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Saturday 5 May 2012

Yes, America—there are still people who get out from behind their televisions and computers to build things and watch live entertainment. Few spectacles are as entertaining as the fourteenth running of the East Coast Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race.

With 34 sculptures from 28 teams, the streets, parks, and harbor of Baltimore hosted the spectacular collision of art and engineering along the 14-mile race route. We’ll still finalizing our editing, so let us know about any errors or oversights.

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

Champion: The 1%

The 1% is a comic look at the widening economic divide between the Haves and the Have-Nots. Before the race, they said “The car was built by NASA, on a secret underground moon unit base, funded by taxpayer dollars, graciously laundered by [a major bank]. It is cast of solid gold…. Only wood from endangered rainforests was used for the interior cupholders. Seat cushions are made from Donald Trump hairpieces wrapped in baby seal skins.”

For capturing the zeitgeist of 2012 America in a highly capable kinetic craft, this new team was awarded the 2012 Grand Mediocre East Coast Championship.

The 1% comes from Proteus Bicycles of College Park.

As is customary when a race starts, the preponderance of teams immediately fled. In their wake, two non-motile sculptures lingered in the empty AVAM parking lot. One was destined to become Grand Champion.

At the mud, their 99% unicyclist pit crew member miraculously passed through most of the inconsistently viscous goop before dismounting.

While crossing the mud without external assistance is required to ACE, it is not required for the championship.

When The 1% needed repairs, they pulled into a service station where their vehicle was lifted (by their pit crew) and fixed.

With gusto, they broke through the tape to finish.

Loose Cannon

Wow. Take a closer look—you have never before seen 11.5-foot wheels at the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race. This marvelous specimen of grand construction looks like a ferris wheel rolling along, soaring 12 yards with each revolution.

The crowd loved the unrivaled kinetic audacity of Baltimore’s Team 1,800 Lbs and bestowed unto them the People’s Choice Award.

The giant sculpture glid gracefully into the water with nary a splash. Foam pool noodles sheath the spokes, and are enough by themselves to float the 140-pound metal wheels. In addition to bearing the weight of the center platform and pilots, the foam platform and aft inflatable bladders provide counterrotational buoyancy.

The great thing about a rolling colossal cannon is the appearance that something dramatic is about to happen to whatever lies in its path. Motorboats and giant soups take care!

The Cannon came from 1800 Lbs, the exuberant team responsible for

The tread is bright kernmantle rope wrapped around tubular steel rolled into a circle and held with cable spokes. At the water entry, the rope swelled, providing greater traction for the subsequent sand and mud.

Loose Cannon’s hubs are each 2 automotive wheels welded together, attached to a Dana 70 axle with a custom differential to which they attach bike chains for the low gears necessary since the wheels are far larger, and the engine power far lower, than the utility trucks and SUVs the axle usually serves.

Back at the American Visionary Art Museum, the giant wheels confounded even the finish line.

On the right, the orange ladder reaches down to the third wheel which stabilizes the roll of the big two.

We look forward to future sightings of this glorious vehicle!

Bling Dynasty

The Make Believers have a long history of combining creative all-terrain construction, novel themes, and superb costumery. Their 2012 entry is Bling Dynasty, celebrating China’s culture, both authentic (pagoda, dragon, and floral satin) and preposterous (Kung Fu Panda along with General Tso and his chicken). Even native Chinese visitors were impressed.

As they surged into the harbor at Canton, the broad curved bow of the junk created a torrential wave. Pilots rowed with fan-shaped paddles.

The team so impressed fellow racers that Bling Dynasty won the Pilots’ Choice Award.

The Make Believers have a long history of great sculptures:

Yes! Oui! Cancan

A Parisian cancan lineup of famous French citizens accompanied the pilots of Yes! Oui! Cancan. The 9-foot Eiffel Tower is thematically constructed of 4,000 wine corks strung together on fishing line. Less than a minute after this photo on Federal Hill, the Tower struck a tree branch and from there a few strands of jocular corks bounced along, in an unintended artistic reconsideration.

For their mobile style, they received the Art Award.

In previous years, this team created:

The Citroën logo on the front is nice detail.

No time for cinema—we’re in a race!

Bike to the Future

Eight 80s-themed pilots propelled Bike to the Future through Baltimore, including active road construction in Harbor East. While briefly stopped in traffic, one of the back middle tires blew out so loudly the jackhammer operator paused.

This is not a bunch of bikes strapped together—the frame and flotation were carefully constructed for the race by this first-time Virginia team. They never swapped pilots and completed the entire course without pushing their craft, and received the ACE award for achieving this higher level of technical and physical competition. They also won the Engineering Award for their 8-pilot success.

As they reached the end of the pier:
1st Pilot: “Where are we going?”
2nd Pilot: “To the Future!”
1st Pilot: “That’s great, yeah. Now where are we really going?”

Lickety Split

With pit crew running to keep up even as its four pilots slogged into the mud, Lickety Split was a sure bet for the Speed Award. With banana pontoons, painted toilet paper rolls and beverage cans as sprinkles atop an ice cream body, pilots and crew sported cherry helmets.

The entry was sponsored by

The spoons served as paddles.

Mario Kart

From Baltimore’s City College high school comes Mario Kart, their first sculpture made from scratch. They learned welding to complete this project. However, moments after their water entry splash subsided, loud cracking noises came from the Kart—and another crack sounded as a large foam panel came off the sculpture. Soon, parts were flying off the entire sculpture; we suspect this may have been its first float.

For their dramatic disintegration, they received the Worst Honorable Mention.

Their welding held together throughout the race—and after they reattached the foam panels, it looked vaguely as good as new (although shy an inflatable wheel—and they had replaced even that by the finish line, shown below).

This is the same enthusiastic team that produced 2011’s Batmobile.


There comes a time in an Amish youngster’s life when they venture forth into the world to experience the broader culture, before their parents anticipate their return to commit to a lifetime of Amish living. That time of venturing forth is Rumspringa, which this entry celebrates in Baltimore.

Rumspringa is an updated version of 2011’s Am-ish sin Caballo.

One of the requirements Rumspringa followed at the higher level of ACE competition is that feet can never be used on the ground to push the sculpture forward. When they reached the mud, Rumspringa switched out drivers, and one of the pilots sat on the front between the wheels and cranked them—and the sculpture—forward by hand.

The left photo shows the ACE awards bestowed upon the pilots.

Rather than friction caliper, fixed sprocket, or drum brakes, Rumspringa sports an authentic stagecoach-style friction hand brake that locks down on the tread. For more about brakes see Elliott Naess’ How To Build a Kinetic Sculpture on this site.

After colliding with a tree branch, the directional arrow broke off the roof.

Lucy’s Chariot

Extremely impressive for a new entry, psychedelic Lucy’s Chariot incorporates a solid chassis and bold art. The sculpture name is on swiveling letters on the front. It’s from the Towson University Sculpture Department.

The crowd always loves a good splash, and the front of Lucy’s Chariot has the reinforced forward-facing vertical wall that produces a dramatic splash.


FLOCK (Flight Learning Or Contraption Kinetic) is an array of birds from a new team out of Fairfax, Virginia. Each had a bowling pin for a body, and wires pulled the wings up and down for synchronized flapping throughout the course.

For their simple elegant design of a V-shaped flock of geese flapping on migration, FLOCK received the Haiku Award (more broadly known as the Judges Discretionary Award).

Poseidon’s Adventure

This team got their entry form in at the last minute, but clearly had been working on Poseidon’s Adventure for some time. Propelled by one steering Poseidon in front and four merpeople behind, they seemed to easily navigate all terrain, except they needed pushing through the mud.

It looks like this sculpture is an expanded chassis of 2011’s Itty Bitty Charm City.

At the water entry, Mr. Poseidon got off the front of the sculpture, probed the water with one of his steering tridents (removable for just such events) and declared the ocean suitable for proceeding.

Their bribes consisted of their pit crew children adorably giving their “allowance” to assorted race officials to overlook various “infractions”.

The Polysaccharides

The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute high school created The Polysaccharides, demonstrating increased skill from 2011’s The PolyGnomials.

The sculpture was all about sugar. (While glucose is technically a disaccharide, there is no Ditechnic Institute to push that point. A sculpture about starches would have been much less colorful). The team’s t-shirts featured fragments of candy logos, and the sculpture is comprised of candy elements including the candy cane corner posts, and gumballs. They won Best Costumes.

The piñata atop the sculpture was impacted several times by tree limbs, causing the donkey to look skyward at various points.

On the water, a pilot told a judge they were doing “way better” than they expected.


Agogosaurus featured prehistoric predation with a custom chassis. They’re sponsored by—Mt. Airy Bicycles and College Park Bicycles.

Agogosaurus won an ACE award—even though one of their axles broke during the race. They simply deployed their spare axle and continued.

One of the hardest portions of the racecourse to ACE is the water exit. Rear-wheel drive sculptures face tremendous difficulty striking land as typical paddles are insufficiently strong to push the sculpture forward once the front wheels are out of the water. Traction is low because everything is wet, and there’s a fairly steep uphill climb to boot.

Agogosaurus’ all-wheel drive design, however, had a fairly easy time—the pilots strained up the steep ramp, but no pushing, pulling, or ropes were necessary.

With gnarly broad tires and exquisitely low gears, Agogosaurus plowed straight through the mud. As they neared the muddy end, one pilot gestured at the ease.

This sculpture is heading to Humboldt County, California, for the World Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race covering 3 days over Memorial Day weekend.

Cup O’ Noodles

From Lansdowne High School comes Cup O’ Noodles, their tribute to cheap deliciousness. In 2011, the chassis was The Claw Machine.

The “O” is a subtle localization.

Keep spraying. That white shirt will be good as new in no time.

The young judge selected Cup O’ Noodles for the Sock Creature of the Universe prize based on their red noodly handmade creature.


The beautiful El PLATY-PUS (Extremely Large Personal Long-range All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe) is Pokey’s eighth kinetic journey racing through the streets of Baltimore. For 2012, the Platypus has a Australian-Mexican Cinco de Mayo theme, including a substantial sombrero.

Previous PLATYPUS incarnations—and their awards—are:

Kipplala Rides Again

For its third year, Kipplala Rides Again added another 2 pilots and kept the same amazing head as last year's Kipplala. Students in KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) chose the Ki La-La 雲母 demon cat which avenges victims of evil in the InuYasha 犬夜叉 manga series.

This is why life vests and tow rings are mandatory.

For the crew’s repeated success recovering from a renegade pontoon capsizing at Canton and arboreal decapitation in Patterson Park, Kipplala Rides Again received the Best Pit Crew Award.

The Machine

Team GoStopFloat of Lauraville bought back their front-wheel drive, rear-steer 4-seater tricycle with a new gearing system for mud and sand. Their theme this year was steampunk.

They won Best Costumes in the previous two years:

Their 2012 ACE effort was thwarted by a breakdown, so they finished the racecourse with the help of a tow golfcart.

Jemicy’s Five: Traffic Jam, Jeepers, Going Postal, Hot Rod, and Keep On Truckin’

The Jemicy School came back with another convoy of vehicle-themed sculptures. Here, Traffic Jam is a tow truck pulling another truck.

Its sturdy wheels and space frame helped it win an ACE award for following the more arduous ACE rules, although they took a break here near the end of the race.

Keep On Truckin’ used mountain bike wheels, and also achieved an ACE.

It’s nice to see they used the old Maryland license plate design using the authentic Maryland’s seal and colors, rather than the generic new red, white, and blue design. Just to the left of the lamppost is one of our photographers, who took the next photo moments later.

Going Postal featured a postal service delivery wagon, complete with mail pouch on the pontoon. She also won an ACE.

Finally, Hot Rod, based on a classic car, bogged down in the mud. Former Jemicy pilots rallied to cheer and offer advice (but never touch the sculpture), and its pilot also won an ACE.

Jeepers, rounding out the four Jemicy entries, with an off-road Jeep theme. Its pilot also completed the race as an ACE.

To ensure entrants seeking an ACE award follow all the ACE rules, special ACE judges monitor their progress throughout the race. This ACE judge sports pink furry horns.

For coming in right before last, Jeepers also won the Next-to-Last Award. (Anyone can be last; it’s a mark of slow-paced success to be one earlier than last.)

The fleet of Jemicy sculptures also won the Best Bribes Award for this note they passed the judges.

Go Ask Alice

The majestic 6-pilot blue caterpillar Go Ask Alice celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a sombrero above his hookah.

Before the race, they created an Alice in Wonderland micro-theme park near the starting line.

This is Go Ask Alice’s third year:

  • 2010 (winner of the People’s Choice and Pilots’ Choice awards)
  • 2011 (winner of the People’s Choice award)

Take care jogging in Patterson Park—you may encounter a caterpillar.

Custom plasma metal-cutting work inside the sculpture adds bonus bling.

Herding Cats

Herding Cats comes from the Towson University Sculpture Department. We’re not sure who came up with the idea of an ancient Roman laureate riding a chariot pulled by two oversized levitating cats, but it was dramatically enhanced by the garrulous character wielding the reins. He bellowed oratory at every opportunity, here queued at the Federal Hill checkpoint.

In the muddy maelstrom, from the chariot fell a gold wreath, which a spectator seized.


The Waldorf School of Baltimore created Walobo, the enthusiastic wolf with 4 people inside. Walobo looks like he may have components in common with 2010’s Chessie.

The boy cries wolf.

Max’s Pride

Max’s Taphouse in Fell’s Point—a race sponsor—created the nautical Pride of Max’s with a crew of 6 celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

Construction around the inner harbor will make the 2013 race smooth and easy, but racers this year were surrounded by orange cones and barrels.

While the boat performed very well on the water, we didn’t see them at the sand or mud. Perhaps they headed straight back to the Taphouse.


Cat-A-Maran shares the lineage of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers, who have sent an entry to Baltimore every year since 1999. Here, the pilot won an ACE for design skill and fortitude, including the challenging water exit, where the crowd intensely supported his success.

The judges took a new turn on 2012’s Golden Flipper award, officially designated for the “most interesting water entry”. This year, it went to Cat-A-Maran for pulling off the water entry so smoothly that one might forget how difficult it is.

Navigating the sand presented a great challenge. To maintain ACE status, a racer’s feet cannot be in contact with the ground providing forward propulsion. The crowd enthusiastically cheered on the pilot, who pulled through.

Cat-A-Maran bribed race officials and incidentals with an on-the-spot caricature.

AMS KiNestic

Arbutus Middle School created AMS KiNestic with a design using flexible tubing to create an eagle’s nest. The new team experienced a wheel failure shortly into the race that prevented their continuation on land, but nonetheless completed the water entry.


Halo hails from Arlington, Virginia. The custom plywood wheels have cutouts to reduce weight, and have mountain bike tire tread.

They charged into the water with a festive purple top hat.

Plywood tires provide great traction on roads, but aren’t broad enough to propel a weighty sculpture through mud. By the mud, they had abandoned their ACE effort and simply walked.

Nyan Craft

The Nyan Craft arises from 2011’s YouTube video about the Nyan Cat—a cat whose body is a strawberry pop tart, flying through space emitting a rainbow trail and an agonizingly repetitive song.

Nyan Craft was built by the Maret School of Washington DC.


This very exciting giant 3-wheeler is based on a child’s plastic tricycle. The blue rear paddlewheels look to be an effective design. However, due to a technical problem, it never crossed the starting line. The judges award it the Golden Dinosaur Award, which they joyously accepted.

We hope they return to race next year!

The Visionary Fifi, Bumpo, and Frog

Fifi needed her first wheel replacements in 13 years (back to when she was the Cha-Cha Bird). The front axle crunched underneath itself, the two front tires completely broke at the connection to the frame. She was stashed off to the side and Julian replaced her two front tires. She proceeded successfully through the rest of the race.

A member of the clergy should be present for this.

Bartender, I’ll have another.


Thanks to Batala, the women’s Brazilian-style drummers, who performed before the race!

And the Gypsy Queen food truck providing food like waffle cones full of fish or macaroni and cheese to this long line of people at Canton!

We especially thank the Baltimore City Police who escort the race and help ensure busy streets are clear for human powered vehicles!

And to Max’s Taphouse for being a race sponsor!

I don't think it’s supposed to bend that way. Got any hotglue?


For services rendered to Fifi after she broke a wheel in the sand, Race Pace Bicycles (another race sponsor) received the: Spirit of the Founder award.

More coming soon!


Perhaps you should consider joining this brigade of hard-working enthusiasts who devote a few hours to make the Kinetic Sculpture Race possible. Learn more on our Volunteer page.


Here are some spectators who took the time to assemble a proper outfit.

The Team

Capturing a Kinetic Sculpture Race on camera is like no other event. We run up Federal Hill, dash around the harbor on a scooter, find our ways onto overpasses and hotel balconies, lean out car windows and moonroofs, and track down every conceivable site in Baltimore that might yield a good photo of the race.

Tom Jones: Creator of Fine Websites, Maps, Spectator’s Guides, and other Paraphernalia to the Kinetic Trades, and Kinetic Seer #746 ordained by the Glorious Founder, Hobart Brown.

Johanna Jones: Director of Benevolence

Howard Wellman: Title Pending

N Christian Bottorff: Title Pending

Amy Swackhamer: Head Race Commentator

Alan Duda: Ramp Master and Crowd Wrangler

We are grateful for additional photos contributed by Joe Wall.

Below the red arrow

See you May 4, 2013!

Show individual pages
  1. Champion The 1%
  2. Loose Cannon
  3. Bling Dynasty
  4. Yes! Oui! Cancan
  5. Bike to the Future
  6. Lickety Split
  7. Mario Kart
  8. Rumspringa
  9. Lucy’s Chariot
  10. FLOCK
  11. Poseidon’s Adventure
  1. The Polysaccharides
  2. Agogosaurus
  3. Cup O’ Noodles
  5. Kipplala Rides Again
  6. The Machine
  7. Jemicy’s Five
  8. Go Ask Alice
  9. Herding Cats
  10. Walobo
  11. Max’s Pride
  1. Cat-A-Maran
  2. AMS KiNestic
  3. Halo
  4. Nyan Craft
  5. Riot-N-Roll
  6. AVAM’s Fifi, Bumpo, and Frog
  7. Thanks!
  8. Volunteers
  9. Spectators
  10. The Team
5/28/2024 9:06:45 PM   5/29/2024 4:54:28 PM   1:10   2:   3:   4:2   5:   6:   7:2   8:   9:   10:   11:1   12:   13:   14:1   15:   16:   17:   18:1   19:   20:2   21:1   22:1   23:   24:   25:   26:   27:1   28:1   29:1   30:   31:   32:1   AllInOne:6
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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