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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
2011 Race Report: The Lobe Trotters



Here's a Sculpture!
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The Lobe Trotters

The Janelia Farm campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn pooled their scientific minds to create the spectacular Lobe Trotters colossal all-terrain brain.

With on-board DJ setup and synchronized subcortex illumination, industrial-strength chassis and gnarly wheels, it looked like nothing would stop the Lobe on its Trot…

But as they crested Federal Hill, one of their two motorcycle power chains severed under the load, and the Lobe suffered a seizure. Without tools to break and repair the chain, its terrestrial progress for the rest of the race depended upon being pushed by its crew.

Kinetic races have seen the failure of many a bicycle chain1 stressed beyond its capacity. However, we’ve never seen any other instance in which a motorcycle chain2 has failed.

This photo shows after they had trailered the Lobe to the water entry, under the distant watchful eye atop the National Bohemian building.

Due to this surprising failure, they received the Worst Honorable Mention, given in this case for a design that should have done better.


1ANSI series 40, with 810lb working load
2ANSI series 80, with 3300lb working load

On the water, the Lobe was superb and swift. The recumbent Lobe pilots easily passed other teams stooped over with oars.

The Trotters pushed the Lobe throught the knolls of Patterson Park to reach the sand and mud.

With a tow crew, the Lobe made it through the mud.

Portals into the brain demonstrated some of its functions. Note that a chocolate bar appears in both “joy” and “addiction”.

Here they proudly receive their trophy at the awards ceremony. We hope they repair the chain and come back with Lobe 2.0 in 2012.

Crew costumes were lab coats and an unusual array of scientific headgear, including a helmet-mounted microscope made of foam.

See their article and a fabulous video at the HHMI Bulletin.


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  1. Champion PLATYPUS
  2. Ankh-ers Away
  3. The Lobe Trotters
  4. Pussy Galore
  5. When Hell Freezes Over
  6. Go Ask Alice
  7. The Boxer Bee
  8. Jemicy’s Vechysvboat, Einherjar, Odin, Ve and Vidar, Buri, and Brunehilde
  9. Am-ish sin Caballo
  10. Claw Machine
  1. The V-8 Power Plants
  2. Itty Bitty Charm City
  3. Margot the Escargot
  4. Bee-Have
  5. Bob
  6. Idol 001
  7. Speed Racer
  8. Batmobile
  9. T-Wrecks Reformed
  10. Star Fisher
  11. The PolyGnomials
  1. The Kipplala
  2. The Firebreather
  3. Cat-amaran
  4. AVAM’s Fifi is a Lucky Dog, Bumpo, and Frog
  5. Kinetic Couch
  6. Thanks! Batala, Baltimore Police, and HMS Yellowbottom
  7. Volunteers
  8. Spectators
  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.
If you have any suggestions about making this site better, or any questions, you can e-mail Tom at tjones@spril.com.