky@gmail.com.

Frank Conlan's gang of Make Believers converted last year's Cirque de Sore Legs into Westward Ho, complete with saloon girls, snake oil salesmen, miners, cowboys, and bandits. Not surprisingly, they won the Best Costumes award. (See also "A more serious note", below.)

The most dramatic action on the high seas occurred when It Cain't entered the water at Canton. They cast aside the outer hull of their sculpture, which sank into the water, and proceeded in a smaller lifeboat. "It Cain't" is an anagram of "Titanic". For this maneuver, they won the Golden Flipper award for most dramatic moment on the water. They also won the Speed Award for coming in first, once all penalties were accounted for.

Fifi looked a bit melancholy on the water, even as her pilots sported fashionable waterproof pink boots.  Fifi has long inspired Kinetinauts to build grander sculptures—compare these photos to those from 2001 to see how her shining example in those early days has yielded a crowd of delightfully festive entries now.  With a nice warm place to dry out and some attention to her right ear, Fifi will be as good as new for next year.  Throughout the year, if you visit the Visionary Art Museum, you can see Fifi in her barn awaiting the next race.

Artist Gavin Heck piloted the elephant, rechristening her Topsy's Reincarnation: Bumpo to commemorate the memory of an elephant electrocuted in 1903 on Coney Island by Thomas Edison as part of a stunt to demonstrate the alleged danger of alternating current. You can read more on the BBC website. Kinetic sculpture pioneer Hobart Brown, who came to Baltimore for the race, awarded Topsy the Spirit of the Glorious Founder, partly because a member of her pit crew provided him a white bow tie for which he had great need.

In 2002, there was a sculpture called the Galloping Cow (see the 2002 Gallery) which featured highly suspect engineering and was abandoned by her creators partway through the race (but then piloted by a series of others to the finish line!) The same folks returned this year, with The Galloping Cow Rides Again.

Less than 10 seconds after the above photo, the cow encountered some balance difficulties.  Its high center of gravity and the wind made it extremely susceptible to the Pontoon Effect*—even with poetic milk can pontoons.  The cow very quickly became the first sculpture in years to flip completely upside down. After the capsize, they salvaged her and transported her the rest of the race on a pickup truck. She was destined to win the Golden Dinosaur Award.

Last year's dragon returned, renamed the Ninja Dragon.  It looks a bit like one of the heads is thirsty for a drink.  Pontoon locking problems prevented the Ninja Dragon from completing the water segment. "Save the sock puppet!" shouted the pilot as she started sinking; after two tries the pilots gave up and retired to the Bush League.  The Dragon won the Best Bribes award.

Making its way through the sand obstacle was the return of La Kafkaracha, bringing Kafka's The Metamorphosis to life as a kinetic sculpture.

Bob Buerger returned for a sixth year as pilot of Kinetic Airways and won an ACE award for his robust engineering (including the spare parts you can see atop the wings). Here he navigates Federal Hill in the fog and rain at the start of the race.  The triangular building under his umbrella is the Baltimore Aquarium. Bob has won three ACE awards and in 2003 took home the Golden Dinosaur Golden Dinosaur for pretzelled his rear whel during the brake test, riding a fractured wheel halfway through the race, and exploding a wheel at a water entry

The Rat is back, as Teddy Brack returned from her home in Paris for the race. This year, she commemorates a member of the French Resistance, Baltimore's Virginia Hall, who was labeled by German wanted posters as one of the most dangerous of all Allies in France. You can see that this is a very fierce rat.

The Baltimore Lab School entered Ribbit, the bright blue frog, and had headgear to match. Ribbit was a Bush League sculpture, meaning it did not enter the water.

The Dumpster Divers returned with last year's Loco de Trash, which finished the race this year. The Dumpster Divers specialize in making interesting things out of what others have discarded.  To get through the mud, they spent considerable time laying track and advancing the train section by section. Due to the prolonged rain in the morning, the mud in the afternoon was somewhat soupy and not the viscous menace it had been in previous years. For their questionable "engineering", Loco de Trash won the Worst Honorable Mention award.

One of these automobiles is not like the others....

Crush Dude is an 11-foot-long loggerhead sea turtle successful on land and water. Team members Bruce Gugliuzza and his 9-year-old son Logan report they found or salvaged most of the parts, and spent a total of $5, splurging on new chain links.

From Towson University, Team Turtles had a great design, and festive helmets.

Big Baby was the first of three entries from the Jemicy School of Baltimore County. Note that the front wheel doesn't have a central hub, but instead has tracks around the rim.

Another Jemicy entry, the Gerbil and Chariot did reasonably well on land, but had significant difficulty when they entered the water.

The third Jemicy entry, Viking and Moose, crossed the tape at the finish line in style.

The students at Eldersburg Elementary School produced this tiger, called The Weasel, with teacher Denise Ovelgone.

This Conestoga Wagon came from the Carver Center, using components from 2004's Carver Coupe. On land, it was powered by two Kinetinauts; on the water, one pilot operated both sets of pedals by sitting in the middle with one foot on the medial pedal of each pair. To provide the ability to pull back on the pedals, the pilot's feet were strapped to the pedals with cable ties.

Here we see the water entry from the Belt Street Pilots' Association. While we're all a bit confused about the artistic meaning of this entry, the sculpture was sound.  (That colorful object in the close-up below is their mandatory sock puppet.)  See the video from the mud.  This sculpture survived the race intact, and is available for purchase at Second Chance Salvage on Warner Street behind Ravens Stadium. Team captain Mike Peters reports that proceeds from the sale will go toward completing a "big machine" for the 2006 race.

The Duck returned, and won the Next-to-Last award and for its jubilant cheering accompaniment, won the Best Pit Crew award as well.

Little is known about this Dustin Carlson entry, although it was generally successful.

The Frog also returned for another hop around Baltimore.

Bedlam brought back their blue-and-yellow style from Punxatawney.

Jimbo Hanson has been a member of pit crew or a pilot every year since Baltimore's first race in 1999. This year he won an unprecedented third ACE award, and also snagged the Sock Creature of the Universe award for his mandatory sock puppet. The rules state that each sculpture must carry at all times a homemade sock puppet, "made in a home, from a not-too-recently-worn sock from the home, and resemble a creature homemade from a sock."

The trophies this year were fabulous! From the Golden Flipper in the lower left corner, to the lucite pyramid filled with little yellow chicks, to the Golden Dinosaur on the right (the gold dinosaur atop a giant egg atop a bicycle wheel bent like a taco), the awards had grand flair and were the sort of thing to the place of honor in a Kinetinaut's home and inspire a return in 2006.

A more serious note:
While entering the water at Canton, the Westward Ho train lost control on the wet ramp and over several seconds skidded into the rocks, and apparently also into a young boy, who started screaming, "I'm gonna die!" While the Coast Guard called for an ambulance, the boy's father was eventually located, and a physician on the scene conducted a brief examination after which the boy was well enough to walk away. Please exercise due caution when attending races of any sort.

* What is the Pontoon Effect?
If a sculpture has two pontoons, it will be most stable if they are on the outside of the frame. However, if balance problems—which can even be caused by a steady wind from the side—ever cause the force on one pontoon to exceed its buoyancy and the pontoon goes under water, there is no longer any force to push the sculpture back upright and it will flip all the way over.  If you use pontoons and wish to avoid the Pontoon Effect on a 2-pontoon sculpture, you need to ensure that each pontoon has enough buoyancy to support the entire weight of your sculpture, and maybe even more if there will be wind torquing against a pontoon.  Notice that on well-constructed sculptures, like Fifi and PLATYPUS, their pontoons are mostly out of the water on calm seas, which keeps them afloat when times get rough.

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 any suggestions about making this site better, or any questions, you can e-mail Tom at tjones@spril.com.